NEWS RELEASE: Ottawa County health officials continue to urge COVID-19 prevention as case counts and positivity rate are increasing

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News Release  I  March 19, 2021

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

COVID-19 Questions: Public Health Response  I  616-396-5266

Ottawa County health officials continue to urge COVID-19 prevention as case counts and positivity rate are increasing

Health officials with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH) are seeing an increase in case counts and test positivity within Ottawa County. The uptick is also being seen regionally and at the state and national levels. Through March, the average number of new Ottawa County cases reported each day has increased from a low of about 33 to well over 55, including the 94 cases reported on March 16. The county’s positivity rate has increased from 2.9 to 5.9 percent over the last two weeks. Case rates among those aged 10-19 years are the third highest in Ottawa County and may be trending up. 

Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker County View, Ottawa County’s 7-day case rate is 128 per 100,000 people, marking it as a HIGH level of community transmission – the highest level on CDC’s transmission scale. Extra precautions to prevent the spread of the virus are crucial, especially given the B.1.1.7 variant being identified in Ottawa County, and circulating widely across the region and state.

"It is critical for everyone to continue with the disease prevention strategies," said OCDPH Senior Epidemiologist Derel Glashower. "We don't want to lose the progress our community has made to combat COVID-19. We need to be extra cautious as we're seeing the rise in cases and test positivity, especially with the more infectious B 1.1.7 variant circulating."

With Ottawa County’s HIGH transmission level, physical distancing recommendations within schools may vary; despite the new CDC guidelines issued today. Ottawa County may continue to see elevated case rates in coming weeks, highlighting how important it is to prevent COVID-19 and reduce case rates so schools can safely reduce social distancing measures. These practices align with current Michigan Department of Health and Human Services guidelines.

"Ottawa County is currently at a high transmission rate for COVID-19, so middle and high school students are still required to have six feet of physical distance among one another unless they are cohorted," said OCDPH Medical Director Dr. Paul Heidel. "Elementary students may have reduced physical distancing to three feet. However, our case rate has been going up in Ottawa County the last few weeks, so it is important to reverse this trend so we can get our case rate under the cutoff for high transmission."

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools to Reflect New Evidence on Physical Distance in Classrooms. For schools that use less than six feet between students in classrooms, the definition of close contacts should not change. Students sitting less than six feet next to another student or person diagnosed with COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more should quarantine at home and be referred for testing.  

CDC continues to recommend at least 6 feet of distance:

  • Between adults in the school building and between adults and students.
  • In common areas, such as school lobbies and auditoriums.
  • When masks can’t be worn, such as when eating.
  • During activities when increased exhalation occurs, such as singing, shouting, band practice, sports, or exercise. These activities should be moved outdoors or to large, well-ventilated spaces whenever possible.
  • In community settings outside of the classroom.


Public health mitigation measures aimed to minimize the impact of this variant strain in our communities include the following recommendations:

  • Wear a face mask around others
  • Keep at least 6 feet apart from others
  • Clean hands and disinfect surfaces frequently
  • Avoid crowded areas or gatherings
  • Ventilate indoor spaces if around others
  • Avoid domestic and international travel
  • Limit interactions with people who live outside of your household
  • Seek testing if ill, exposed or after travel
  • Follow isolation or quarantine guidance if ill, exposed, or waiting on test results
  • Get vaccinated when vaccine becomes available to you


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Please check out other partner organizations also offering the COVID-19 vaccine at For locations statewide, please call the Michigan COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 or visit