BHSJ begins new COVID case prioritization measures

Urges residents to ‘take personal action’ if they test positive

COLDWATER — The Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ) announced Wednesday new procedures for COVID-19 case investigations, following “widespread” community transmission of the disease in the last several weeks.

The new procedures include new procedures with case prioritization, prioritizing notifying those who are 65 years old or older, 22 years old or younger, especially those attending school in-person, and individuals living in congregate living environments, such as long-term care facilities. All other individuals who test positive, according to BHSJ, will be contacted “as capacity allows.”

The move comes as COVID-19 has had an alarming spike in St. Joseph County, consistent with a dramatic increase in cases across the state and the country. As of Thursday, there were 1,710 total cases as of the beginning of the pandemic, with a little over 560 reported since Oct. 28 and over 900 reported since the beginning of October. A record 94 new cases were reported Wednesday, the highest number of daily cases reported since at least September. In total, there have been 28 deaths in St. Joseph County attributed to COVID-19.

With the spike, BHSJ is urging residents to take personal action if they test positive or are a close contact to a positive case by not waiting for the local health department to call.

“If we all work together and follow the guidelines for COVID-19, we can bend the curve and reduce the number of cases and deaths in our three-county area,” BHSJ Health Officer Rebecca Burns said.

Burns said if someone is awaiting test results, they must stay home until results are in. Even if their test comes back negative and they are in quarantine, she says people must finish the 14-day quarantine. For residents that test positive, BHSJ urges people to isolate themselves from others, as they are contagious for 48 hours prior to the onset of their symptoms and through the end of their isolation.

BHSJ then urges those who test positive to notify their close contacts, defined as people who have been within six feet of them for 15 minutes or more in a 24-hour period with or without a face covering, and encourage them to quarantine for 14 days since last exposure and consider getting tested. They also urge people who test positive to notify their employer of such so they can perform contact tracing.

Resources to assist residents with COVID-19 questions and needs during isolation and quarantine are available on BHSJ’s website.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 23 or

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