By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – City and county officials are urging people to continue to stay at home and to wear masks when shopping as the statewide stay-at-home order continues through the end of April.
The pleas were echoed at a weekly press conference Wednesday in Warsaw, even as protests against the stay-at-home orders surfaced in several state capitals, including Indianapolis, and mixed signals are heard from Washington D.C.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, Kosciusko County Commissioner Bob Conley and County Health Officer Dr. Bill Remington all offered a consistent message about staying home and using masks when in stores.
And they offered a united front in support of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s guidance on the issue.
Conley, wearing a face mask during the news conference, said he supports the state’s approach.
“We want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem,” Conley said.
Thallemer said Holcomb has indicated some transition could begin in early May, but added that he has no idea what that might look like.
People should expect a phased-in approach when the state begins lifting restrictions.
Thallemer noted that Holcomb is working with other surrounding states in coordinating future decisions.
“I think our governor has been being very purposeful in what he’s doing,” Thallemer said.
Thallemer said the governor is looking to CDC guidelines for decisions “that will provide a positive impact without jumping the gun – if you will – and try to reopen too quickly.”
Meanwhile, health officials are growing slightly more confident that the spread of the virus in Kosciusko County has – for now – apparently peaked.
Some of the reason for optimism involves what appears to be a leveling off of newly reported cases of COVID-19 in the county. The number rose by one on Wednesday to 23 after the number had not risen for nearly a week.
Remington also reported that area nursing homes have avoided any outbreaks of the virus.
No clusters of cases have been seen in area nursing homes. The only clusters health officials have identified locally are among family members, Remington said.
He said he believes the county is at a midpoint through what some forecasting models suggest is a 12-week surge.
“If we were going to see an explosion of cases in that original modeling, it should be now,” Remington said. “I am very happy to tell you that it seems quiet on the front. I say that with a very guarded tone.”
He continued to urge people to wear masks while shopping.
Wearing a mask, he said, serves as a signal to retail workers that you are considerate to their circumstances.
“It’s a gracious social thing to do,” he said.
Also participating in the news conference was Megan Martin, vice president of the Lutheran Health Physicians/Kosciusko Medical Group.
Martin said KCH has established a respiratory clinic where those who have COVID symptoms can be evaluated by a physician. If needed, testing is available at the clinic.
“That way, it keeps all of those patients out of the office so it was safer to all the other patients,” Martin said.
KCH has three sites providing testing. In addition to the respiratory clinic, tests are being provided at the MedStat Clinic and at the hospital, she said.
KCH is part of the Lutheran Health Network and owned by Community Health Systems.
“The resources and support they have given our hospital locally have been phenomenal. We are very well prepared from a supply standpoint,” Martin said.
Darren Bickel, president of United Way of Kosciusko County, was at the news conference and applauded the creative ways people are responding to the national health threat.
United Way is one of three non-profits accepting donations that will be funneled to charitable organizations. The others are K21 Health Foundation and the Kosciusko County Community Foundation.
He encouraged people to reach out for help, especially for food, if needed.
“This disaster has pushed people into needing help who never saw themselves needing help,” Bickel said.