By: Elena Durnbaugh | Battle Creek Enquirer-
The number of new COVID-19 cases per day seems to be trending down in Calhoun County. Still, health officials say that caution and adherence to guidelines are essential to prevent the local healthcare system from being overwhelmed.
As of Nov. 28, the seven-day average number of new cases per day per million people was 446 in Calhoun County. That number is down from 526 the week before, according to current state data.
The percentage of positive test results has also fallen to 11.7% as of Nov. 28, down from 12.8% on Nov. 21. Although the spread of the virus is still far higher than it was during the summer, when the positivity rate was under 3%, numbers have fallen from a seven-day average peak of 15% earlier in November.
The seven-day average for the percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in Calhoun County was 11.7% as of Nov. 28, down from a peak of 15% earlier in November.MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
“Our numbers are starting to decline a little, but we want to be cautious with that,” Deputy Public Health Officer Brigette Reichenbaugh said. “We haven’t seen our Thanksgiving numbers yet.”
Even with case numbers trending down, the number of hospitalizations remains high.
Calhoun County had 50 COVID-19 patients in hospital beds as of Dec. 2, according to health department data. Bronson Battle Creek reported having 31 patients as of Wednesday afternoon, and the hospital continues to hover near capacity.
The best thing for community members to do is to wear a mask, limit gatherings and maintain social distance, Bronson Communications Specialist Carolyn Wyllie said.
“Our hospital, community, and county have seen a record number of new positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the past several weeks, and we do not anticipate this slowing down anytime soon,” said Gregg Beeg, president and CEO of Oaklawn, in a press release. “The current surge is stressing our county hospitals’ resources. Concerns of bed capacity and staffing needs are high.”
The Calhoun County Public Health Department confirmed 585 new cases of COVID-19 since Nov. 25, bringing the cumulative local total to 5,549.
Of those cases, 1,710 people have been released from isolation orders in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines.
The high volume of cases is still making contact tracing difficult, Reichenbaugh said, and some people who have been exposed to the virus may not be contacted by the Calhoun County Health Department or the state. It’s still important for people to follow quarantine restrictions if they have been exposed to the virus.
The health department is still recommending that asymptomatic people quarantine for 14 days until the health department receives new guidelines from the state.
The Calhoun County Public Health Department is also waiting on additional guidelines for vaccine distribution but has started to work on logistics.
“It’ll rely on the priority groups as determined in the timelines…the number of vaccines that are available per the drug companies, and then, too, how that will all be distributed,” Reichenbaugh said. “What is the health department responsible for vaccinating? Who is the hospital responsible for vaccinating?”
The state announced earlier this week that the first round of vaccines could become available soon for frontline healthcare workers but likely won’t be available for the general public until late spring.
Health officials are stressing that, while everyone waits on a vaccine, it is important to remain cautious, especially during the holiday season.
“Really try to limit your gatherings,” Reichenbaugh said. “Stay in your pods.”
People should also continue to wear a mask, stay 6-feet away from people outside their household and wash their hands frequently.
Statewide, thousands of new cases are still being reported every day. The seven-day average positivity rate for the state was 13.6% as of Nov. 28.
Michigan reported 6,955 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative statewide total of confirmed cases to 373,197.
Of those cases, 9,405 people have died, with 81 new deaths reported Wednesday.
Calhoun County and the state continue to provide daily updates to COVID-19 data online. Michigan is also providing access to COVID-19 resources, such as testing sites and information about the latest epidemic order at michigan.gov/coronavirus.