County, healthcare officials further efforts to trace, monitor COVID-19

BERRIEN COUNTY — As the response to COVID-19 continues to grow in Berrien County, the Berrien County Health Department and Spectrum Health Lakeland are furthering their partnership in conducting contact tracing and monitoring for positive COVID-19 individuals and their contacts. Spectrum Health Lakeland nurses are joining forces with Berrien County Health Department public health nurses to increase the capacity and effectiveness of contact tracing efforts.

As of press time Tuesday, the number of positive cases in Berrien County was eight.

During events like the current COVID-19 pandemic, contact tracing helps make possible earlier diagnosis and getting care to people who need it, according to health department officials. The information can also help contain clusters of illness within a particular family or community group.

If a contact of a COVID-19 positive case develops symptoms, the early identification can ensure that they are isolated at home and not spreading the virus to anyone else. This strategy helps reduce the number of cases, limits illness transmission, and ultimately, will help save the lives of those most vulnerable to this virus, according to officials.

“We are ramping up to soon be making several hundred calls in the coming days to get a better sense of a particular person’s contact history and what risks may be present for them,” said Nicki Britten, health officer, Berrien County Health Department. “This process allows our team to provide information to each contact about the importance of self-quarantining and monitoring to see if they develop symptoms of COVID-19 based on their exposure.” The Berrien County Health Department will also continue with its response efforts to COVID-19 by performing surveillance of the virus throughout the county, and providing situational updates and guidance to the public, media and community partners.

In response to the outpouring of community inquiries and offers of support, Spectrum Health Lakeland has established a drop-off donation site at Lakeland at Meadowbrook, located at 2550 Meadowbrook Road in Benton Harbor. Donations will be accepted from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Traveling to drop-off sites to donate medical supplies does not violate Michigan’s statewide stay-at-home order, which allows for an exception to the order for providing necessities to “individuals who need assistance as a result of this emergency.” At this time Spectrum Health Lakeland is not currently accepting donations of hand-sewn masks, other medical equipment, medications, or blankets.

To reduce the risk of exposure for all, local officials are asking donors to call (269) 927-5361 when they arrive at the drop-off site for further instructions. More information and a list of items being accepted can be found at spectrumhealthlakeland.org/covid19.