China Outbreak

ELKHART — Eighty-five new cases of COVID-19 and four more deaths related to the respiratory disease were reported in Elkhart County on Wednesday.

That brings the total number of positive cases in the county to 3,402 and the number of deaths to 55 since the outbreak began in mid-March. Nine of those deaths have been reported in the past two days.

The 85 new positive cases were all confirmed on Tuesday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health dashboard.

Two of the newly reported deaths were from Sunday, bringing that day’s total to four, the most for the county in a single day. The other two new deaths were on June 27 and June 30.

The Elkhart County Health Department issued a statement saying test results from all laboratories are taking between eight and 10 days due to the surge in other parts of the country, and that could distort the local picture.

“This does affect our positive results reported to the state,” the statement said. “It appears that we are going down in our positive tests; however, this is probably due to the lack of results coming out of the laboratories. We hope this will be resolved soon.”

County Health Officer Lydia Mertz urged residents to continue physical distancing, mask-wearing in public and hand washing.

Elkhart County has been held back in Stage 4 as the rest of the state took a small step toward opening up more. Information from other states and cities has shown us that opening up too fast, without widespread use of public health safeguards, results in sharp increases in the number of cases, and straining healthcare resources. Hospitals in the hardest-hit areas of the United States are again experiencing full ICUs, and a lower number of beds for more “routine” use, such as heart attacks, gall bladder removals, knee or hip replacements, cancer surgeries, etc.

As more people are sickened by the coronavirus and require hospitalization, the situation worsens.

Elkhart County could quickly end up just like this if we don’t keep on the track we’re on now, with greater physical distancing, mask-wearing in public, and hand washing.

“We know the virus can be spread by persons who show no symptoms and have only mild symptoms,” she said. “Current evidence seems to prove the virus is most infectious in the 48 hours before a person develops symptoms.”

While older people and people with preexisting health problems are more likely to require hospitalization, the virus also will strike and kill younger, healthy people at random, Mertz said, and no one should consider himself or herself safe.

“We all need to remember to look out for others and wear a mask when out to avoid unknowingly infecting someone else,” she said. “The changes we make in our behaviors now will allow us to fully open, but more importantly, we will save lives.”

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