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An employee with the Berrien County Health Department prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Berrien County health officials announced Friday they are ready to start recruiting volunteers to help with COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Volunteers will help with upcoming clinics and/or support vaccine distribution efforts. Both clinical and non-clinical roles are available and prior health care experience is not necessary for all roles.

Non-clinical volunteers may be asked to assist with scheduling, check people in, screen people as they arrive, assist with signing consents, or provide wayfinding. Clinical volunteers may be asked to administer the vaccination, scribe, or observe people post vaccination.

Volunteers may be contacted by either the Berrien County Health Department (BCHD) or Spectrum Health Lakeland, depending on current volunteer needs.

Volunteer shift times are flexible, but volunteers should be able to commit to at least 20 hours of service per month with a minimum of a three-hour shifts, though four- to six-hour shifts are preferred.

Some volunteer shifts may take place outdoors and/or require standing for extended periods of time.

All volunteers must be 18 years of age or older, may be subject to a background check and will be required to complete additional documentation and training prior to volunteering.

For more information, and the volunteer sign-up form, visit bchdmi.org/COVID19, or spectrumhealthlakeland.org/COVID19.

Completing the form does not guarantee a volunteer role, nor is it an application for employment.

Vaccine update

From last Thursday to this Thursday, Berrien County had administered an additional 3,424 doses of COVID-19 vaccine, according to state data.

BCHD officials have said the state data paints a rough, but not complete, picture of COVID-19 vaccination efforts at the local level.

As of Thursday, the state had reported that 7,961 doses of vaccine had been administered in Berrien County, with about 722 of those being second doses.

From Thursday to Thursday, Cass County gave about 323 doses and Van Buren County gave about 1,294 doses. In total, according to the state, Cass County has given 917 doses of the vaccine and Van Buren County has given about 3,976 doses, as of Thursday.

The Van Buren/Cass District Health Department reported in a newsletter Friday that this week it began giving vaccines to people 65 years of age and older, continued to vaccinate Phase 1A health care/critical infrastructure workers, and slowly began to vaccinate essential workers as classified in Phase 1B.

“On Tuesday we received 800 doses of vaccine and by the end of Friday we will have administered all 800 doses, exceeding the state goal to distribute at least 90 percent of the vaccines allocated within seven days of receipt,” VBCDHD officials wrote in the newsletter.

Residents of Cass and Van Buren counties that are interested in being vaccinated should sign-up at vbcassdhd.org/covid-19-vaccine.

Week to week COVID data

Nicki Britten, health officer for the BCHD, said on Friday that COVID-19 numbers in Berrien County remain at a plateau.

She said testing has increased again, and tests coming back positive has been just below 10 percent. That’s still high, but much more manageable for the health department than when the county was closer to a 20 percent positivity rate in late November.

Dr. Loren Hamel, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland, said Friday that another metric that has improved is the transmission of the disease, or the number of people infected from a positive case. He said for two people who have COVID-19 in the community, it’s averaging that only one of them gives it to someone else.

Spectrum Health Lakeland averaged about 36 COVID-19 patients a day this week. That’s down from 41 last week and 44 the week before. On Friday, the hospital reported having 25 COVID patients admitted.

Berrien County recorded 293 new COVID-19 cases this week. That’s compared to 344 new cases last week and 389 the week before.

In addition, the county recorded 330 new recoveries and five additional deaths. Last week the county had recorded 561 recoveries and three deaths.

In total, since the start of the pandemic, Berrien County has recorded 9,773 confirmed COVID-19 cases, 8,214 recoveries, 191 deaths and 766 presumed COVID-19 cases. That’s an addition of 21 presumed cases since last Friday.

Van Buren County recorded 106 new COVID-19 cases this week. The previous week the county had recorded 150 new cases.

Cass County recorded 72 new COVID-19 cases this week, along with two additional deaths. The previous week the county had recorded 146 new cases and three deaths.

In total, Cass County has recorded 3,296 COVID-19 cases and 53 deaths. Van Buren County has recorded 4,363 COVID-19 cases and 80 deaths.

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