ELKHART — Local government and health officials urged residents to remain vigilant while the community remains locked in a battle against the coronavirus.
“We are still in spaces we have never been in before,” Mayor Rod Roberson said Wednesday night during an online briefing with Dr. Michelle Bache, vice president of Medical Affairs at Elkhart General Hospital. “I want to make sure everyone understands how important it is to mitigate this, to take the proper precautions so we get to a place we all want to be. We’re not out of this crisis yet.”
Elkhart County ranks second in Indiana for per capita infections, behind only sparsely populated Cass County, which saw an outbreak near the end of April, primarily among workers at a meat-packing plant.
The outbreak in Cass County has largely subsided, according to the Indiana State Department of Health, while the number of cases in Elkhart County continues to grow.
“We’re definitely feeling the strain of new cases, in the past week or so especially,” Bache said about resources at Elkhart General.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Goshen Health also reported an increase in activity.
“Our Urgent Care and Emergency Department Colleagues have faced several weeks of extremely high volumes. Plus, last week our overall census was much higher. Colleagues are fatigued, but remain dedicated to serving our community,” said Randy Christophel, president and CEO of Goshen Health.
As residents begin to resume activities with people outside their immediate households, following safety precautions “has never been more important,” said Dr. Dan Nafziger, Goshen Health chief medical officer.
“We continue to ask our community to show support for our local health care providers, support staff and each other by taking every precaution possible, starting with wearing a mask in public,” Nafziger said. “Physical distancing, handwashing, disinfecting and staying home if you’re not feeling well – all of these continue to be important for everyone’s protection.”
The Indiana State Department of Health, in its daily report Wednesday, said Elkhart County had 41 new cases and two additional deaths. That brings the number of cases in the county, already the third highest in the state, to 2,705, and the number of deaths to 40.
During the briefing, Bache and Roberson talked about the importance of wearing masks in public, particularly when social distancing is difficult. Bache also said testing sites are abundant and no longer limited to those with symptoms.
“That’s how we will get on top of it,” Bache said. “The answer is not to test less but to test more.”
Bache offered a piece of positive news, saying the average of rate of positive test results in the county had declined from a high of more than 15 percent a couple of weeks ago to 11.5 percent or 12 percent more recently. But with the target positive test rate at 5 percent or less, “we still have a long way to go,” she said.