Berrien County acting health officer gives optimistic COVID-19 update

Published 3:05 pm Wednesday, July 7, 2021

BERRIEN COUNTY – Wednesday morning, the Berrien County Health Department hosted a Facebook Live address where Health Officer Nicki Britten gave her last COVID-19 update in her position. The BCHD’s acting health officer, Courtney Davis, joined the Live to assist in the address.

Britten, in her public farewell, acknowledged the “high cost” of the pandemic mitigation measures, which she did not limit to financial cost.

“There has been a high burden associated with some of this,” Britten said. “I really believe the actions of the community, ability to think about their neighbors, think about what is best for all of us collectively, has really stuck with me, and I have really appreciated the outpouring from the community, particularly to get the vaccine out.”

She thanked those who had volunteered with the health department, and the community partners who helped with COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts. Britten will continue to live and work in Berrien County after leaving her post with the BCHD on Friday.

“I am just very confident that the health department is in very capable hands,” Britten said. “We have a wonderful leadership team. Courtney is very, very qualified and will do a fantastic job as acting health officer. The good work will continue, and I am very confident of that.”

During the current COVID-19 status update for Berrien County, both Britten and Davis spoke optimistically on the outlook for summer.

“[The pandemic] is not over, but [we are] definitely in a good spot,” Britten said.

She reported a recent average of fewer than three cases of COVID-19 per day, with some days with zero cases. The county’s test percent positivity was less than 3 percent. As of Wednesday morning, there were zero cases of individuals hospitalized in the county’s intensive care unit for COVID-19.

The warm weather, and lower risk of passing respiratory viruses during the summer months, may have something to do with the lower numbers. Britten also attributed some of the lower transmission to 53 percent of the eligible population having at least one dose of a vaccine.

“We’d like to see that number a little higher, but we do have good coverage, particularly amongst our older adults, that is keeping hospitalizations low,” she said.

Britten said if the virus environment stays the way it currently is, without aggressive viral variants and the vaccine continuing to provide protections against what is in the area, it was an optimistic trajectory.

With some countries internationally seeing lower vaccination rates, high rates of transmission of viral variants, situations could change in the U.S.

“I just don’t want us to take this [current] script for granted. One thing we’ve learned from 2020 and 2021 is that change is the only constant, and be prepared for something to shift,” Britten said. “Right now, we’re going to enjoy it, but keep that in the back of your mind.”

Davis said the state of Michigan currently has around 62-percent of its eligible population vaccinated.

“We’ve gone through the ‘motivated.’ We are [now] in the crowd of ‘vaccine convenient.’ You need it to be convenient,” Davis said. “We want to look at what this looks like at a grassroot level. We have moved out of this mass vaccination, gymnasium type [clinic]. We have looked at more in the community and neighbor-to-neighbor outreach.”

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