GOSHEN — With infections beginning to appear in Elkhart County that have no clear source, officials are stressing the importance of staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The number of confirmed cases was at 19 by Monday afternoon, an increase of seven since the state Department of Health released its morning update. County Health Officer Lydia Mertz said the county is continually receiving test reports as laboratories work through their backlog.

She and other county officials say this is a crucial moment in limiting the spread of the virus.

“Now is a critical time in our ability to control the spread of COVID-19,” the county Department of Emergency Management said in a statement Monday. “What YOU do now will affect the success of these efforts to control the virus and prevent severe illness and death. What YOU do now will determine the severity of the economic impact this disease will have on Elkhart County. What YOU do now will determine how long we must use social distancing and other personal restrictions.”

The more people follow state and local restrictions and stay home, the quicker the disease will be brought under control, the announcement said. The agency had received complaints about pickup games of basketball, church services and non-essential employees being required to work, all of which can contribute to the spread of the virus through respiratory droplets or touch.

The county Health Department announced Saturday it’s investigating “community spread” cases. That means the county has at least one person who tested positive for the novel coronavirus but has no identifiable source of infection, Mertz said.

“He hasn’t been around anyone else who tested positive, and hasn’t been around any close contacts of anyone who tested positive,” she said by email Monday. “He picked up the infection from somewhere in the community, but we can’t identify the source.”

She said it’s medically significant because it means there are people in the community who are spreading the disease but have no symptoms themselves or only very mild symptoms. Because of that, they haven’t taken precautions to quarantine themselves.

She said the fact that Elkhart County is seeing community spread is why it’s important for everyone to stay home as much as they can. She also stressed other safety measures, such as staying at least 6 feet away from other people and washing your hands often.

“People with very mild symptoms wouldn’t typically think of themselves as disease vectors, but these are different times,” Mertz said. “Even though it’s really hard to stay away from everyone, it’s vital to controlling the disease burden and the number of people who get serious illness from this virus.”

‘Sobering’

On Friday, Goshen announced that Councilman Jim McKee tested positive for COVID-19. Since he had attended two public meetings on March 17, the city reached out to individuals who had been in contact with him and told them to keep close watch on their symptoms and to stay home through March 31.

None of the individuals who were contacted exhibited symptoms over the previous 10 days, according to the city’s announcement. As of Monday morning, the number of cases reported in Elkhart County is 12, according to state figures.

McKee, in a statement shared by the city, stressed the importance of people staying home, while Mayor Jeremy Stutsman said it was a reminder of how a single point of exposure can affect many other people.

And while the city had already begun preparing to respond to the virus, city officials saw the diagnosis as a wake-up call and a reminder of the need to keep apart from others.

“The news about Jim’s diagnosis was sobering,” Councilwoman Julia King said. “It suddenly made this invisible virus very real for Goshen.”

Also over the weekend, county officials raised the travel advisory level to orange. The “watch” status means only travel to or from work is recommended, or for emergencies.

It’s also meant to alert residents to the fact that there’s a change in what the county is experiencing, and that they need to take additional precautions and be more discerning about their need to travel, according to County Commissioner Mike Yoder.

Commissioner Suzie Weirick said Monday the county will update the travel alert every week.

“The decision to go orange from yellow is that we are moving more towards communicable, as opposed to trackable cases or contact cases,” she said following the board’s meeting. “And if we can slow the curve, we’re gonna slow the curve.”

The board of commissioners passed an amendment to the personnel policy manual that provides paid leave to county employees who have to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure. It also sets a policy allowing them to telecommute.

Stutsman pointed out how the governor’s executive order to stay at home and Elkhart County’s travel watch are designed to work together.

“These actions are not taken lightly, but they are necessary given these unprecedented times,” he said in a statement Monday. “These measures aren’t there to protect just you, but to reduce the spread of the virus before it reaches more people, many of whom could be severely affected. If we all stay home as much as we can for the time being, we slow down the transmission, buying time so that our hospitals have the necessary staff and equipment to save the lives of patients with complications from COVID-19. The sooner we all comply with these restrictions, the more effective we will be at slowing the transmission, and the faster we will be able to work to rebuild our economy.”

(10) comments

fire111

Hey Joe! factcheck.org...."Despite creating some confusion with his remarks, Trump did not call the coronavirus a hoax"! And that Trump hating Snopes.com said..."During a 2/28/20 campaign rally in South Carolina, President Trump likened the Democrats' criticism of his administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak to their efforts to impeach him, saying this is their new hoax". And I'm not saying you are lying! Maybe still in a blue haze or suffering from acute TDS....I tried and can't find that quote about tons of materials being shipped to China. Please help!

Joe King

Everyone heard what he said. Words matter. When the leader of this country can't form complete sentences and just spews words...sometimes it seems random "key words" for his base...it leaves it to interpretation...What did Trump and his spokesperson call it? Oh yeah, "alternative facts?" Regardless, he said it. FYI, it was an official press release from the US State Dept. Back in Feb. WHen we should have been stockpiling and preparing for this pandemic, he was in denial and giving the stuff away...Remember this.... Here is the link

https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-announces-assistance-to-combat-the-novel-coronavirus/

sidearm

Fire, please don't antagonize Joe. He will never accept the truth. Leave him be in his own delusional world. We will all be better off.

