GOSHEN — Elkhart County saw its highest daily number of COVID-19 cases yet as 122 new positive cases were reported.
State data published Thursday show that Elkhart County has had 2,400 positive cases since the outbreak began, just over 14 percent of the total 16,867 tests that have been performed. One death reported Monday brings the death toll to 36.
“We remain concerned about the numbers we’re seeing in Elkhart County,” said Dr. Lydia Mertz, health officer with the Elkhart County Health Department.
All but one of the 122 new cases reported Thursday were from Wednesday. It was the highest number of new cases reported in any county in Indiana, including Lake (84), Marion (59), Allen (51) and St. Joseph (33).
Mertz said the record high number of new cases was preceded the previous day by only 39 new cases. She said both the high and the low are a result of the way tests are conducted.
“The labs doing the tests often ‘batch’ the results, and we get a large number reported on a single day, but not many the day before or the day after,” she said. “That’s why we look at the average number of cases we see over several days to see if the number of positive cases is increasing, and by how much.
“Overall we continue to see an increase in the rate of positivity.”
The state publishes individual county data at www.coronavirus.in.gov.
“I do appreciate the state coronavirus site adding a graph of the rate of positivity for the state and each county so everyone can see how we’re doing,” Mertz said. “We want people to be able to get the data they need to see how serious this situation is, and why we are asking them to take measures to control the spread (such as) social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks, staying home when ill (and) cleaning surfaces.”
The health department issued a recommendation on wearing face masks on Friday, which was supported by the county Board of Commissioners on Monday. The department has continued to try to underline the importance of wearing masks in public this week, which health officials believe will decrease the spread of the virus when used in combination with other practices.
Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, said her visit to Elkhart and LaGrange counties earlier in the week was productive.
“I was very impressed with the plans and the process they have put into place there and we also reviewed the data with them,” Weaver said Thursday before the newest numbers were released. “We have seen an uptick in cases and COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Elkhart County and it was very important to the State Department of Health and (state health commissioner) Dr. (Kristina) Box and myself that I go there and meet with people and hear about how the state can help support them and hear about the work that they are doing there.”
Communication between state and local health officials was ongoing, she said.
Weaver said data show the virus can disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, such as the Latino and Amish communities, a key focus of local health officials in their education and testing efforts.
“We have to make sure we tailor our messaging and our outreach where it is needed,” she said.
Residents should take action to protect themselves and their neighbors, according to Weaver.
“We’re in a much better place now than we were in the beginning and we understand how (the virus) spreads and that if you practice social distancing and wear your mask and practice good hygiene, and all of those things, that they really do help to mitigate the spread within a community,” she said.