Berrien County Health Department

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

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Berrien County Health Department Acting Health Officer Courtney Davis has resigned, saying in a statement that she can “no longer effectively do her job” due to the “politicization of public health” during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News

Earlier this month, the Berrien County Health Department issued a face mask order for all pre-K through grade 12 indoor educational settings. Now, the health department says it’s being forced to rescind that order.

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Berrien County Interim Health Officer Courtney Davis says the county’s school mask mandate is working. 

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The Berrien County Health Department is hosting a free educational event Thursday focused on preventing infant mortality.

In a news release, the county health department said the event is part of Infant Mortality Awareness Month. 

Infant mortality means a baby died before their first birthday. In 2019, Berrien County had a 3-year average infant mortality rate of 7.4 deaths for every 1,000 live births, which is higher than the Michigan three-year average of 6.6 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

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Berrien County health officials say the county is still seeing a steady rise in COVID-19 transmission.

Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News


Amid surging COVID-19 cases, the Berrien County Health Department has issued a public health order requiring students, teachers and staff at any county school — pre-kindergarten through grade 12 — to wear face masks indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Jeanie Lindsay/IPB News

 

 

Southwest Michigan students are heading back to school this week. And amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, some districts are requiring face masks. 

 

Benton Harbor Area Schools are requiring masks for all students, teachers and staff. So are St. Joseph Public Schools — the board voted unanimously last week to implement a universal mask mandate.

 

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In a Facebook Live update Wednesday, Berrien County health officials said the county’s COVID-19 transmission has increased tenfold in the last month, and hospitalizations have increased fourfold. 

 

Berrien County Health Department Medical Director Dr. Rex Cabaltica said the more-infectious delta variant and relaxed mitigation measures are to blame. 

 

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

The Berrien County Health Department is recommending that all residents wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. 

The Centers for Disease Control list Berrien County as having “substantial” spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus. 

(Courtesy of IU Health)


Public health agencies and nonprofits in southwest Michigan have joined to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates across three counties. 

Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Alissa Eckert, MS

 

Berrien County is continuing to see low COVID-19 cases. During a July 7 press conference, county health officer Nicki Britten said that on average, they’re seeing less than three cases per day. About three percent of tests are coming back positive, and the county currently has nobody in the ICU with COVID-19.

Britten also said the county has not detected any cases of the highly contagious Delta variant yet, but that does not mean there are none in the area.

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Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten will be leaving the health department next month to serve as the director of population health at Spectrum Health Lakeland. Deputy Health Officer Courtney Davis is expected to be approved as Interim Health Officer.

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

Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ Alissa Eckert, MS

 

Berrien County is now averaging just under five new cases a day, a big decline from the height of the pandemic. Test positivity rates are also low, at around three percent. In addition, Michigan fully reopened on June 22, dropping all capacity restrictions and face mask mandates.

 

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

New, loosened COVID-19 restrictions took effect in Michigan on Monday.

With over 50 percent of eligible residents at least partially vaccinated, Michigan officials have lifted capacity limits on outdoor gatherings and increased indoor capacity to 50 percent. Additionally, masks are now only required for unvaccinated individuals indoors. 

 

(Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson)

The Berrien County Health Department announced it will resume use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at its clinic on May 4. 

(You can read more in the release below.)

Benton Harbor, MI) --- Following the recommendation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Berrien County Health Department will resume the use of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine in Berrien County for anyone 18 years or older.

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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.)

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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.

 

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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.)

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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.

 

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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. 

 

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Berrien County Health Officials gave their weekly update on the county’s COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, Jan. 14.

Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten said after a period of decline, new daily cases have begun to creep up, and new hospitalizations have plateaued.

 

“It’s hard to say whether that means we’re on a true upward trajectory, but this is a really important reminder that these numbers are fragile,” Britten said.

 

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The Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland will partner to move forward with the next phase of Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccination. Limited appointments are now available for those over age 65 and for certain groups of essential workers. 

 

Since the vaccine supply is still limited, the health department and Spectrum Lakeland will schedule appointments using cross-referenced waiting lists of people who have already expressed interest in getting the vaccine. 

 

(Provided by IU Health)

The end of 2020 brought the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to our area, and a full public vaccination campaign is expected for this summer. However, health officials say the beginning of the vaccination campaign doesn’t mean the end of COVID-19 safety protocols.

At the county's COVID-19 update on Dec. 30, Berrien County Health Officer Nicki Britten said we’re entering a “messy period,” where people need to continue masking and distancing even if they’ve been fully or partially vaccinated.

 

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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.

 

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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.”

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.