Berrien County percent of positive COVID-19 tests decline, county parks open but limited

BERRIEN COUNTY— The Berrien County Health Department’s Health Officer Nicki Britten was joined on a Facebook Live by Berrien County Sheriff’s Department Undersheriff Chuck Heit to update the county on current events surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic locally.

At the top of the update, Britten gave the day’s COVID-19 numbers of 571 confirmed cases, 194 presumed positive cases, 42 deaths and 368 recovered persons from COVID-19.

Britten noted that the percent of positive tests lately is going down.

“That’s the total number of tests done in a community with the percent of those tests that come back positive,” Britten said. “We are seeing a downward trend over the last 11 or 12 days. We have seen a pretty significant decrease in that percent positive.”
Britten said that the health department believes this is one of the markers that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is using to make decisions on how different regions re-opening.

Both Britten and Heit reminded residents to maintain social distancing over the Memorial Day weekend.

“Fortunately, we have some good weather coming. Outdoors is safer than indoors,” Britten said.

Britten encouraged residents to consider gatherings smaller than 10 people, as it is easier to maintain social distancing with a smaller group.

“The length of time matters, too,” she said. “This is spready by person to person droplets. It takes 10 minutes of close contact to be considered at risk.” She also recommended face masks during gatherings to control the spread of droplets.

Heit had reminders about the county’s parks and the limitations people may experience there.

“Part of the [latest executive order] is to get out and do outdoor activities,” Heit said. “Silver Beach is open, but it’s not the Silver Beach you’re used to. The water level where it is, there is not as much beach as there was. We will have a deputy helping monitor the beach and probably keep the capacity of vehicles at 50-percent.”

He also reminded residents that the public restrooms will be closed, the playgrounds and sand volleyball courts will be closed. Portable restrooms will be available, along with limited concessions. Rocky Gap County Park is also opening, but Heit stressed the importance of social distancing.

“We want people to get out, and it looks like it’s going to be great weather,” Heit said.

With confirmed positives increases, and deaths continuing to increase, Britten acknowledged that some of these have come from long term care facilities.

“This is a really tragic thing when it happens, and [COVID-19] gets into these facilities, it can be really challenging,” Britten said. “When you have people who are very vulnerable to serious illness and even death from a COVID infection that are living in relatively close quarters, it’s easier for transmission to occur and have devastating results. This is something we are continuing to work with.”

She reminded listeners that hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease can be well controlled and still put people in a higher risk group becoming ill from the virus.

Undersheriff Chuck Heit confirmed that county jails are among some of the congregant living facilities where populations are voluntarily, but systemically tested. The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department and Health Department hope that this will continue to identify asymptomatic carriers of the virus to slow the spread of COVID-19.