ST. JOSEPH — Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph has received no patients with confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Sunday evening, but if the hospital does receive a patient with the virus, the staff is ready, a spokeswoman said.

“Lakeland has a trained and skilled emergency preparedness team in motion, and we are working with our counterparts locally and throughout the state to keep our community safe,” said Megan Yore, chief marketing and communications officer with Spectrum Health Lakeland.

She said Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids opened a drive-through coronavirus testing station Saturday a couple miles from Spectrum’s main campus due to there being positive cases in Kent County. But she said there are no plans at this time to open a drive-through station in Berrien County.

Her advice?

“Stay calm and follow the recommendations of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control),” she said.

Those recommendations include washing your hands frequently, covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and staying home if you are sick.

Anyone in Michigan who thinks they have the virus can call the health system’s hotline at 616-391-2380 to be scheduled for a free virtual screening. More information can be found at www.spectrumhealth.org/covid19. Yore said the hotline is available 24/7.

Anyone with severe or life-threatening symptoms should call 911 and seek instructions.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency late Tuesday after the first positive cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Michigan. Sunday evening, Whitmer announced during a press conference that there are now 45 confirmed cases, with more to be announced soon. One of those patients is in Holland Hospital in Holland, the Holland Sentinel reported Sunday evening.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said at the same press conference that part of the problem is that the state lab is only able to test 115 samples a day. She said she knows that private laboratories are coming online to help with the testing and that some hospitals are launching their own testing capabilities.

“We do not need to panic and most people who get this disease will have a mild illness,” she said. “However, as a community, we do have to take this seriously.”

She said the state on Saturday launched a coronavirus hotline that is manned 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. That number is 1-888-535-6136.

Whitmer issued an order Friday that all events with more than 250 people are temporarily prohibited in the state. But state officials have said that they are concerned about bars and restaurants not following that guideline on Tuesday, which is St. Patrick’s Day. The CDC on Sunday recommended that for the next eight weeks groups across the country cancel any events that involve more than 50 people.

School food programs

Late Thursday, Whitmer ordered that all K-12 school buildings be closed today through April 5.

In response, many school districts have announced that they will provide breakfast and/or lunch to all children 18 years old and younger while schools are closed.

Benton Harbor Area Schools announced that it is partnering with Sodexo, the Benton Harbor Education Foundation, the Ministerial Alliance and others to provide breakfast and lunch to students 18 and under starting today.

Breakfast will be served 8:30-10:30 a.m., with lunch served 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The food will be served at Benton Harbor High School, Blossom Acres, Benton Manor, First Church of God-Benton Heights, Countryview Apartments, Overflow Church, Ravines MHC, Berrien Homes and River Terrace.

Additional sites are expected to be added. Updates can be found at www.bhas.org.

Many school district websites say they will provide free food to their students while schools are closed, with information to be posted as soon as possible.

Schools districts with information on their feeding programs for their students 18 years and younger include:

Benton Harbor Charter School Academy: Students can pick up classroom work and lunches from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Berrien Springs Public Schools: Sack lunches will be available for pick up 11 a.m. to noon on Circle Drive in front of Berrien Springs High School. Sack lunches will also be delivered to River Estates Mobile Home Park office.

Bridgman Public Schools: Food for all children 18 and under, not just students, can be picked up 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Sundays and Wednesdays at Bridgman High School main entrance, Bridgman Public Library back parking lot or Warren Dunes Village Clubhouse parking lot.

Coloma Community Schools: Students need to be at their bus stops on Mondays (for three meals) and Thursdays (for four meals) to receive breakfast and lunch for each day of the closure. Buses will run their normal routes as if it was a delayed start so students don’t have to be in the dark. Students who don’t ride the bus can pick up their meals 10-10:30 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays in the Coloma Intermediate parking lot, 274 N. West St., Coloma.

Dowagiac Union Schools: Breakfast and lunch will be provided at 12 stops between 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. They are the same stops used during the summer program. More information can be found at www.dowagiacschools.org.

St. Joseph Public Schools: “Grad-N-Go” breakfast and lunch can be picked up from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Lincoln School, 1102 Orchard Ave.

Watervliet Public Schools: Food will be delivered to nine sites throughout the district twice each weekday during the closure. More information can be found at www.watervlietps.org.

More canceled events

So many events and meetings have been canceled that it’s a good idea to call ahead to make sure your event is still happening.

Cancellations made known on Sunday include:

  • The League of Women Voters event scheduled on March 19 at Berrien RESA has been canceled.
  • The Soup Kitchen Board of Directors has canceled its two annual spring fundraisers – the Soup Bowl on March 29 at Kelly’s Bowl and the Soup Kitchen Benefit Dinner on April 26 at The Bistro on the Boulevard.

Contact: lwrege@TheHP.com, 932-0361, Twitter: @HPWrege