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'Everyone is a target group,' Ottawa County health officials warn of COVID-19 spike

"The sustained high levels of new cases is unprecedented for Ottawa County at this point in the pandemic."
Credit: Brett Farmer
Local photographer Brett Farmer captured these images of an empty downtown Holland at the end of March 2020.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Michigan is seeing coronavirus cases reach levels not seen since the peak of the pandemic in the spring. And Ottawa County is also seeing a spike in cases. 

According to state data, the 7-day average has reached nearly 155 cases per million, which puts it at the highest risk level based on case rates. The county is seeing a test positivity rate of 4.3%. 

The Ottawa County Health Department said these are both indicators that there is "sustained community-wide spread" of the coronavirus, and they highlight the importance of taking extra precautions to slow the spread. 

"The sustained high levels of new cases is unprecedented for Ottawa County at this point in the pandemic,” said Dr. Heidel, Ottawa County Department of Public Health Medical Director. “In prior surges, we could identify a target population and develop specific strategies to reduce the spread of the virus. However, we have a great concern at this time because we are at levels indicating high risk to the community as a whole and everyone is the target group. If we want our community to remain open, we need to act fast and have exceptional use of the prevention measures we have all learned.” 

RELATED: Coronavirus updates, Oct. 20: 1,586 daily cases, 22 deaths

Ottawa County stayed below 100 cases per million up until September, when Grand Valley State University saw an outbreak of COVID-19 among students. This prompted a spike in cases in the county. But now, health officials are saying community spread is leading to the high case counts. 

The Ottawa County Health Department has reported 4,508 total cases of COVID-19, and 3,282 recoveries—which are people 30 days out from the onset of symptoms. 

On Tuesday, 46 local superintendents signed a letter asking the community to practice COVID-19 guidelines to keep cases down in order to keep schools open.

RELATED: West Michigan superintendents ask community to adhere to safety protocols to keep schools open

"Despite the fact school-associated cases are relatively low, school leaders are very concerned about the recent sustained high levels of new cases in Ottawa County," said Pete Haines, Ottawa Area ISD Superintendent. "Our schools play an important role in our community, and families rely on us to meet critical student needs such as academic, social, emotional and physical wellbeing. It’s critical we do everything we can to keep schools safe and open for in-person instruction. With so much at stake, we must all work together to slow the virus spread.” 

On Tuesday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,586 daily cases of coronavirus. The daily case count has exceeded 1,000 for over a week. 

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