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County prepares for increase of COVID-19 cases

County prepares for increase of COVID-19 cases County prepares for increase of COVID-19 cases
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor,Ā Editor,Ā [email protected]

As Indiana was set to move into the final phase of Gov. Eric Holcombā€™s five-stage Back on Track plan for re-opening following the COVID-19 outbreak, he announced last week, instead, the Hoosier state would remain about midway of Stage 4, referring to it as 4.5, to monitor the situation.

Carrie Herthel, administrator of the Harrison County Health Dept., had the board of commissioners take action during its meeting Monday morning to coincide with the governorā€™s plan and to prepare for an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases.

As the state has allowed the re-opening of most businesses and increased the number of people who could gather in one place, ā€œsome counties have higher case counts than others,ā€ Herthel said

Harrison County has 216 positive cases of the virus, with 2,432 people being tested and 22 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and two clinical deaths. (A clinical death is when a physician diagnoses a patient as having the virus but no test was documented.)

Herthel said neighboring Floyd County has 379 confirmed cases while Clark County has 651; both cases have reported 44 deaths as a result of the virus.

Statewide, there have been 2,524 deaths (up from 2,448 the previous week) and 530,075 Hoosiers tested (484,196 the week prior) with 48,626 positive cases (an increase of 3,032 since last week). Nearly 200 other Hoosiers are believed to have died from the virus, according to the Indiana State Dept. of Health.

The county commissioners approved a ordinance that would allow the health department to take necessary steps if Harrison County sees the number of COVID-19 cases pose a threat to the hospitalā€™s capacity. Herthel said this new ordinance would also help with any outbreaks of other health issues in the future.

Actions allowed by the ordinance include limiting crowd sizes, closures, visitation limitations and imposing fines for organizations found to be non-compliant with federal, state and location directives.

ā€œThe governor strongly recommends mask wearing for all Hoosiers,ā€ Herthel said. ā€œThe preliminary results of the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health Study shows that approximately 40% of Hoosiers who tested positive for the virus were asymptomatic. Wearing a mask helps prevent someone who unknowingly has COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.ā€

To set the example, she said, the governor has made it mandatory for state employees to wear masks to help slow the spread of the virus.

Herthel encouraged Harrison Countians to join Holcombā€™s latest campaign, Mask Up Indiana.

Residents can use the #MaskUpHoosiers hashtag to share an image of them wearing their mask and answering the question: ā€œWho do you wear your mask for?ā€

A template and links for sharing include Ā  (website) and (poster).

Other precautions to avoid getting the virus include following proper hand hygiene, avoid touching oneā€™s face, eyes and nose, maintaining a distance of at least six feet from others and avoiding large gatherings when possible. People who are 65 and older and those with known high-risk medical conditions should continue to limit exposure at work and in their communities.

The county health department could become a pilot site to administer tests if selected. That would come with $50,000 to help fund the program that would be operational from Sept. 1 to June 30 of next year.

Herthel said the state would provide the training, personal protective equipment and other needed supplies but the county would need to hire someone to administer the tests. She would expect this person, hired as a contractual worker, to have ā€œnon-traditionalā€ hours five days week to include weekends.

Paperwork to request to be a testing site is due Friday. The commissioners gave the OK for Herthel to proceed with applying.