Van Buren/Cass District Health Department confirms COVID-19 associated death of a student in Van Buren County

Published 5:36 pm Friday, September 24, 2021

SOUTHWEST MICHIGAN – On Friday, Van Buren/Cass District Health Department confirmed the COVID-19 associated death of a student in Van Buren County — the first 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 across the district, which includes Cass and Van Buren County.

This brings the total deaths from COVID-19 in Van Buren and Cass County to 234.

“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,” said health officer Danielle Persky in a press release issued Friday evening. “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. Already, since the school year began, the health department has confirmed 192 COVID cases in children 0-19 across Van Buren and Cass County.  Even children who are not hospitalized or very sick are contagious.  Every person lost to this virus, young or old, leaves a hole in the fabric of our communities.”

From the moment the health department began to prepare for the new school year, they have made it very clear their recommendations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in and outside of the classroom. Guidelines based on the best science and medical judgment have been proven tools in the fight against COVID-19, especially when vaccination is not an option, Persky said.

The health department continues to stress the importance of following these mitigation strategies to curb the spread of COVID in our community. The health department urges residents to get vaccinated, wear masks in public settings, maintain 3-6 feet or more of distance between others, practice good hand hygiene and stay home when sick.

“Our sympathy goes out to all families who have been affected by this deadly virus,” said Dr. Larry Wile, medical director. “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.  We have seen a 25-fold increase since one week after school ended on June 25 until now.  Our community transmission data has elevated us to 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.  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,.”

“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. 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,” Persky said.