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Calhoun County COVID-19 cases trending in the wrong direction

Battle Creek Enquirer logo Battle Creek Enquirer 3/24/2021 Elena Durnbaugh, Battle Creek Enquirer
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The number of new COVID-19 infections in Calhoun County is trending in the wrong direction, according to health officials. 

During the last week, the county health department reported 291 new cases of the virus, bringing the cumulative total number of people in Calhoun County who have gotten sick to 9,221 as of March 24. 

a close up of a flower: Coronavirus COVID-19 © Submitted Coronavirus COVID-19

Of those people, 224 people have died due to the virus, with two new deaths reported in the last week.

Hospitalizations have also been on the rise. Currently, there are 23 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with nine new hospitalizations in the last week, according to county data.

The percentage of people testing positive for the virus in Calhoun County has also increased. The seven-day average percent positivity rate was was at 9.1% as of March 21, according to state data. 

Part of the reason for the increased number of cases is the spread of the B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant in the community, Calhoun County Public Health Officer Eric Pessell said. 

There are 44 people confirmed to be infected with the variant in Calhoun County and another 21 people who are suspected to be infected with the variant because they were in close contact with someone who has the strain. 

Statewide: Michigan reports highest new COVID-19 cases total this year, 16 new deaths

Not every case of COVID-19 in the county is tested for the variant, so it's likely there are more cases in the community. 

"It's easier to infect others, from person to person, which is why we're seeing our numbers go up," Pessell said. 

The health department is also closely tracking the number of COVID-19 infections at local school districts. 

Between March 1 and March 21, the 10 to 19 age population accounted for the highest percentage of total cases in the county, according to health department data.  

The Calhoun County Public Health Department is comparing the number of new cases per week per 100,000 people in the county to the number of new cases per week within the entire population of a school district. This number is known as the incidence rate. The cases included in a school district's incidence rate are not limited to school-related cases. 

The incidence rate in Calhoun County between March 15 and March 21 was 205. Harper Creek, Marshall and Tekonsha schools all had higher incidence rates than the county as of March 21. 

Additional data on school transmission is available online through the Calhoun County Health Department's website.  All districts in the county are experiencing substantial or high transmission rates, which means that there were at least 50 new cases in the past seven days per 100,000 people in the district, according to health department data. 

"I think it's a good tool for people to understand what's going on in their community as they're making decisions moving forward," Pessell said. 

Getting people vaccinated is essential to stopping the spread of the virus, especially with the spread of the COVID-19 variant in the community.

"I'm concerned about the direction we're currently going," Pessell said. "We need to do everything in our power, and the vaccine is probably the greatest tool we have."

Everyone over the age of 50 is now eligible to receive a vaccine in Calhoun County.  People between the ages of 16 and 49 with other health conditions are eligible also, and after April 5, everyone over the age of 16 will be able to get an appointment for a vaccine. 

Anyone who wants to be vaccinated can register through the county's vaccine website to be added to the waitlist. The health department will be able to prioritize the list, focusing on those who are most vulnerable, and will send out invitations to self-schedule through email. 

Two weeks after receiving their second vaccination, people able to gather with other fully-vaccinated people without masks, but while the county is working to get more people vaccinated, it's important that people to follow health precautions in public spaces, Pessell said.  

"We need to continue to ear a mask. We need to continue to social distance ourselves and try to avoid large indoor gatherings," he said. 

Calhoun County continues to provide updates on its response to the pandemic on its website. Additional information on vaccine in Calhoun County is available at calhouncountymi.gov/covidvaccine. The state of Michigan is also providing information online at michigan.gov/coronavirus. 

Contact reporter Elena Durnbaugh at (269) 243-5938 or edurnbaugh@battlecreekenquirer.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ElenaDurnbaugh. 

This article originally appeared on Battle Creek Enquirer: Calhoun County COVID-19 cases trending in the wrong direction

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