Berrien County Health Department

BENTON TOWNSHIP — The Berrien County Health Department’s proposed 2021 budget includes expenses and revenues related to COVID-19 in many categories.

Lisa Ankenbruck, the department’s business manager, presented the proposed budget to the Berrien County Board of Health during its virtual meeting Wednesday.

The budget calls for $8.57 million in expenditures, $6.03 million in outside revenues and $2.35 million from the county.

The BCHD’s 2020 budget was $8.04 million, with $5.16 million in outside revenue and the same amount from the county.

The expected increase in outside revenues from 2020 to 2021 is due to an estimated 5 percent increase in state and federal funding and $940,556 in COVID-19 funding.

Federal and state COVID-19 funding added $645,760 to the 2020 budget.

Expected increases to expenditures include the added staff the BCHD has had to bring on to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, including the nine new positions it is currently filling. Salary and benefits for COVID-19 staffing adds $653,000 to the budget.

Ankenbruck said that budgeting for the health department is so much different than budgeting for any of the county’s other department’s because so much of the health department’s budget is driven by grant funding.

She said the budget is reflective of all the projects and programs the health department is planning to do, and sometimes the exact funding for those programs is adjusted later.

This proposed budget will be presented to the Berrien County Board of Commissioners in two weeks and approved, along with the county’s entire 2021 budget, in the next couple of months.

In other business, Nicki Britten, health officer for the BCHD, told the board that health department officials are still monitoring for Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in the area. The mosquito-transmitted illness is more prevalent this time of year.

While the closest case so far to Berrien County has been in Kent County, Britten said folks should still be taking precautions to prevent mosquito bites while they are outdoors, especially as more outdoor activities are recommended right now due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 update

Britten told the board that COVID-19 cases and positivity rates in the county are still holding steady – and that’s a good thing as the new school year starts up.

Britten said it is statistically probable that some area students will contract the virus, but it will most likely be from high-risk, non-school settings.

The state announced Wednesday that it will begin releasing information about schools with COVID-19 outbreaks associated with them in the next few weeks.

Berrien County is still hovering at about a 3 percent positivity rate in testing, as it has for about a month now.

Britten said recent new cases continue to be milder or asymptomatic, and the age of those contracting it continues to be younger than earlier in the pandemic.

The board discussed that some of the recent positive cases at Spectrum Health Lakeland have been due to people going in for routine surgeries, being tested, and showing up positive, even if they don’t have any symptoms.

Spectrum Health Lakeland was treating seven COVID-19 cases Wednesday morning. That’s the same as on Tuesday and up one from last Wednesday.

Also on Wednesday, Berrien County added zero new confirmed COVID-19 cases, and two probable cases. These are people who have had direct contact with people who have tested positive, may have symptoms, but just have not received a confirming test yet.

In addition, the county recorded 12 new recoveries.

With no additional deaths recorded, the county is down to about 57 active cases, down from 69 on Tuesday and 89 last Wednesday.

Cass County added no new COVID-19 cases or deaths Wednesday.

Van Buren County added five new cases and no deaths.

Contact: anewman@TheHP.com, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman