Berrien County Health Department confirms first positive cases of COVID-19

BERRIEN COUNTY – Saturday, The Berrien County Health Department identified the first two positive cases of COVID-19 in Berrien County.

The positive tests were identified as both adult women under the age of 60 who have both been self-isolating at home for several days and are in good condition, health department officials said.

Health department officials confirmed both individuals had close personal contact with singer Sandi Patty, who performed a concert at Andrews University in Berrien Springs on March 8. Since the concert, Patty announced she had tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday.

The Berrien County Health Department and Andrews University are communicating directly with the people who had been in close contact with the individuals who have tested positive. All close contacts of the COVID-19 positive individuals will be asked to self-quarantine and will be assessed for symptoms and monitored appropriately, health department officials said.

The Berrien County Health Department is also advising anyone who attended the March 8 concert and had close personal contact with Patty to self-quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath through March 22, 2020.

Any individuals who experienced or are still experiencing symptoms are asked to call the Berrien County Health Department hotline at 1 (800) 815-5485.

“Our team has been preparing for weeks to ensure that we have the structures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Berrien County, including a partial activation of the County Emergency Operations Center,” said Nicki Britten, Berrien County Health Department health officer. “We are not yet seeing widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in Berrien County, although we anticipate this to change. Everyone has a role to play in helping us prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as other viruses that can cause respiratory illness. It is very important that our residents remain committed to individual prevention efforts, staying updated on the situation with information from credible sources, and prepare for an ongoing response to this virus in the community.”

“This is sobering news and these are sobering times,” added Loren Hamel, MD, president of Spectrum Health Lakeland. “The first cases of COVID-19 in Berrien County don’t come as a surprise. We have been preparing for weeks and working closely with local and state partners to ensure we are ready to care for our friends and neighbors. The most important thing you can do is be diligent about keeping social distance, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and call ahead before you come to the hospital or doctor’s office if you are sick.”

COVID-19 symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“To prevent the spread of COVID-19, people should wash their hands, stay home when sick, avoid close contact with sick people, and disinfect commonly touched surfaces,” said Dr. Rick Johansen, medical director at the Berrien County Health Department. “Older adults and people who have severe underlying chronic medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes are at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.”

There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19.

The Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland continue to work closely to slow the spread of illness and provide reliable and accurate information to the public, health department officials said.

The health department said the public can stay up-to-date with COVID-19 in Berrien County by visiting bchdmi.org or spectrumhealthlakeland.org/covid19.