Berrien County to add healthcare facilities amid surge of COVID-19 cases

BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. (WNDU) - Additional healthcare facilities may be coming to Berrien County to aid in it's response to an expected increase of COVID-19 cases.

The Berrien County Board of Commissioners held a virtual meeting Thursday to discuss the county's response to a possible surge of coronavirus patients.

Leading that conversation was Berrien County Health Department Health Officer Nicki Britten.

"We are definitely at the point where we are considering the county to be at community spread of COVID-19," Britten says.

So far, Britten says the county currently has 40 confirmed cases of COVID-19 but says she expects that number to go up quickly.

"These tests are reserved for the most seriously ill patients. We know that there are many, many more that are out there in the community who just haven't been reported," Britten said.

Because of that, Britten says a surge could put more pressure on local hospitals, which is why the county is going in a different direction to try and slow down the spread of the virus.

"We are planning some isolation and quarantine facilities. Right now, we know not everyone will be able to self-isolate or self-quarantine at home based on their living situations whether it is through transient housing, the amount of people living in their home, we have people that are homeless as well; we're working to line up some facilities that if we have to order somebody into isolation or quarantine a bit more forcefully, that we have those facilities available to do so," Britten explained.

The facilities will also be reserved for those with minor illnesses who do not require long term assistance or hospitalization.

Financially, funds for the facilities will come from an excess of funding that was made available after Berrien County declared a local state of emergency last week.

In addition, Britten says the health department has partnered with nearly 200 care facilities in Berrien County in effort to prevent any spread of the virus to individuals who may be more susceptible to it.

"We really want to do everything we can to try to prevent clusters of illness in these populations because we know they are the most vulnerable and most susceptible to this serious illness if and when infected with COVID-19," Britten says.

The Berrien County Health Department says their number one goal is to continue to lower the spread of COVID-19. They ask residents to stay home and stay safe as ordered by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.