OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — Nearly every warm, holiday weekend officials push for water safety at beaches. However, with a growing number of COVID-19 cases in Ottawa County, the area's health department is asking beach goers to be mindful in practicing health precautions as well.
As of September second, Ottawa County had 2,245 positive cases of COVID-19 and an overall positivity rate is about 3.9%.
"With increased testing we are seeing an increase case count but that is expected," Kristina Wieghmink, the department's public information officer said, adding that the increase of traffic from seasonal workers and college students coming back to campuses could also be a factor in the rise.
With more visitors expected to flock to the lakeshore beaches over Labor Day Weekend, Weighmink said it's a great time to practice COVID-19 safety outdoors.
"The governor's executive order states 10 or less people for a gathering inside. If you're going to gather, then try to do it outside," she said, "wearing a mask and keeping your physical distance is really going to help slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Weighmink advises people to keep their masks handy, even if they're headed outdoors, saying it's difficult to social distance when walking along piers or waiting in lines at local shops. When an individual can't keep a full six feet of distance from another, she recommends using their mask as another form of defense.
"We want to put up as many barriers as we can to try and stop the spread of the virus," Weighmink explained.
The health department is also advising people to follow general disease preventing measures, such as covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, staying home when sick or have been in contact with someone with COVID-19 and regularly sanitizing. Weighmink also is reminding everyone to get their flu shot.
As always, beach goers are also reminded to pay close attention to the flags and water conditions. Here's a breakdown of what each mean according to the Ottawa County Health Department:
Green = Safe Conditions
Yellow = Elevated Risk, Proceed with Caution
Red = Do NOT Enter the Water. The water conditions are extremely hazardous and can include strong rip currents as well as structural currents. Even the strongest swimmers struggle in these conditions and may drown.
There have been at least 40 drownings in Lake Michigan this year.
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