Uptick in Kent Co. COVID-19 cases concerns health officials

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kent County Health Department has been reporting a rise in coronavirus cases. 

“Over the past seven days, we’ve averaged about 120 cases per day here in Kent County,” Brian Hartl, an epidemiologist at KCHD, said. “Over a trend of time, that’s the most we’ve seen since the start of this pandemic.”

Hartl said several factors could be behind this upward trend, including colder weather bringing more people indoors and confusion stemming from the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling against the governor’s executive orders.  

Although the orders have since been replaced with similar instruction on behalf of the state health department, Hartl says many people seem to be giving up on following the rules.  

“People could just be getting tired of COVID-19 and maybe just letting their guard down a little bit in terms of the precautions they’re taking,” he said.

Given the recent spike in daily COVID-19 deaths at the state level, Hartl said this is no time to downplay the virus.

“People die,” he said. “Thirty deaths in Michigan is way too many.”

Hartl said Kent County has only seen a “slight uptick” in coronavirus deaths but noted even a small increase in deaths is concerning.

According to Hartl, the county’s uptick in confirmed cases likely explains the lines seen at local drive-thru testing sites.

“More cases means more people exposed (and) more people exposed means more people who are interested in getting tested,” Hartl said.

When it comes to COVID-19 in schools, Hartl said the numbers are slightly better than expected.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the school numbers,” Hartl said. “We have seen cases within our schools and our school populations, but really, it kind of hovers around 10 to 12 percent of our total cases in Kent County.”

While the number of cases connected to schools may be relatively low, Hartl said the number of students that are put into quarantine as result of those cases is much higher.

“They do impact a lot of lives when there’s a case in a school because a lot of kids do get put into quarantine because of those exposures,” he said.  

KCHD provides a list of resources on their website about local COVID-19 testing options.  

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