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Coronavirus cases continue to climb in Elkhart County

(WNDU)
Published: Jun. 1, 2020 at 6:43 PM EDT
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Elkhart is known as a leader in RV manufacturing, but its that type of business that could be one of the reasons for their new title as leader of COVID-19 cases here in Michiana.

"We added a 174 new cases to our totals this weekend alone," Dr. Michelle Bache says about the total cases in Elkhart County. She is Vice President of Medical Affairs at Elkhart General Hospital.

Elkhart County, home to the city with a heart, now seeing an increase in coronavirus cases at the heart of the county's problems.

"We're concerned that we're going to start seeing that manifest as increased need for hospital resources this coming week and the next," Dr. Bache says.

Elkhart General says they're prepared for more inpatient admissions, but hospital leaders say the public needs to focus on stopping the spread.

"We really need to do everything that we can to try to get these number of infections down," Dr. Bache adds.

Lowering infections could be a tall order. The Elkhart County Health Department putting out a statement today from Health officer Dr. Lydia K. Mertz that reads in part:

"As many of you know, Elkhart County is currently seeing an increase in the number of positive tests results for COVID-19. Although some of that is because of the rise in the number of tests we have been able to do, that is not my only concern. As the state has opened up, the increased activities at work and other settings have allowed for the spread of the virus. We need to sustain significant changes in how we go about our everyday lives for the foreseeable future."

The full statement can be found

.

More work means more spread. The RV manufacturing industry still working on ways to keep employees safe.

"Just had a conversation with someone in the RV industry," Levon Johnson says. He's the President/CEO of the Elkhart Chamber of Commerce. "What the manufacturer says, you've got to be patient because we're still trying to figure out how to operate in this new normal and that means that our processes that worked for however many years right now are not working in this particular situation."

Leaders in the county issuing this statement on the spike in cases:

"To the Business Community of Elkhart County,

We are reaching out to you to share our concerns about the spread of COVID-19, particularly as it relates to Elkhart County. In March and April, our community did a great job working together to slow the spread of the virus and assure that we could medically test and treat those who were infected. We expected a peak in mid-May in northern Indiana, but numbers in the past week in particular are troubling. As of June 1, Elkhart County had a total of 1,322 positive cases from 9,849 tested and 28 people have died from the coronavirus. The State of Indiana is decreasing the percentage of new positive cases in comparison to the number of tests given. The temporary shut down and actions of people as we open up seem to have been successful statewide. Our county tells a different story. In the past week, Elkhart County received national attention when it became the 10th most likely in the entire country to have the next COVID-19 outbreak, based on data collected by the New York Times. This has since changed and we are no longer on the high end of the list, but only because other counties are doing worse.

As of today, we expect to see our total number of cases double every 12.5 days. Our county is testing a significant number more people than we have in the past which means our total number of positive cases will rise. The problem is our percentage of positive tests to total tests given is rising dramatically. This shows that we have a spread issue. The first couple of months we saw a daily positive test percentage of 4% to 9%. Since the economy has reopened, we have seen that jump to 16%, and the last week the percentages of positive tests rose to 20% to 25%. By comparison, Indiana dropped from 18% to the current 7.5% daily positives. If you look at Indiana’s data of positive cases by age, it is clear people ages 20 to 60 are the ones spreading the virus. This is us and this is our work force. As we have returned to work, the number of people who are getting sick is growing. Since we appeared on the national list, state and federal agencies have started looking closer at Elkhart County and we are at risk of them taking action to shut us down again. The CDC, OSHA, State Board of Health, or the Governor could order Elkhart County to again stay home entirely if we don’t act now to slow the spread again. The best solution for all of us is to do this voluntarily rather than be told to shut down. We cannot afford to shut down again if we can avoid it, but we can afford to take the time to reinforce our efforts and precautions. Companies with outbreaks have suffered work shut-downs, morale issues and community embarrassment. We need to not allow anyone outside Elkhart County to control our ability to manage this pandemic. We will work with each and every one of you to support your efforts. We just ask that you stand beside us as well. We are all in this together.

We want to remind everyone that social distancing, masks and handwashing are just as essential now as they have been over the past two months. If we become complacent and relax our personal or workplace protocols and behaviors, we could see the disease spread in even more deadly ways.

These are not fun times, but we can take steps to slow the spread of the virus and keep our community safer. We need to work together, possibly slow output, and both implement and enforce safe practices. We are now seeing record volumes of COVID-19 patients in our Urgent Care facilities and our hospitals have more patients than ever due to COVID-19. We are a team here in Elkhart County. We all rely on the other. In the time of a pandemic, the actions of a few can have a large effect on all of us, our health and our economy.

Thank you to all of you who are already taking the appropriate steps and thank you to those who will step up again as you have in the past.

Sincerely,

Mayors

Jeremy P. Stutsman, Mayor Rod Roberson, Mayor Phil Jenkins

Commissioners

Frank Lucchese, Suzie Weirick, Mike Yoder

Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation

Nick Kieffer, Levon Johnson, Jeff Kitson, Chris Stager"

There's no masking the increase in cases in Elkhart County, but masking-up could help stop the spread.

"If you look over to our neighbors in St. Joe County where they have a mask ordinance in place, they added 28 cases over the weekend, we added 174. What is different between our communities? There are obviously some demographic differences, maybe some workforce differences, but the masking strategy is just huge," Dr. Bache says.

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