Barry-Eaton District Health Department advises for classes to move online


The Red Cedar River at night/ Photo Credit: MSU University Communications

Nathan Stearns, News Director

Three days after the Ingham County Health Department advised local school districts to transition to virtual learning for a week in lieu of rising COVID-19 cases, the Barry-Eaton District Health Department is joining the increasing push to halt in-person instruction for two weeks.

“Given the value of in-person learning, we continue to recommend that districts consider pausing all extra-curricular activities before moving to a virtual platform or at least at the same time,” Health Officer Colette Scrimger said.  “Continuing extracurriculars, but pausing in-person learning will not have the same impact on disease transmission.”

On Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she would be recommending all high schools in Michigan to immediately transition to virtual learning for the next two weeks as coronavirus cases continue to rise to concerning levels across the state. In addition, the governor also advised districts to postpone high school sports and for residents to avoid eating out for the next two weeks.

From March 1-31, positivity rates within Eaton Country more than quadrupled from 163 cases per million to 689 cases per million, on average.  Barry Country saw a massive rise in positivity rates as well; rates tripled from 147 cases per million to 449 cases per million.

The current positivity rate in Eaton County is 21.5% and 16.5% for Barry County, both extremely high numbers. In a press release, the department acknowledged that rising cases are most likely being caused by the increased prevalence of the B.1.1.7 variant of COVID-19. This variant is believed to be more dangerous and contagious than the original coronavirus strain.

Numerous outbreaks in both counties have been traced to increased in-person activities, including parties, sporting events and in-person dining.

“We all absolutely have to increase our vigilance in order to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Besides mask wearing, testing, social distancing, and handwashing, we also recommend to avoid or reschedule family gatherings and parties,” Scrimger said. “Get takeout food from a local restaurant rather than dining in. Work from home if you can. Avoid unnecessary travel, and get vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as it’s available to you.”

On Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced that nearly 9,000 new cases had been reported, one of the highest marks in the country.