ELKHART — Elkhart County reported its first COVID-19 death, an 80-year-old man who had underlying medical conditions, local health and emergency officials said Tuesday.
The man died at a local hospital, according to a release from the county Department of Emergency Management.
“We are saddened to report that Elkhart County has had its first COVID-19 death,” the release said. “Our condolences go to the family. We are expecting more official notifications of deaths in the coming days. Again, people must stay at home! This is the best way to ensure that you or your loved ones do not become infected.”
Elkhart County Health Officer Lydia Mertz said officials could not provide information regarding the man’s recent whereabouts or social interactions.
“Everybody who has COVID has an investigation done and all of their close contacts are then contacted by the health department as well,” she said.
The man reportedly passed away on Sunday.
Across the state line, Cass County, Michigan, also reported its first coronavirus death. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services did not provide information about the person who died. Cass County’s total number of cases stands at four, according to the department.
Indiana’s health commissioner urged Hoosiers to continue to adhere to the state’s stay-at-home order, warning Tuesday that while the number of coronavirus cases in the state had surged past 2,000 and its deaths climbed to 49, Indiana remained far from reaching its peak in the outbreak.
Mertz said she was not surprised by the first death in Elkhart County, as other locations in Indiana and across the country have been encountering COVID-19-related deaths for weeks.
“We’re just as human as any other county, but this is not news you want to hear,” she said.
Twenty confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported by the county to the Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday, up from 12 the previous day.
Mertz said local hospitals are still struggling to obtain the number of test kits they believe they need.
“We need for people to stay home and be doing all the things we’ve been talking about for a while that aren’t very much fun. It really is important,” Mertz said. “We need people to wash their hands all the time. If you go to a grocery store, wash your hands. If you go to the pharmacy, wash your hands before you go and wash your hands again when you get back.”
In total, 2,159 Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the state said.
“We really depend on the people in Elkhart County to continue doing what they’re doing to try to get this pandemic under control,” Mertz said. “The things they are doing are the important things and if they can keep doing them that will keep the deaths down.”