NEWS RELEASE: Spike in COVID-19 cases calls for greater awareness of disease prevention

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October 20, 2020

Media Contact: Kristina Wieghmink, public information officer I mobile/text 616-510-8523

NEWS RELEASE: Spike in COVID-19 cases calls for greater awareness of disease prevention

Ottawa County, like most of Michigan, is seeing a continued increase of COVD-19 cases with no indication of decreasing, at this time. According to the Michigan Safe Start Map below, Ottawa County's new daily cases are now at 142/million with a test positivity of 4.3%. Both of these indicators show a sustained community-wide spread of the virus and the importance of taking extra precautions with disease prevention to slow the spread of COVID-19. This sustained increase of cases is of great concern, not only among public health officials but school leaders. The Ottawa County Department of Public Health will continue to monitor the data and keep the public informed about any future community mitigation strategies. 

"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.”

"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.”

Letter from West MI superintendents to school communities I Spanish

Public health's call-to-action video for our community 

Public health is concerned about misinformation related to the severity of COVID-19 and the community-wide spread of the virus. 

Clarification Needed and Messages to Emphasize:

  • COVID-19 is real and very prevalent in Ottawa County. It affects all of us even if you may not feel sick. You could still be a carrier of the virus and get others sick.

  • COVID-19 can result in serious long-term complications, hospitalizations and even death, especially to those who may already have health complications and the elderly. Scientists are still researching the long-term impacts on health, even in those who were healthy or had mild illness.

  • Life is not back to normal yet. We are still in a pandemic. We cannot go about our normal lives as if the virus does not exist. Extreme caution needs to happen among us all especially when at school, work, places of worship and anywhere within the community. This includes wearing a mask, limiting gatherings and avoiding crowds as mandated by the state. Families should have a plan in place if schools or businesses may have limitations or restrictions. 

  • Public health decisions and actions are data-driven and not based on the political landscape. Data are gathered and analyzed by state and local epidemiologists, medical directors and other public health officials to inform mitigation strategies.
  • Social media posts aren't always reliable sources for health information. Seek the facts from scientific research and the expertise of medical and public health officials.

  • It takes all the disease prevention measures working together by all of us to slow the spread of the virus - frequently washing hands and disinfecting surfaces, wearing a mask, keeping a physical distance from others and staying home when you do not feel well.
  • Testing more people for COVID-19 does not inflate the numbers or make the situation seem worse. Testing is a critical tool to identify where the virus is spreading to contain it through isolation and quarantine and to prevent others from getting infected. Find testing sites in Ottawa County: English I Spanish.

  • Contact tracing is not an infringement on your rights or an act of the government getting involved in your privacy. It is a critical tool-and time-tested tool-that goes back more than 120 years to identify those who have been infected and who they may have possibly infected. This public health-community partnership action is needed to contain the virus, and prevent further disease spread and keep our community safe. Help by connecting us with those who may have been exposed.

  • Asking you to wear a mask is not against the law. It is good infection prevention and practiced routinely in health care settings. Michigan law imposes on state and local health departments a duty to continually and diligently endeavor to prevent disease, prolong life and promote public health. Even with Governor Whitmer's emergency powers removed, as provided in MCL 333.2253, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Service director's emergency procedures are not limited to the Public Health Code. Wearing a mask and physical distancing are needful measures when we don’t have pharmaceutical interventions (a vaccine or a medicine).

Upward trend in Ottawa County COVID-19 cases

ottawa cases

Ottawa County increase in COVID-19 cases. Click for more data from the county dashboard.

Positivity rate continues to increase and new cases daily per million

epi spread

Ottawa County's Epidemic Spread. Click for more data from the MI Safe Start Map.

risk level
mi map

Click to view more data.


Ottawa County COVID-19 Response  I  Testing Sites  I Prevent COVID-19