UPDATED: First COVID-19 related death in St. Joseph County confirmed

An adult male became St. Joseph County’s first confirmed death from the coronavirus over the weekend, Health Officer Rebecca Burns of Branch Hillsdale St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJCHA) confirmed Monday.

“Today we report the first death of a St. Joseph County resident to COVID-19,” Burns stated in an email to Watershed Voice.  “We extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends. This is a tragic reminder of how serious a threat this virus is to our community and why it is so important to maintain social distance from others at this time.”

Graphic: Branch Hillsdale St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJCHA)

As of Monday afternoon St. Joseph County had 21 positive cases and one death related to COVID-19, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Total cases statewide — based on data collected by MDHHS that was released shortly after 3 p.m. Monday — stand at 25,635 with 1,602 deaths attributed to COVID-19. The data also puts daily confirmed cases at 997 and daily COVID-19 deaths at 115.

BHSJCHA is asking anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 to self-isolate for 14 days to avoid potentially exposing others. Individuals that have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 should self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor themselves for fever, cough, and shortness of breath. COVID-19 symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. Symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. 

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, people should: 

  • Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives. in compliance with Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order
  • Wash their hands 
  • Stay home when sick 
  • Avoid close contact with sick people 
  • Avoid touching their face 
  • Disinfect commonly touched surfaces 
  • When you must go out for groceries and other necessary supplies; only those people absolutely needed for the task should go, others should stay home. 
  • Keep six feet between yourself and others 
  • Work from home if you are a non-essential worker 

People who are concerned they may have COVID-19 should contact their healthcare provider and call ahead before visiting any healthcare facility. Mildly ill people are encouraged to stay home and contact their healthcare provider by phone for guidance. Testing is determined based on risk assessment.

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:01 p.m. Monday, April 13. Watershed Voice will continue to update this story as it develops.

Alek Haak-Frost is the executive editor of Watershed Voice.