WARSAW – Sounds of optimism were voiced Wednesday by Kosciusko County’s top health official over efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus.
County Health Officer Dr. William Remington said Wednesday, April 15, during a news conference at Warsaw City Hall that the peak is still two or three weeks away and compared it to being in the fourth inning of a baseball game.
The opponent, though, seems to be not as strong and swift as once expected and the home team is being credited for good defensive efforts, so to say.
Kosciusko County has now reported 20 confirmed case of COVID-19 Wednesday, but the total has only grown by four in the past week.
Eight people in the county have recovered. One person has died in the county from COVID-19.
Remington says there is some “guarded optimism” because they’re not seeing a crush of new cases or hearing from health care workers clamoring for more equipment.
“We keep waiting for a surge beyond what we have – I thought we would see it in the last week, but thankfully, we haven’t,” Remington said.
He credits the state’s state-at-home order and a general willingness by residents to abide by it as well as social distancing.
“I think these heavy-handed suppressive measures – this social distancing and the debilitation economically of so many businesses – has actually had a wonderful result for our county,” Remington said. “We have not seen a horrific surge perhaps because we’ve done well on those fronts.”
Remington was joined by other local leaders, including Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, Kosciusko County Commissioner Cary Groninger and Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce CEO Rob Parker.
“My message this morning is to keep it up, at least aggressively for another couple weeks through this month and into early May,” he said.
Specifically, Remington reiterated his plea that anyone shopping should be wearing a mask.
Medical grade masks should be reserved for health care workers, but homemade masks — even scarfs – can help deter the spread of the virus.
Thallemer urged people to donate any medical-grade masks they have to health care professionals and said anyone wanting standard masks should check with Parkview Hospital or the county health department.
Thallemer said he’s amazed at the local responses to assist – everything from making masks, supporting non-profits, supporting local businesses and providing meals.
“One of our problems is we have too many people want to volunteer and that creates an issue with social distancing,” Thallemer said. “There’s no lack of collaborative spirit and willingness to give for our neighbors in this community.”
There were two signs of good news reported at the news conference.
On Tuesday, the county received two pallets of personal protection equipment that will be distributed to longterm health care facilities.
Also, Warsaw airport was awarded $69,000 for operations and maintenance in relief money from the Federal Aviation Administration.
Officials were asked if any companies deemed non-essential have been told to cease operations in the county.
State officials talked to one company, but the dispute was resolved in favor of the business.
Officials said statewide, that about 250 complaints have been filed by people questioning the necessity of certain businesses still operating. Around 89 closure orders have been issued across the state.
“We’re just relying on people to understand how critical it is to follow these guidelines. There’s a lot of businesses that have closed their doors. It’s part of trying to do what’s right,” Thallemer said.
As for the reopening of businesses, Thallemer, Groninger and Remington all suggested they will lean heavily on advice from the Governor. But Remington said they hope to provide local health statistics that can be used to shape those kinds of decisions.
Officials also urged businesses to look into various forms of relief. A summary of those can be found on the Kosciusko County Chamber of Commerce website.
Parker commended the federal government and lawmakers for developing a response to the pandemic that makes sure money gets to people who need it.
“That’s one thing we learned from 2008. Get the money into the hands of people quickly so it can blunt the recession. That’s the hope and prayer,” Parker said.
Thallemer also announced Warsaw’s executive order for emergency leave policy for city workers will be extended to May 1. The state’s stay-at-home order expires Monday, but Thallemer predicted that will be extended as well.
Officials will gather next Wednesday morning, April 22, for another news conference.