Berrien County declares local state of emergency in response to COVID-19 pandemic

ST. JOSEPH — In support of the recommendation by the Berrien County Emergency Management Coordinator and the Berrien County Public Health Officer, the chair of the Berrien County Board of Commissioners today declared a local state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Just as we did in the 2018 flood, we are looking for all available resources to address the growing community needs in Berrien County to help combat this health crisis,” said Board of Commissioner Chair Mac Elliott.

“We recommended this declaration so we can build a support organization behind us to keep up with ordering and receiving deliveries of scarce equipment, be able to bring volunteers on board when we need them, and begin to build a team that is focused on economic and community recovery,” added Captain Rockey Adams, the emergency management coordinator.

With this declaration, the Berrien County Emergency Operations Center will continue to operate and support the efforts of the Berrien County Health Department, and Spectrum Health Lakeland and add to the response resources already committed to dealing with this pandemic response.

At this time, Berrien County currently has 11 positive cases of COVID-19 and is seeing an increase in community spread throughout the county. Berrien County will continue to build on the work already underway and make available all county and local resources to deal with this ongoing health crisis, said health department representatives.

“We are working diligently to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Berrien County and this declaration will provide additional support to help ensure we can meet the needs of our community,” said Nicki Britten, health officer at Berrien County Health Department.

All residents are urged to practice social distancing and heed the Executive Orders in place, including the most recent “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer earlier this week. The collective goal of all county partners remains to slow the spread of the virus as much as possible in an effort to reduce excessive strain on our healthcare system and protect our community’s most vulnerable populations, according to the health department.

Residents who are feeling sick should stay home and contact their healthcare provider by phone for guidance. Residents with symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough or shortness of breath, are encouraged to call the free Spectrum Health virtual screening phone line that is available to all Michigan residents at (616) 391-2380 to see if testing is necessary.

Everyone is encouraged to keep following these basic prevention steps to prevent the spread of the virus:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands
  • Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Avoid shaking hands
  • Keep at least 6 feet apart from others when in public
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home when sick