GOSHEN — County officials expect to hear late next week the results of a CDC investigation into the COVID-19 outbreak in Elkhart County.
Emergency Management Director Jen Tobey said Monday that investigators with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are expected to present their findings and recommendations on July 23. The CDC team, which includes four people on-site and two working remotely, was asked by state health officials to examine the high number of COVID-19 cases in Elkhart County.
“What’s significant about the CDC is, this is a group of people that travel around the United States only looking at data for COVID-19. We are the first and the only county, so far, in the State of Indiana that has received this team,” she said. “That speaks loudly to me of the fact that we have a problem.”
Tobey said the group’s work involves more in-depth contact tracing than what the Elkhart County Health Department or the state has done so far. Meetings are also being held with business, health and local government leaders.
The hope is to identify the hot spots within the county and figure out how to deal with them.
“We have a new term: data diving. Their job is to data dive,” she said. “So I may know that Jane Doe is female and 40, lives in Goshen and works at this business. They’re gonna go through and data dive even further, expound on that contact tracing even further, and try to really report back to us where our spikes are happening around the county and recommendations on how to address it.”
Totals published by the state Monday show that 50 new cases were added to the number of positives in Elkhart County, bringing the cases up to 3,662. The total number of fatalities was 60 as of Monday, after no new deaths were reported, according to Indiana Department of Health data.
Tobey anticipates a surge in the numbers when more outstanding tests are completed and added to the totals from past days. She said hundreds of tests are reportedly still outstanding, and that one of the three main labs processing tests in the area has told them not to expect them to catch up until late September or early October.
Other high totals in recent days can largely be attributed to samples that were collected back in June, she said.
“The labs are slammed right now. Last week, with my unified command call on Thursday, Goshen Hospital reported somewhere in the number of 800 tests that they have not received the results yet,” Tobey remarked. “And those tests are 8-10 days out. We used to get test results in 48 hours.”
She said she’s anxious to get the team’s report and see what they might be missing at the county level. For example, Tobey said, she’s heard that about 80,000 people come from outside of Elkhart County to work, but it’s not clear what affect that might have on the number of positive cases.
“I have said, since day one, just on the information I’m allowed to have, it’s not one population, it’s not business, it’s not community, it’s a little bit of everything,” she said. “We get the ZIP code data – all the ZIP codes in Elkhart County are increasing. It’s not just Goshen, it’s not just Latino/Hispanic populations. It’s not just a business. It’s the ZIP code throughout the county.”
She said she’s not sure what the county could be doing differently. For now, she said the mask mandate from the health department is in place indefinitely and the department is putting out frequent public safety messages and having them interpreted to meet other populations.
“I’m a strong believer in, ‘Don’t come to me with problems without a few solutions,’” Tobey said. “So I’m hoping CDC is coming to us and is going to be able to provide a few solutions that are maybe a little bit outside the box that we didn’t think about, or we didn’t know to think about.”