The Kent County Health Department has issued a new health warning as new cases of COVID-19 continue to rise.
In recent weeks, Kent County has frequently had the most new daily confirmed cases of the virus of any county in the state. Health officer Adam London says more than 15% of COVID-19 tests in the county now come back positive.
“Our local infection rates have reached dangerous levels,” London said, in a release.
The health warning advises people to limit all indoor gatherings, including holiday gatherings with anyone who doesn’t live in their household. It also advises that high schools remain closed to in-person instruction through January 15, 2021.
The state's order limiting in-person instruction is set to expire in less than three weeks.
But local health officials say more dramatic steps may be necessary in Kent County, which has become one of the hardest hit counties in the state. In recent days, the county has at times accounted for 1 out of every 10 confirmed cases of the virus reported by the state, frequently outpacing Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, which have higher populations.
And local hospitals are struggling to keep up with the number of people showing up sick with the virus.
Tina Freese Decker, CEO of Spectrum Health – the largest health system in West Michigan – said in an email Friday that hospitalizations from the virus have quadrupled in the past four weeks. She noted that one in 10 people hospitalized with the virus dies from it.
“Our teams of doctors, nurses, caregivers and support staff are working tirelessly to do everything possible to battle this virus,” Freese Decker wrote in the email. “But — we cannot do it without your help.”
She asked people to wear a mask, wash their hands, keep a distance and avoid indoor gatherings.
Church leaders in Kent County say they’re also doing their part to try to stop the spread of the virus.
More than 60 church leaders signed on to a statement, saying they will cancel in person worship services, and all gatherings of more than five people until at least December 8th.
“The conversation is that COVID is out there, it’s real. It’s affecting people,” says Khary Bridgewater, with the Kent County COVID-19 Church Task Force, which spearheaded the effort. “And we wanted to stand in solidarity, really, with the folks who every day are trying to serve those who are sick.”
Kent County reported an additional 585 confirmed cases of the virus on Friday, and six deaths.