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COVID numbers are higher than usual | Flickr

COVID-19 cases in the Hillsdale area are “the highest they have been throughout the pan­demic,” said Rebecca Burns, health officer at The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Com­munity Health Agency. 

Yet cases on campus have remained low throughout the semester, according to Director of Health Ser­vices Brock Lutz.

“We have had a lot of sick stu­dents this fall, a nasty nagging upper res­pi­ratory bug going around,” he said. “However, we have had very low COVID-19 numbers, which we know because we con­tinue to test all sick patients.”

As of Wednesday, five stu­dents are in 10-day iso­lation after testing pos­itive, bringing the semester total to 108 stu­dents testing pos­itive, according to Asso­ciate Dean of Women Stephanie Gravel. The other 103 stu­dents have recovered.

Hillsdale Hos­pital reported a spike in cases.

“Over the last two months or so, we have seen more hos­pi­tal­iza­tions due to COVID-19 than we have seen prior to that,” said Rachel Lott, director of mar­keting at Hillsdale Hospital.

On Wednesday, Hillsdale Hos­pital had 14 patients with COVID-19, including four in critical care. One patient is on a ven­ti­lator, according to Lott. 

The hos­pital has treated 137 patients for COVID-19 since Sept. 22, and 14 of them have died from the virus, according to hos­pital data. 

Almost 42% of Hillsdale County res­i­dents are fully vac­ci­nated, according to state sta­tistics. Only Cass County has a lower rate of vac­ci­nation. Across the state, more than 61% of res­i­dents are vaccinated.

“We rec­ognize people do have lots of legit­imate ques­tions related to this vaccine,” Lott said. “While we encourage vac­ci­nation, we rec­ognize that it’s every­one’s indi­vidual choice.”

Burns said her orga­ni­zation is working to “provide sound factual infor­mation to the cit­izens in the three counties.”

“We offer strategies that fam­ilies and busi­nesses can take to prevent trans­mission of the virus to others,” she said, “as well as methods for pro­tecting against getting COVID-19 including wearing a mask in public indoor spaces and getting vac­ci­nated with one of the safe and effective vaccines.”

More than 4,400 people are in Michigan hos­pitals with COVID-19 and one in four patients have COVID-19, according to Bridge Michigan. 

Hillsdale Hos­pital hosts a walk-in vaccine clinic from 1 – 3 p.m. every Thursday in the Hillsdale Hos­pital Annex Building, across the parking lot from the main entrance. 

Lott encourages those feeling hes­itant to ask ques­tions and learn more about the vaccine.

“You can come in and talk to one of our team members,” she said. “If you decide to leave without getting vac­ci­nated that day, that’s totally OK.”

The com­munity health agency also hosts a weekly vac­ci­nation clinic, with spe­cific  infor­mation on its website.

Stu­dents expe­ri­encing symptoms are encouraged to contact Health Services.