Michigan is experiencing a COVID-19 surge comparable to spring 2020 based on current trends, said Sarah Lyon-Callo, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health. Although the number of vaccinated Michiganders is slowly growing, the increase in all COVID-19 metrics is growing much faster.

Columnist Trish Zornio writes, “If we don’t act now, masks could become a long-term fashion accessory. In the past 14 days, the United States has seen tremendous growth in COVID-19 cases again. This has included a 36% increase in hospitalizations and a 26% increase in deaths. With the more transmissible delta variant, infection rates are likely to keep rising quickly. As expected, over 99% of deaths and 97% of hospitalizations were in unvaccinated people. If you’re vaccinated, it doesn’t affect you then, right? Wrong.”

Anna Gustafson writes, “But it is that absence that has been so vital this year; it is that emptiness that has paved the way for life. Do not mistake this silence for a lack of numbers: Those of us who have followed the COVID-19 health orders coming from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) fill our state. And, now, after more than a year of listening to the scientists, wearing our masks and social distancing, life is moving towards something almost jarringly familiar, towards something that is beginning to remind us of the lives we were living some 14 months ago.”

After remaining steady at 11 since late summer, the St. Joseph County death count due to the COVID-19 virus now stands at 15. One death occurred the week before last according to comments last week by Rebecca Burns, Health Officer with the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency (BHSJ). Three more deaths were added to BHSJ’s online statistics early this week.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues with an uptick in cases in St. Joseph County and elsewhere in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer continues to issue orders that modify or add to existing orders regarding mask use. In light of the tighter rules, Watershed Voice spoke with some local law enforcement officials to find out how they are treating mask usage around Three Rivers and St. Joseph County.