ELKHART — There are now 62 COVID-19 patients in Elkhart County Hospitals, showing a clear uptick not just in infections but in the number of residents who are hospitalized by the coronavirus and prompting a call from health officials for renewed cooperation.
In previous months, when the coronavirus was loosening its grip locally, hospitalizations at Goshen Hospital and Elkhart General hovered around a total of 20. When they hit a combined 49 patients on Oct. 9, Elkhart General’s vice president of medical affairs, Dr. Michelle Bache, said the hospital was already above normal patient capacity and would likely have to postpone elective procedures.
The number of new COVID-19 cases is spiking in Indiana as a whole, more than doubling from about 800 to about 1,800 new cases per day since Sept. 10. In the same period, Elkhart County’s number of new cases has more than tripled, from 28 (at the end of a long decrease), to 105 per day.
In the last 30 days, 2,111 new cases have been confirmed in Elkhart County residents. That is 25.2 percent of all cases reported since the beginning of the local outbreak in March.
The positive test rate for individuals also keeps climbing in Elkhart County and hit a seven-day average of 19.4 percent on Oct. 12, the most recent date with non-preliminary data. When the local outbreak was looking better, the rate hovered around 10 percent. The average’s all-time high was 22.3 percent, reached on April 14.
Elkhart County’s positive test rate has generally been higher than Indiana’s, which was around 7 percent to 9 percent since June but has also increased recently, reaching 11.5 percent on Oct. 12.
More people dying
The state is seeing a clear uptick in the number of COVID-19 deaths, after the number of daily deaths had been around 10 since July 1. There have now been multiple days with more than 20 deaths reported, and the seven-day average is now at 16. To date, 3,727 Hoosier have died from COVID-19, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. There has been a total of 149,166 confirmed infections.
In Elkhart County, deaths have also begun climbing again, with 25 deaths in the last 30 days. In the 30 days before that, there were 13 deaths. When the county had the most deaths, in July and the first half of August, the average was one death per day. Two new deaths were reported Monday, dating back to Sept. 21 and Oct. 1. A total of 132 Elkhart County residents have died from COVID-19. There has been a total of 8,371 confirmed infections.
The number of people getting tested locally has been climbing in the last month, reaching an average of 342 per day on Oct. 12, up from about 230 a month earlier. During the worst part of the first wave, the average was as high as 462.
Because of the across-the-board worsening of the local outbreak, local health officials on Monday urged local residents to do more to protect each other.
“Not long ago we were considered a COVID-19 ‘hot spot,’ and through the hard work and commitment of frontline health care workers, local task forces and area residents we significantly improved our county health metrics. Together, we can do this again and turn our current numbers around,” Elkhart County health officer Dr. Lydia Mertz said in a statement.
“If we’re going to reverse this trend and turn this around, we all need to get back to basics,” said Randy Christophel, president and CEO of Goshen Health.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mask mandate is still in effect, requiring Hoosiers to wear a mask when inside a public or retail building and when not able to socially distance in public. The mandate is not enforced with penalties.
Mertz has said she does not want to reintroduce local restrictions that might, for instance, affect the allowed capacities at bars and restaurants. But if the numbers keep worsening, she said last week, the county may have to take action.