A high school student in Van Buren County has died from COVID-19, the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department confirmed on Friday, September 24.

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UPDATE: The Herald Palladium reports the 18-year-old student was a senior at Decatur High School.

This brings the total of deaths due to COVID-19 in Van Buren and Cass County to 234. Since the start of the 2021 school year there have been 192 confirmed COVID-19 cases in children 19 and under in Van Buren County and Cass County.

Van Buren/Cass District Health Department says the region is experiencing its fourth surge of the virus, "which is largely driven by the stronger, more contagious Delta variant and lower vaccination rates across the district (Cass and Van Buren County)."

Dr. Larry Wile, Medical Director, Van Buren/Cass District Health Department said in a release,

Our sympathy goes out to all families who have been affected by this deadly virus. As a community we all want this pandemic to be over, to know our families are safe, and to have the restrictions on our social activities lifted. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. The Delta variant has proven to be more contagious and more serious than previous variants. We have seen a 25-fold increase since one week after school ended on June 25, 2021 until now. Our community transmission data has elevated us to the highest risk category. We have hope in the form of safe and effective vaccines, but only if many more of us who are eligible and able actually take them and only if we slow the spread of this illness through masking, distancing, and quarantine and isolation. We encourage everyone to actively protect themselves and others by following proven mitigation strategies; it will take a cooperative effort from our whole community to effectively mitigate the threat of this virus.

Danielle Persky, Health Officer of the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department added,

The death of a local student is a tragic reminder that the numbers we report every week are also our children, friends and neighbors, and that no one is immune to the virus’ impact. The best ways to protect ourselves, our loved ones and young children who are not eligible to get the vaccine is to get vaccinated ourselves and wear a mask; small and simple tools that make a great impact.

The Health Department is calling on the community and state leaders to help slow the spread of COVID-19. They continue to urge the public to get vaccinated, wear masks in public settings, maintain 3-6 feet or more of distance between others, practice good hand hygiene, and stay home when sick.

  • Everyone age 12 and older is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan. Find a list of vaccine locations here.
  • Locate test sites here.

LOOK: Answers to 30 common COVID-19 vaccine questions

While much is still unknown about the coronavirus and the future, what is known is that the currently available vaccines have gone through all three trial phases and are safe and effective. It will be necessary for as many Americans as possible to be vaccinated in order to finally return to some level of pre-pandemic normalcy, and hopefully these 30 answers provided here will help readers get vaccinated as soon they are able.