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  • Robert Lathers

Public Health Department Urges Portland Residents to Take Action to Keep Our Schools Open

Ionia County Public Health Director, Ken Bowen, has been working 70-80 hours a week since March.  His staff is also putting in long days.  But despite their best efforts, Covid-19 continues to increase throughout the county.  From March to October, the Health Department documented about 350 Covid-19 positive cases.  That is roughly an average of 50 per month.  However, since October first, there have been more than 150 new confirmed cases, which now averages about 50 per week. 

“It’s a highly contagious disease”, Bowen told the Beacon last week, “Schools are doing very well overall.  They have been quick to act.  Mostly, because they have taken this very seriously.  Will Health is doing a great job from everything I have seen. Our goal at the Health Department is working with all the county schools to keep in-person education open.  We will do that as long as we can.”

The outbreaks of Covid-19 are coming from workplaces and large family gatherings according to Bowen.  “People are getting fatigued with wearing masks and not seeing loved ones”, Bowen reflected, “Everybody is ready to be done with this.” 

“If we stay on the projectory we’ve been on for the past couple of weeks it's likely that schools will be better off going virtual.  But that creates other problems with childcare and overall student development.  In addition, there are internet connectivity issues across the county, so even virtual school is difficult for some.   People need to keep paying attention and take masks and social distancing seriously,” Bowen declared. 

Bowen is the consummate professional.  He has no interest or desire to blame anyone for the increase in Covid-19 cases. He is especially concerned for his staff who are “getting weary”.  “We are on the wrong projectory in our county right now”, he said, rereferring to the rapid increase of cases in the past few weeks. “I’m concerned that we continue to keep our hospitals from being overwhelmed.”

When asked what his best advice is moving forward, Bowen told the Beacon, “Everybody needs to practice the big four: Avoid crowds, Practice social distancing, Wear masks, and wash hands frequently.  These things work!” 

If anyone has COVID related questions they are encouraged to call the Ionia County Health Department at 616-527-5341.  The State of Michigan COVID tracking website is updated every day in the late afternoon.


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