Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases, the Calhoun County Public Health Department has issued new guidelines for mitigating the spread of the virus in the community.
“You’ve all heard us say, you need to wear a mask and you need to socially distance and stay 6-feet apart, and you need to avoid large gatherings and even small gatherings,” Calhoun County Public Health Department Health Officer Eric Pessell said in a video message published by the county on Friday afternoon. “Right now, we need to do more.”
The county health department recommends that people stop gathering with anyone from other households, no matter how many people there are.
“If you’re having somebody come into your home that not a household contact normally…that’s really no different to somebody you don’t even know coming into your home because they’ve been exposed in different instances,” Pessell said.
Health officials are encouraging people to make different plans for the upcoming holiday season so they are not gathering with friends or family in-person.
“Things have gotten much worse…Don’t invite people that don’t live with you to gatherings,” said director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Bronson Richard Van Enk.
Family gatherings are especially high risk, Van Enk said, because people tend to be closer together, less likely to wear a mask and private homes have less air circulation than commercial spaces.
“You’re doing all the wrong things because you think you’re safe,” he said. “You would never do that at the grocery store or at work, but you do it at home because you think you’re safe, so actually it’s the riskiest place to be.”
Health officials are also recommending that people avoid sports and extra-curricular activities that involve shared travel, regular close contact and physical contact.
People should also opt for take-out or delivery instead of dining in restaurants.
“It’s critical that we all take personal accountability and we do this together, because together we can defeat this virus. We can live with this virus, but together we have to do these simple things,” Pessell said.
The capacity of hospitals, which have a finite number of beds and staff members, is becoming a concern, Van Enk said.
“What we’re seeing now, this is different than what we’re seeing in April,” Van Enk said. “This COVID epidemic is really stressing the healthcare system for all cities, all hospitals, all across Michigan. And it’s not a regional thing.”
As of Friday, 39 people were hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Calhoun County, an increase of two people since Wednesday.
The health department has confirmed 304 new cases of COVID-19 in two days, bringing the cumulative total to 4,123 cases in Calhoun County.
The rising number of cases means that public health officials will no longer be able to do contact tracing for everyone who tests positive for COVID-19.
The county will prioritize contact tracing for people attending K-12 schools and school functions, those in long-term care facilities, high-risk congregate settings and first responders.
People who test positive for COVID-19 should take personal accountability for letting close contacts know about exposure and maintain isolation for at least 10 days. People should resume normal activities only after 10 days have passed since symptoms started or since they tested positive, they are fever-free for 24 hours without the use of medications and their symptoms have improved.
Close contacts are anyone who has been within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for more than 15 minutes total. Close contacts should quarantine for 14 days.
“We have reached a point where Public Health Department staff are not able to investigate or notify close contacts as quickly as needed to stop the spread,” Pessell said. “We need the public’s help. If you test positive, you can take ownership of your positive status by doing due diligence to inform others and slow the spread in our community.”
Contact Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh.