Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Calhoun County series.
“Unprecedented spread” and “a surge that is not sustainable” were the words used to describe an alarming rise in COVID-19 cases over the last two weeks in Calhoun County.
On Oct. 28, officials with the Calhoun County Public Health Department said that there was a total of 2,613 identified cases of COVID-19 which resulted in 66 deaths since March. Two weeks ago, there were 1,754 cases and 48 deaths.
In addition, Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley, says that as of Tuesday 24 inmates had tested positive for COVID. He says two of them had mild symptoms and 22 were asymptomatic.
As a result, the jail has made significant changes to ensure the health and safety of its inmate population, Hinkley says.
These statistics were presented during today’s (Wednesday, Oct. 28) regularly scheduled weekly Joint Information Center call, which included city and county officials, state and local lawmakers, and law enforcement leadership.
“A lot has changed in the last two weeks,” says Eric Pessell, Health Officer with the county’s Health Department. “I would not consider this a surge, it’s an unprecedented spread. We need to figure out a way to head it back down.
“This surge of cases is the highest we’ve seen. The current number of hospitalizations is the highest yet.”
Pessell says he and his staff, along with Dr. William Nettleton, Medical Director for the county’s Health Department and Kalamazoo County Health and Human Services, have been discussing the rise in COVID-19 with local hospitals.
During the Joint Information Center call, Nettleton stressed that the cases now being seen are new and represent a drastic increase over what has been seen locally in the last several weeks. He says some people are saying that the increases are the result of increased testing.
“But, this does not explain what we are seeing – increases in positive cases, hospitalizations, and deaths,” Nettleton says.
In addition, he says that people need to realize that hospitals are caring for patients who are there with other medical issues, not related to the virus.
Nettleton says he understands that “to be human is to be social,” but people must continue to follow the health and safety guidelines outlined by numerous health experts to protect themselves and others and slow the spread of the virus.