By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Despite a significant uptick in local COVID-19 cases, Kosciusko County’s Health Officer, Dr. William Remington, on Wednesday expressed optimism and insights on what he sees as an improving situation.
While the number of deaths has remained at one for several weeks in Kosciusko County, the number of positive cases is now 51, up from 39 just five days ago.
But much of that has to do with increased testing.
Remington said the cumulative amount of testing has doubled in the last two weeks.
“The overall sense is that most of these are relatively minor cases,” Remington said, adding that some are are the result of companies mandating tests or the practice of contact tracing.
Remington made his remarks at a weekly news conference held at Warsaw City Hall. Also participating were Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer and Alan Tio, CEO of Kosciusko County Economic Development Corporation.
Remington said the cumulative percent of positive tests, as of Monday, was 4.5 percent, compared to 5.5 percent a month ago.
In the past two weeks, there were 17 new positive cases out of 470 tests, which resulted in a 3.6 percent rate, he said.
“Yes, our case count is going up, but I don’t sense we have a disaster at the door,” he said.
“Look beyond the growing case numbers for our county … It doesn’t do the topic justice,” Remington said.
He agreed that a quick look at the rise in cases can be a bit frightening.
“The overall feel is, it’s better. We’ve avoided, thus far in this county, a disaster. and we’re thankful for that,” he said.
Remington said the state will be sending contract workers next week to focus on contact tracing, the practice of testing those who have been in contact with people who have tested positive. The strategy is employed as quickly as possible in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
He said he was uncertain how many contracted workers would be sent to Kosciusko County and noted that county health department employees involved in such efforts have been working harder in the past week as the cases have risen.
In comparing the emergence of COVID-19 to a baseball game, Remington said the county appears to be in the seventh or eighth inning, but wondered aloud if it might go longer. Instead of extra-innings, he mentioned the possibility of extra games in his analogy.
“I think this is blowing apart the traditional nine-inning game,” he said. “I hope this is not a huge series of impressive games.”
Tio, who oversees KEDCo, provided an update on local efforts to provide grant money to businesses hurt by the pandemic.
He said four applications were set to be approved Wednesday and 20 to 30 more are in the works.
The emergency program money can be used for job retention and business recovery.
Up to $10,000 in interest-free loans are available for each entity, he said.
Warsaw City Council pitched in $100,000 for the relief program to be used for Warsaw companies and KEDCO received $425,000 from the state. Kosciusko County Council is expected to consider providing some level of support in the near future.
In another matter, Thallemer urged people to continue using masks at retail operations and when gathering in public.
While one big box store is requiring customers to wear masks when visiting, Thallemer said he wishes more stores would do the same.
Restaurants began opening up Monday for sit-down dining and the state is urging all restaurant workers to use masks.
InkFreeNews has received sporadic complaints that not all restaurant workers are wearing masks, but officials said they are not hearing those complaints.
Thallemer said he senses there are more people that want to go into a business and see others wearing masks than not.
While officials have no interest in cracking down on those not using masks, Thallemer said he’s “somewhat disappointed” in the lack of cooperation from some.
Cloth masks are still available at times at the Center Street fire station. Those wanting masks are encouraged to check the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Facebook page to see if they’re immediately available.
Thallamer applauded those making masks, including groups led by Ann Sweet, The Liberty Sewing Circle, North Central Indiana American Sewing Guild and others.
The entire 55-minute news conference is archived on the city’s website.