Coronavirus - web only

New COVID-19 cases more than doubled this past week in Berrien County, marking the area’s first surge in months.

Berrien’s seven-day average for new cases from Nov. 11-17 was about 452 new cases per 100,000 residents, according to state data. Last week, it was at 200 new cases per 100,000 residents.

Guy Miller, interim health officer for the Berrien County Health Department, said on Thursday the county had 149 new cases that day alone.

“This is where the captain puts the ‘wear your seat belt light’ on,” Miller said.

The county remained in the high COVID-19 transmission category for the 14th week in a row. Berrien County’s percent of tests coming back positive was 19.4 percent on Thursday. Last week, it was 16.9 percent.

“It’s respiratory virus season,” Miller said.

The interim health officer pointed to November 2020, where a similar surge took place. On Nov. 18, 2020, the county had 176 cases. The new cases per day peaked on Nov. 27, 2020, where the county saw the highest number of new cases in a single day throughout the pandemic.

After that point, cases dropped dramatically. Miller said he expects a similar path for the virus this year.

This November, the county has a different toolbox, as Miller said vaccines and therapeutic treatments for the virus are available. He pointed to Pfizer’s not-yet-approved COVID pill, which greatly reduces the risk of COVID-19 cases becoming severe.

“Those things are going to be game changers in turning this pandemic to endemic,” Miller said.

Miller said he hopes deaths and hospitalizations are reduced with the vaccine being available. Those unvaccinated are at a much greater risk for hospitalization and death, he said.

No people died from COVID-19 in Berrien, from Nov. 11-17.

In meetings with Spectrum Health Lakeland, hospital officials told Miller more than 90 percent of those hospitalized with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, he said.

That being said, the hospital is still suffering from a labor shortage in the midst of the surge. The number of COVID-positive patients at Spectrum Health Lakeland was up from last week.

There were about 45 patients admitted each day, as of Friday. That’s the total admitted, not new admissions each day. That’s on par with the average a day for the last three weeks: 37, 34 and 25. At the St. Joseph hospital, there are 17 patients in the ICU, and six on ventilators. Those patients are not necessarily all COVID-19 patients.

As Thanksgiving approaches, Miller said people should think especially of their older loved ones. Those 65 and older have made up over 90 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in Berrien County.

Vaccine update

Vaccinations administered rose from last week to this week, according to state data.

COVID-19 vaccine providers in Berrien County administered 1,732 doses this week, as of Thursday, up from 1,650 doses the week prior. The week before that, 1,306 doses were given.

As of Thursday, 148,882 doses of COVID-19 vaccine had been administered in Berrien County with 67,806 of those being second doses, according to state data.

That equates to about 56.3 percent of Berrien County residents (5 and up) with at least one dose of vaccine, and about 51 percent being fully vaccinated.

Last Thursday, the county was at 55.6 percent with at least one dose and 50.7 percent fully vaccinated.

Cass, Van Buren

Van Buren and Cass counties remained in high transmission this past week.

Van Buren County recorded 526 new COVID-19 cases this week and zero new deaths. The county had recorded 183 new cases last week and 263 new cases the week before.

Cass County recorded 228 new COVID-19 cases this week and two new deaths. The county had recorded 155 new cases last week and 127 new cases the week before.

Van Buren County’s percent positivity rose from 16 percent last week to 22.7 percent this week, according to state data.

Cass County’s percent positivity fell from 25.7 percent from last week to 23.7 percent this week.

As of Thursday, Van Buren County was at 59.9 percent of residents (5 and up) with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 54.9 percent fully vaccinated, according to state data.

Last Thursday, the county was at 59.1 percent with one dose and 54.4 percent fully vaccinated.

As of Thursday, Cass County was at 39.9 percent of residents (5 and up) with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 35.8 percent fully vaccinated.

Last Thursday, the county was at 39.4 percent with one dose and 35.6 percent fully vaccinated.

Contact: jknot@TheHP.com, 932-0360, Twitter: @knotjuliana