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Southwest Michigan COVID-19 cases rise ahead of Thanksgiving

Screenshot captured via YouTube

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have been rising steadily in Michigan, including in the WVPE listening area. 

According to state data, all of WVPE’s Michigan listener counties – including Berrien, Cass and St. Joseph – have seven-day positivity rates of over 20 percent. Berrien County’s was the lowest, at 20.6 percent, while St. Joseph County’s was the highest, at 26 percent.


And in Healthcare Region 5, which covers Southwest Michigan, the share of hospital beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has increased from 12.5 to 18.5 percent since Nov. 1. The number of hospitalizations per million has also increased by 49 percent since the beginning of the month.


In light of the recent surge, health officials are urging caution ahead of Thanksgiving and other indoor celebrations. 


At a Nov. 10 pandemic update, Berrien County Health Department Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rex Cabaltica said vaccination still provides the strongest protection against COVID-19 infection. But he still encouraged layered protection, especially if elderly or immunocompromised relatives are visiting.


“The other things that have been true in the past are still true now,” Cabaltica said. “If you can hold celebrations outside, weather permitting. If not, then see if you can increase ventilation as much as possible.”


Cabaltica and Spectrum Health Lakeland President Loren Hamel also encouraged self-monitoring of symptoms ahead of holiday gatherings.


“We have seen multiple cases where folks were exposed because somebody had mild symptoms and decided to go out in public,” Hamel said. “We’ve also seen folks who have been vaccinated that have gone out assuming that there was no chance they could spread the infection.”


Hamel said anyone exhibiting cold or flu-like symptoms should stay home until they test negative for COVID-19.


Cabaltica said the precautions aren’t meant to restrict holiday gatherings, but rather, to facilitate them. He said with vaccination and access to rapid testing, the public is better prepared for the second pandemic holiday season than the first.


“We’re encouraging these measures because we want families to be as safe as possible,” Cabaltica said. “The hospitals are stressed out, but there are better ways that we have [to enjoy] these holidays than we have before.” 


“Stay safe and enjoy your families,” he added.


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.