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Spectrum Health Lakeland, Berrien County Health Department give joint update on COVID-19 immunizations, numbers

BERRIEN COUNTY — In a joint Facebook Live today between the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland, BCHD Communications Manager Gillian Conrad said the word right now for those waiting for COVID-19 vaccines is “patience.”

“We need people to be patient and wait as we hope to start receiving more allocation and more supply soon,” Conrad said.

As both BCHD Health Officer Nicki Britten and SHL President Loren Hamel addressed concerns about COVID-19 vaccination supply and side effects, they also gave an update on the state of the county’s COVID-19 numbers.

“We are continuing to be encouraged by some of the data that we are seeing. It’s not perfect, and it’s not showing that there is no COVID risk, but we are seeing a sustained rate of approximately, on average, 50 cases per day in Berrien County,” Britten said. “Now, that’s still a lot higher than what we were seeing over the summer, in September, and how we started October, but we’re down considerably from where we were in mid-November just before Thanksgiving.”
The steadiness in the plateau is good, Britten said. With more COVID-19 tests occurring in the county, she also said the percent positivity has dropped to below 10 percent of tests coming back positive.

Hamel said whenever there are new cases reported, the hospital system takes a look at what it may be facing as patients need care.

“Our hospitalization, like the new cases number, has been stable for the last two weeks. We are running mid-20s [hospitalized with COVID-19]. That’s down from the mid-80s,” Hamel said. “We hope those trends continue. There are still plenty of folks out there with active cases.”

He said the masking, hand hygiene, social distancing and precaution was showing evidence of working.

Vaccination eligibility and vaccine supply were addressed by both Hamel and Britten.

Britten said that both SHL and BCHD were working to ensure vaccine supplies were being distributed 75 percent to the population of older adults and 25 percent to essential workers.

“We estimate there are probably 25,000 to 30,000 older adults, 65 years and older, in Berrien County,” Britten said. “The BCHD and SPH have wait lists. As vaccinations become available, we have clinics we are planning, advertising and scheduling those appointments as soon as we know the vaccine is available.”

Britten also said when the vaccine supply becomes more readily available, the health department is ready to nearly triple its efforts of giving the vaccines.

Hamel attempted to put the national conversation around vaccinations into a local perspective.

“When you think about vaccines across the country, we have gotten close to 20 million vaccines,” Hamel said. “Across the world, 56 million vaccines. You’ve heard the new president say ‘100 million vaccines in 100 days.’ That would be a very good thing. We’re at about 1 million per day in the country. If you consider every adult needs two shots, that’s 50 million folks vaccinated in 100 days.”

He said the journey to herd immunity, at the current rate, will take until at least fall, if not next winter. Despite the timeline, he and Britten encouraged residents in the categories eligible to do so to sign up on wait lists for the vaccine. When it becomes available, residents will be contacted to make appointments for their shots.

Sign-up for the list is currently available for those 65 years of age and older and employers of essential workers. Pre-registration may be found at BCHDMI.org/COVID19 and at SpectrumHealthLakeland.org/COVID19. For those unable to pre-register online, residents may call the BCHD at 1 (800) 815-5485.

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