BENTON TOWNSHIP — Local health officials said Friday that the community must work together again to flatten the curve of a third COVID-19 wave.

“If we continue to see this unrelenting spread, we’re going to run into capacity issues in the health care system,” Nicki Britten, health officer for the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD), said during a Facebook Live event. “It’s time for people to think about how we can bend and flatten the curve so we don’t face that situation of deciding who gets health care.”

Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel agrees.

“Either we’re going to flatten the curve or we’re going to be hampered to care for people with other routine medical needs,” he said.

Berrien County is now exceeding an average of 100 new COVID-19 cases each day. Britten said during the first two waves of the virus in May and July, the county never even reached an average of 20 new cases a day.

Britten said there are about 8.5 times as many cases being reported per day now compared to Oct. 2. The county’s percent positivity rate has increased by about 5 times during that time.

The positivity rate was 16.5 percent on Monday, with about 1,000 tests being done each day.

Britten said testing has only increased by 1.5 times.

“This spike is not a result of more testing. We’re having significant levels of transmission in the community,” Britten said.

Berrien County has recorded 795 new COVID-19 cases since last Friday. The previous week the county added 465 cases, and the week before that 341.

In addition, the county recorded eight COVID-19 deaths this week. The previous week, the county recorded three.

In total, since March, the county has recorded 94 deaths, 3,901 confirmed cases and 412 presumed cases. That’s an addition of 15 new presumed cases since last Friday.

Recoveries can’t be compared to last Friday due to the change this week in how the BCHD reports recoveries. About 1,919 people had recovered from the virus as of Friday, an addition of 38 people over Thursday. That’s about 49 percent of the total confirmed cases.

Hamel said Spectrum Health Lakeland still has enough personal protection equipment (PPE), but is starting to run low on staff, with many in quarantine.

Spectrum Health Lakeland still had 47 COVID-19-positive patients admitted Friday morning. That’s the fifth day in a row at 47 patients. That’s up from 39 last Friday.

Hamel said COVID in-patients could average around 60 if this wave continues to grow.

“(Taking the precautions) matters more now than ever before,” he said. “We can accommodate a little more, but if we have a lot more, we’re going to run out of the ability to take care of other health care needs.”

Britten and Hamel said people should be extremely careful about gathering for Thanksgiving.

“My family is playing the long-game and making sure our vulnerable family members are at Thanksgiving next year and the year after that,” Britten said.


Berrien County announced Friday that it will close public access to county buildings starting Monday due to the spread of COVID-19.

Many county services will remain available via telephone, email, fax and through the website. Some services may be available by making an appointment.

“The county is committed to serving its residents to the greatest extent possible, especially during times of crisis,” officials wrote in a news release. “The decision to limit public access to county buildings was made in consultation with the BCHD and based on current recommendations for social distancing.”

Residents may access a detailed contact list for the various departments on the Berrien County website at In addition, all departments have their own page within the website.

Also, The Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton Harbor announced Friday that it would be suspending in-person programming.

Starting Monday the club will activate its free meal distribution to children 18 years of age and under 3-5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Fettig Youth Campus and the Joel E. Smilow Teen Center.

In addition, the club will distribute activity kits to reduce learning loss and maintain a sense of belonging at the club. Starting Nov. 30, virtual programming will be offered.

Van Buren/CassVan Buren and Cass counties are also seeing out-of-control spread of the virus.

Van Buren County recorded about 400 new cases this week. The previous week the county recorded about 224 cases, and about 175 cases the week before that.

Cass County recorded about 293 new cases this week. The previous week the county recorded about 146 new cases, with about 131 the week before that.

Van Buren County recorded five COVID-19 deaths this week, while Cass County recorded one.

Van Buren County’s percent positivity rate was 16 percent on Monday, with about 484 tests being done each day.

Cass County had a 15 percent positivity rate, with about 211 tests being done daily.

There are now 719 people recovered in Cass County, or about 50 percent of the 1,415 total cases.

Van Buren County has 816 recovered, or about 47 percent of the 1,723 total cases.

Contact:, 932-0357, Twitter: @HPANewman