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COVID cases hitting record highs in Kent County

Posted at 11:15 PM, Oct 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-26 23:15:47-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — There's growing concern as Kent County on Monday experienced its highest daily increase for positive COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. 469 cases were confirmed positive for the virus by tests performed through the county health department, though that number accounts for both Sunday and Monday.

Despite the two-day return, the number still remains the highest recorded on a Monday.

"I think it just says that we have widespread transmission within our community, and these numbers show that," said epidemiologist Brian Hartl with the Kent County Health Department.

COVID cases have continued to rise for more than 14 days. In that time period, the county has not seen even a dip from one day to the next for COVID cases.

"I would not say that we are in a position now to foresee our numbers going down," said Hartl. "I think they are going to continue to go up for the foreseeable future."

Staff at Kent County are responsible for contact tracing. With an uptick in cases, staff cannot keep up with the demand and are falling behind the 24-hour time frame they try to adhere to for contacting people exposed to a positive case.

"Our staff is strapped," Hartl admitted. "We are having a hard time getting to cases in a timely manner. So we just want people to know that you might not be getting a call from the Kent County Health Department for a while after those positive cases are identified."

The Kent County Health Department recently launched a texting service to contact those who test positive. If you do receive a text, don't immediately write it off as a phishing email. The new system is designed to keep up with ongoing demand while it takes more time to call everyone.

Local hospitals are also facing high COVID numbers. Spectrum Health has hit a record for hospitalized patients. As of Monday, 156 patients were hospitalized -- the highest since the beginning of the pandemic.

Health experts attribute the uptick to colder weather, indoor gatherings, and the beginning of respiratory virus season. They are urging everyone to social distance, wear a mask, and continue proper handwashing.

"I know it’s been a long haul here with wearing masks and social distancing and everything like that," noted Hartl, "but really now is the most important time to adhere to those precautions, to make sure that we are doing that, so we can really try to stop this transmission."