Berrien County

In the wake of recent police-involved shootings in Minneapolis and Chicago, a Berrien County activist group is holding community forums on police de-escalation and mental health training.

The Berrien County Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust – or ALPACT – formed so community and law enforcement leaders could improve police relations within the community.


Captured via Facebook Live

Last week, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer encouraged high schools to shift to remote learning for two weeks in an effort to slow the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases. However, students in Berrien County will continue to learn in-person.

Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten said she and other health officials believe the benefits of in-person learning outweigh the current risks.


“We really are not seeing school settings as being the driver of transmission amongst our youth,” Britten said.



Following a federal recommendation, the Berrien County Health Department has announced it will pause use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. A J&J clinic scheduled for Thursday will use the Moderna vaccine instead, with a second-dose clinic scheduled for May 13. 

(You can read more in the release below.)


As vaccine eligibility expands to Michiganders age 16 and over this week, officials from the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland say they’ll still be prioritizing residents at highest risk of contracting the virus.


(Read the joint release from the health department and Lakeland below.)

Captured via Facebook Live

Berrien County health officials say the county’s increase in COVID-19 cases hasn’t been as steep as in other areas of Michigan – but they say cases are once again on the rise. 

County Health Officer Nicki Britten said the rise could be partly attributed to the presence of more contagious variants in the county. She said Berrien County has had 12 confirmed cases of the U.K. variant so far.


Screenshot captured via Facebook

With signs of spring beginning to show in Southwest Michigan, Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten said the county’s new daily COVID-19 cases and percent positivity rate have crept up in recent weeks.

“None of these at this moment are causing significant alarm, but we do need to remain vigilant, especially as we’re getting towards the end of this,” Britten said.


Lake Rescue In Berrien County

Mar 4, 2021
From the Berrien Co. Sheriff's Dept. Facebook Page

BERRIEN CENTER, Mich. (AP) — Two men have been rescued from a lake in southwestern Michigan after one fell through thin ice while fishing. The Berrien County sheriff's office says deputies responded to O’Brien Lake in Berrien Center around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Captured via Facebook Live

Berrien County health officials say they’re working to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine equitably throughout the county.

At the county's COVID-19 update on Thursday, County Health Officer Nicki Britten said both the health department and Spectrum Health Lakeland are working to form partnerships that will help get the vaccine to underserved populations.


Berrien County Health Department logo

The Berrien County Health Department will postpone all vaccine appointments scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23. Those appointments have been rescheduled for Monday, March 1.

(Read the full release from the health department below.)

Screenshot captured via Facebook

Berrien County health officials are urging residents to be diligent about following COVID-19 safety protocols after the more contagious UK strain of the virus was identified in neighboring Van Buren County earlier this week.

County Health Officer Nicki Britten said while the county’s new daily case count and hospitalizations continue to decline, the variant could drive those numbers back up if residents aren’t careful about masking and social distancing.


Captured via Facebook Live

At their weekly COVID-19 update, Berrien County health officials once again asked for patience as they work to vaccinate the nearly 40,000 county residents who are currently eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

County Health Officer Nicki Britten said the county’s vaccine allotment is based 75 percent on its population of adults age 65 and older, and 25 percent on its population of essential workers. 


Captured via Facebook Live

Berrien County health officials say Phase 1A of the county’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign – which includes healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents and staff – is well underway.

Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel said over the last two weeks, about 20 percent of the Lakeland staff has received a first dose of the vaccine.


Captured via Facebook Live

It will be months before the general public has access to the COVID-19 vaccine, but some people are already wondering what the shots may cost.

Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten said nobody is allowed to be charged or billed for the vaccine itself.


“Cost will not be a barrier for anybody," she said. "That is something that is being provided to the American public.”


Captured via Facebook Live

During the weekly Berrien County COVID-19 update on Dec. 17, Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel said the county received just under 1,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The first of those doses, he said, were administered Wednesday night.

"I was there with a line down the hall waiting to get vaccinated, folks with excitement and a few tears," Hamel said.

Hamel said the vaccine's arrival felt like a turning point, where healthcare workers can move from a "defensive" COVID strategy to an "offensive" one that's focused on prevention.

Captured via Facebook Live

Berrien County health officials offered their weekly update on the COVID-19 pandemic on Dec. 11.

County Health Officer Nicki Britten says the county is seeing an average of 120 new cases per day, or 10 times more daily cases than at the end of September. But, she said new cases and hospitalizations are beginning to slow, a trend she called “encouraging.”

