BENTON TOWNSHIP — Berrien County health officials were preparing for the possibility of not receiving any COVID-19 vaccine shipments next week due to snowstorms and bad weather that have caused delays of vaccine shipments around the country.
“It’s 11 a.m. on Friday and we still don’t know what we’re going to have for next week. That’s the reality we’re operating in,” Gillian Conrad, spokesperson for the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD), said early on Friday.
But later in the afternoon, the BCHD reported all clinics and scheduled appointments in the upcoming week are moving forward as planned, saying in its newsletter that local clinics should not be affected. “We are thankful that all clinics and scheduled appointments in the upcoming week are moving forward as planned,” the newsletter stated.
Should there be any changes, Conrad said they would be clearly and widely communicated. The health department has already received many calls from folks checking on the status of appointments, she said.
She said an educator and school staff vaccination clinic on Tuesday this week was canceled due to the weather. Those more than 900 people scheduled for that clinic are now set to be vaccinated today.
“Out of the clinics to be canceled, that was probably one of the better ones to do because it’s easy to reach that population, and they all had a snow day anyway,” Conrad said. “We were able to plug them all into the schedule Saturday, so there shouldn’t be much of a delay in them getting their vaccine.”
She said many teachers and school staff have been eager to get their COVID-19 vaccine. At a clinic last week, participation of Niles Public Schools employees was about 80 percent.
Local health officials have said participation for health care workers has only been about 60 percent, though that number will continue to grow.
Conrad reported Friday that the BCHD has about 13,000 people 65 and older on its vaccine waitlist left to vaccinate. She said the waitlist has had about 29,000 total entries, though some of those people were duplicates.
Nearly 50 percent of those over 75 in Berrien County have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
She said it is still not known when the county will be able to open up to the next vaccination phase – other essential workers and people 18-65 with risk factors and pre-existing conditions.
“The fact remains we don’t have enough vaccine to move on. We haven’t made enough progress on the populations that are eligible right now to where we would even feel comfortable opening up to more groups,” Conrad said.
As of Thursday, 27,595 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Berrien County, with about 7,593 of those being second doses, according to state figures. That equates to about 13 percent of the county’s total population having received its first dose, and nearly 5 percent fully vaccinated.
That’s an additional 3,336 doses since last Thursday. That’s down from the last few weeks due to the weather and less shipments of vaccine. Last week the county had given 5,938 doses and the previous week, 5,306 doses.
Berrien case data update
Berrien County recorded 122 new COVID-19 cases this week. That’s down from 151 last week and 207 the week before.
In addition, the county recorded 310 new recoveries and three deaths this week. Last week, the county had recorded eight deaths.
Percent positivity began to trend under 5 percent again this week. It hasn’t been under 5 percent since October.
In total, since the start of the pandemic, Berrien County has recorded 10,513 COVID-19 cases, 9,512 recoveries, 210 deaths, 18 probable deaths and 863 presumed COVID-19 cases. That’s an additional 12 presumed cases this week.
COVID-19 hospitalizations also continue to trend downward. Spectrum Health Lakeland had an average of about 16 COVID-19 patients admitted a day this week. Last week the patient count averaged about 19 a day.
COVID-19 cases continued to drop in Van Buren County this week, while Cass County held steady.
Van Buren County recorded 47 new COVID-19 cases this week and no new deaths. Last week the county had recorded 63 new cases and one death.
Cass County recorded 46 new COVID-19 cases this week and five new deaths. Last week the county had recorded 39 new cases and one death.
In total, Van Buren County has recorded 4,657 COVID-19 cases and 84 deaths. Cass County has recorded 3,534 COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths.
The counties are also continuing to make progress vaccinating its populations.
As of Thursday, 12,125 doses of vaccine had been administered in Van Buren County, with about 3,542 of those being second doses. That’s an additional 2,352 doses over last Thursday. That’s up just slightly from the previous week when the county had administered about 2,298 doses.
About 4,183 doses had been administered in Cass County as of Thursday, with about 844 of those being second doses. That’s an additional 939 doses over last Thursday. That’s down from the 1,168 doses given the previous week.
So far, Cass County has given about 6.4 percent of its total population its first vaccine dose, while Van Buren County has given about 11 percent of its population its first dose. Cass County has about 1.6 percent of its population fully vaccinated, while Van Buren County has about 4.6 percent.