(Edited by staff.)

Emurdock

Last year, toward the middle of October I became ill. At first I thought it was just a sore throat which last a feq days then it became what seemed to be spring allergies except it was happening in the fall, I blamed it on climate change. Then it became a head cold complete with pkugged ears stuffy nose and sinuses + the sore throat had come back. It was then late November when it felt like I now had bronchitus as well. I had already been taking so much cold medicine that I felt I was becoming even more ill from the medicine. I decided that a feq more days and I would go see a Dr. I started to feel some what better. That lasted abour a week when I started getting even more sick. The same symptoms just 2 times worse. By January 11th I was starting to think that what I had was turning into pneumonia. Someone mentioned Hantavirus to me. I immediately went home to study this virus I had never heard of before. Then I looked in my hwater vents. Yuk! I began disinfecting and eraticating immediately, believing that I had found my source of illness. Another week went by and I was still only becoming progressively worse. Just after the New Year, one of the nurses I work under, called an ambulance to take me to the E.R. my vitals were taken as I felt like I was going to start having seizures. I was not given any kind of a swab test, I did have blood drawn for a few labs, for what I have no clue. After an entire grave yard shift spent on a saline IV with some medicine(I don't remember what) and Benadryl, I was told I had a chronic sinus infection and was prescribed an antibiotic, Zythromyicin. On the 9th day of the antibiotics I finally started to feel better. Like, whew somehow I survived the worst sinus infection I've ever had in my entire life. Then on the 10th day I felt it all come back again even worse than the night I went to the E.R.. Another week goes by and now I am trying musinex and some over the counter medicated nasal swabs...didnt work. I told my boss that I felt I was at a point where I was either going to dieor get better. I really thought death was near. 3 days passed that and I started cleaning my nose with peroxide. Finally at the end of the month of January, I was better. And about 2 days later covid-19 and the state of China's well being was brought to our attention. I am now fairly certain that I had this viral disease. I quarantined myself for the 2 week period and go back to work tomorrow. I have yet to be tested for covid-19 and firmly believe that I aught to be. Even though I have been symptom free since January 23rd, I work with the elderly and fear that this viral, bacteria may still be inside of me and could spread to someone if I accidentally cough or sneeze while my hands and arms are full of precious cargo.

fire111

WOW! So you think had the coronavirus for 3 months? Amazing! By the way! The sickness is not a bacteria! Best of luck!

Joe King

Sounds like you had the flu. It was bad last year. Time of year really doesn't matter. I doubt it was covid19 as it was just beginning in China at that time. They are still messing around with testing for the virus and which one is better. Once it is settled, and trump's administration gets their act together to provide enough to everyone and tests for each doctor/nurse/paramedic each day...they will begin tests to test for anti-bodies. That will tell you if you have ever had it in your system. But, that will be awhile until they get this initial testing down.. Wash your hands, stay home, and when in doubt talk to your doctor is the best thing we can do for now.

fire111

Joe's a dandy! Remember when Trump said he was shutting down flights from China to the US? I do! Remember Joe's heroes called Trump racist? I do! Maybe we should put Joe in charge of something! Maybe rhetoric? The top scientists in the world are working on this virus and the tests for and a vaccine! Thanks for the safety tips Joe!

Joe King

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkMwvmJLnc0&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR340SSOA04sEgu6CMjlRBnfbfN8phZI5mwOVHoPBHhSBSLkqmoPepGMOu8

Joe King

Hey Fire, Remember back in January Trump said "this is their new hoax"?

and "we have it totally under control"

and "It's one person coming in from China"

and "One day it's like a miracle, it will disapear"

and In February, Trump said "When you loose 15 people and within a couple of days it going to be down close to zero"

and "we really think we've done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum"

Remember? On February 7, the Dept of State put out a press release stating it " transported 18.8 tons of medical supplies to the Chinese people including masks, gowns, gauze, respirators and other vital materials" I wonder how many American doctors and nurses and 1st responders could have use them? Remember this when friends and love ones are sick and dying of this virus.....

FlyNavy

Too many people in the county simply are not observing Social Distancing. I saw a home with about 5 or so vehicles parked in the drive with a dozen people closer together than a football huddle. If any of them have the virus, they have taken it home and are spreading to other unsuspecting people. I also saw lots of groups of kids playing in close contact in several locations. Unless they were all siblings, that is a great way to spread the virus.

The county changing colors on an alert will have absolutely no impact on lowering the spread. All it does is make bureaucrats feel like they are important and doing something. Sadly, there are far too many ignorant people in the county that will keep the spread rate on the rise.

If everyone acted as if they have the virus, everyone else they see has the virus and everything they touch has the virus, we might have a chance to ease the impact. Sadly, that isn't going to happen.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.