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.