WARSAW – Kosciusko County’s Health Department is being inundated with phone calls and emails from people with concerns and questions about coronavirus.
Health Administrator Bob Weaver said they’ve been getting about a hundred calls a day on top of about 200 emails.
The virus-related calls are various. Why does an entire family go to pick up dinner or go to the grocery store? Why are certain businesses still open?
“Everything you can imagine,” Weaver said about the calls.
Some are more worried about somebody they think has been in contact with a carrier and isn’t taking proper precautions.
Others worry about how many should be quarantined or tested after a case has been identified.
County Health Officer Dr. William Remington said the health department is sharply focused on learning about all “close contacts” of anyone who has tested positive.
As for who should be checked, he compared it to the ripples created in a pond from a pebble and used a machinist as an example. If somebody who tested positive worked on a machine that is used by others, those people would be tested. Workers stationed a hundred feet away would not be a focus, he said.
“Secondary and tertiary contacts – further ripples out from where the pebble dropped – are not the priority and are at the lowest risk,” Remington said.
Remington, who announced the county had recorded its fifth positive case, met with the media Wednesday morning after participating in an hour-long conference call with 220 community leaders and members of the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce. In the next two days, he’ll be meeting with first responders and emergency management leaders.
He urged people to adhere to the stay-at-home directive from Gov. Eric Holcomb, saying to the public “Don’t take your foot off the gas.”
“Stay home and stay alive,” Remington said.
Remington also offered a stark assessment of how local conditions could develop as the outbreak spreads.
Based on other models, Remington predicted the number of cases “will escalate within the next 10 days.”
“From the curves I’ve seen from elsewhere, our peak in this county is probably six to eight weeks out,” he said.
Even after the number of cases reaches a peak, there will be an extended period before the number of new cases begins to fall significantly, he said.
By then, he said, hospitals will be “fatigued and stretched,” but he does not think they will be swamped with patients.
“They’ll be functioning – doing things in creative ways, but they’ll be functioning well,” he said.
“I think people are gonna be tired and wish this whole thing would go away,” he said.
Easter celebrations and Memorial Day parades are not likely, Remington said, holding out hope some semblance of public interaction could return by July 4.
Remington said the health department is working to determine who else had close contact with any of the five people who have tested positive in Kosciusko County.
Remington said there is “linkage with some of them,” but declined to suggest that it represents an example of “community transmission.”
While very few details have been released about the five cases, Remington said they will begin releasing more demographic details after there are more cases to work with.
He said the county health department is well prepared to do the work because they have had a full-time communicable disease nurse for years and recently hired – temporarily – an epidemiologist.
Health care workers, who he termed a “precious resource,” need the support of the public, whether it’s a compliment or a private note.
“Little things can really make a big difference,” he said.