Area student dies of COVID-19

Published 7:55 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

VAN BUREN COUNTY — A Van Buren County student has succumbed to the coronavirus, according to the Cass Vandalia Health Department.

To date, 236 people have died due to COVID-19 in Van Buren County, which neighbors Cass County. Cass County has had 83 deaths, while Berrien County has had 311.

Since the 2021 school year began, 192 children ages infant to 19 years old have tested positive for COVID-19. Health Officer Danielle Persky reminded the community in a statement that even students who are not very ill or hospitalized are contagious.

Perssky said this was the first student death of the fourth surge of COVID-19 in the county, which is largely driven by the stronger, more contagious Delta variant and lower vaccination rates throughout Cass and Van Buren counties.

“Each COVID-19 death has been heart wrenching, but the loss of a student is a tragic and stark reminder of the difficult circumstance we are in throughout our county, state and nation,” she said. “Right now, we are seeing younger people hospitalized.  They are getting sicker than in the previous surge and unfortunately some of them may not survive. … Every person lost to this virus, young or old, leaves a hole in the fabric of our communities.”

Persky said the health department has been clear with their recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in and outside of the classroom.

“Guidelines based on the best science and medical judgement have been proven tools in the fight against COVID-19, especially when vaccination is not an option.  The health department continues to emphatically stress the importance of following these mitigation strategies to curb the spread of COVID in our community.”

These protocols include getting vaccinatetd, wearing masks in public settings, maintaining three to six feet more of distance between others, practicing good hand hygiene and staying home when sick.

“The death of a local student is a tragic reminder that the numbers we report every week are also our children, friends and neighbors, and that no one is immune to the virus’ impact,” she said. “The best ways to protect ourselves, our loved ones and young children who are not eligible to get the vaccine is to get vaccinated ourselves and wear a mask; small and simple tools that make a great impact.”

Dr. Larry Wile, medical director with the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department, said the department has seen a 25-fold increase since June 25.

“Our sympathy goes out to all families who have been affected by this deadly virus,” Wile said. “As a community we all want this pandemic to be over, to know our families are safe, and to have the restrictions on our social activities lifted.  Unfortunately, we are not there yet.  The Delta variant has proven to be more contagious and more serious than previous variants.”

Cass and Van Buren counties are now in the highest risk category.

We have hope in the form of safe and effective vaccines, but only if many more of us who are eligible and able actually take them and only if we slow the spread of this illness through masking, distancing, and quarantine and isolation,” Wile added. “We encourage everyone to actively protect themselves and others by following proven mitigation strategies; it will take a cooperative effort from our whole community to effectively mitigate the threat of this virus.”