Screenshot captured via YouTube

Last month, the election for one Berrien County Commission seat ended in a dead tie, and after the County Board of Canvassers failed to find any errors, the winner was decided by a tiebreaker. However, a new winner has been declared after a recount on Dec. 8.,5863,7-336-94422_11407---,00.html

The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Admin. (MIOSHA) says it inspected and issued COVID-19 citations to nine Michigan businesses, including one in Berrien County. MIOSHA says the businesses were cited for serious violations for failing to protect workers and take safety precautions. 

In Berrien County the following business was cited: 

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

In the wake of rising COVID-19 cases, many Michiana schools have returned to full-time virtual learning. That’s not the case with one school district in Berrien County that’s bucking the trend.

With the exception of Bridgman High School, which moved to virtual learning on Nov. 18 per Michigan’s most recent Epidemic Order, Bridgman Public Schools have been holding in-person classes for the entire fall semester.

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Michigan began a three-week “pause” on several fronts in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state. 

Under the new restrictions from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, indoor dining facilities, movie theaters and ice skating rinks are all closed. Those are just a few of the new restrictions.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — At least two more Michigan legislators have tested positive as the coronavirus continues surging to record heights, including one who attended Senate session and committee hearings on Thursday. That was same day the House canceled votes due to infections among members. Those with COVID-19 include Sen. Kim LaSata and Rep. Ann Bollin, both Republicans.

LaSata represents Michigan's 21st Senate District which includes all of Berrien, Cass, and St. Joseph counties. 

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

Over the last month, the 7-day average of COVID-19 cases in Berrien County has jumped nearly fivefold, from about 16 per week to almost 77. That increase has led the health department to ask certain groups to conduct their own contact tracing. 



In Michigan,  the Berrien County community of Buchanan may be well known for Redbud and motocross, but the city recently attracted the attention of journalists at the BBC. People in Buchanan were interviewed about the presidential election.

The feature produced in Buchanan can be heard here. It's about eight minutes into this program. 

Berrien County Vote Results

Nov 4, 2020
(AP Photo/David Goldman)

Berrien County's updated accurate vote totals are not showing up in data being reported so far by some of the major networks and media organizations (including AP and NPR.)  With 97.58% of the vote in, President Trump has won 43, 148 votes to Joe Biden's 36,451.

To view the updated resuts, here is a link.

Photo Of The Week - Through the Trees

Oct 1, 2020
John L. Trapp

We are starting to see hints of fall and autumn colors in our latest Photo of the Week. Thanks to John L. Trapp of Buchanan, Michigan, for this shot that he captured on a rainy day late in September at the Galien River County Park in New Buffalo Township in Berrien County. John says conditions that day gave the image an impressionistic quality. 


Email Photo of the Week submissions to us at 

Swimming Advisories Extended For Parts Of Lake Michigan

Aug 17, 2020

PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) — The National Weather Service has extended swimming advisories for parts of Lake Michigan as forecasters predict high waves and strong currents. The beach hazard statements were issued Sunday and now run into Tuesday evening and that officials are urging people to stay out of the water. Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties in Indiana are under advisories. So are Cook and Lake counties in Illinois and Michigan's Berrien County.

LAKESIDE, Mich. (AP) — The body of a 13-year-old Otsego girl has been found near a beach along Lake Michigan in southwestern Michigan following an apparent drowning. The Berrien County sheriff's office says the body was reported about 12:30 p.m. Friday in Lakeside. The girl was reported missing about 9 p.m. Thursday at Warren Dunes State Park in Lake Township. A search for her was suspended Thursday night due to darkness. It was resumed Friday morning.


Justin Hicks / WVPE Public Radio

Since the start of July, Berrien County has seen an increase in new COVID-19 cases and the percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has increased as well. The trend has local health officials concerned.

Justin Hicks / WVPE Public Radio

Since the start of July, Berrien County has seen an increase in new COVID-19 cases and the percent of COVID-19 tests coming back positive has increased as well. The trend has local health officials concerned.

COLOMA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A 47-year-old man has been shot to death by a homeowner during an alleged break-in in southwestern Michigan. The Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph reports that police responded about 2:30 a.m. Thursday to a report of a home invasion in progress in Coloma Township. Coloma Township Police Chief Wes Smigielski says the homeowner came outside with his hands up when officers arrived. Officers found the body of Kevin Cox inside the home. He had been shot once. Smigielski says the homeowner did not know Cox. The shooting remains under investigation.

Berrien County Sheriff

ROYALTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A body has been recovered from a river in southwestern Michigan two days after a 45-year-old man was reported missing while rescuing a juvenile who was struggling in the water. The Berrien County sheriff's office says members of its marine unit found the apparent drowning victim shortly before 9 a.m. Sunday in the Saint Joseph River. The body was found about a half-mile from the area in Royalton Township where two adults and three juveniles were swimming Friday evening from a pontoon boat.