GOSHEN — COVID-19 is having serious health consequences other than death, Goshen Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Nafziger said Monday.

“Some patients are developing strokes, blood clots and chronic fatigue. I know of people younger and healthier than I am who are now spending months recovering from this virus. We don’t know whether their lungs will ever go back to normal. This is why we take this virus so seriously – and urge everyone in the community to as well,” the infectious disease specialist said in a release from Goshen Health.

Goshen Health announced it has completed more than 10,000 tests, with 1,286 positive test results. The health care provider is waiting for the results of 742 tests.

Elkhart County on Monday surpassed 4,000 positive cases since the beginning of the outbreak, with 29,637 Elkhart County residents being tested. That’s third highest number of cases in the state, behind Marion and Lake counties.

Both Goshen Health and the county as a whole have a 13.7 percent positivity rate.

Goshen Hospital has had 176 hospital admissions and 172 hospital discharges.

Elkhart County has 64 confirmed COVID-19 deaths to date. Neighboring St. Joseph County, with a population that is more than 30 percent larger than Elkhart County’s, has had 2,542 cases and 72 deaths.

“We are not just concerned with deaths from COVID-19. We’re concerned about every positive COVID-19 patient. Even though many people are recovering, we don’t know yet what the long-term consequences of the virus are,” Nafziger said.

Unlike much of Indiana, Elkhart County long continued to have growing daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases, despite having tested fewer people than, for instance, St. Joseph County. Data from recent weeks had suggested a decrease in the daily cases, though county officials believe this was due to a sudden backlog in test processing.

More recently, the county – as well of Indiana as a whole – has seen a spike in cases. Indiana reached its highest seven-day moving average ever on Monday with 742 new cases reported.

The number of deaths across the state, however, has decreased significantly. The state’s seven-day moving average in deaths hit five on Monday, which is the lowest since late March. The high was 42 on April 27. To date, 2,642 Hoosiers have died of COVID-19, state health officials said.

It is not clear that deaths in Elkhart County have decreased, however. Sixteen county residents died from July 3 to July 9. Three deaths have been reported since.

Nursing home restrictions

Due to the severity of the coronavirus outbreak in Elkhart County, nursing home residents will have to wait longer for visitors that those elsewhere in Indiana.

That is the result of a restriction by Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Lydia Mertz, who is superseding the statewide requirement to allow four hours of daily visitation at long-term care facilities.

Indiana State Department of Health guidelines say long-term care facilities must offer four hours of visitation (preferably outdoors) per day as of July 17. But given the high number of COVID-19 cases in Elkhart County, Mertz decided against that requirement for local nursing homes.

Her public health order, issued Sunday, says that “Long-term care facilities are not required to offer, and should restrict, indoor visitation by non-medical professionals.”

While not required to offer indoor visitation, local nursing homes are allowed to do so, though they must first develop an indoor visitation plan to ensure a safe environment for residents, staff and visitors, the health order said.

Exceptions to the Elkhart County restriction includes end-of-life situations. Nursing homes should continue to offer outdoor visitation to the extent possible, Mertz said.

The Indiana State Department of Health acknowledged on July 16 that its guidelines might not be strict enough for all areas of Indiana, as the coronavirus has affected communities at varying levels. In cases when local governments supersede the guidelines because of severe local outbreaks, facilities “should, of course, adhere to such orders and recommendations.”

Follow Rasmus S. Jorgensen on Twitter at @ReadRasmus

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