By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — Several of Kosciusko County’s department heads attended Thursday evening’s county council meeting and provided updates on how their duties have been affected by COVID-19, as well as what new methods have been implemented to keep employees and citizens safe.
County offices will reopen to the public beginning Monday, May 18.
Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes said the Jail Chemical Addiction Program (JCAP) will start back up again on July 6. Separate JCAP programs were running simultaneously for both men and women until the pandemic.
“We were so excited because we had started a men’s and women’s program together,” said Dukes. “We were two weeks into this. There was a lot of confusion and frustration. They didn’t understand. They weren’t able to see what we were seeing on the news. It’s been tough.”
Currently, the Kosciusko County Jail has 226 inmates, with eight inmates waiting to go serve prison time at the Indiana Department of Correction. Seventy-eight of the inmates are Level 6 felony offenders.
Dukes also mentioned that the jail’s kitchen is struggling to get certain types of food, particularly meats and side dishes.
“We’re very lucky to have three women on staff that are very experienced in the cooking field that get creative and before you know it, you have a main or side dish,” said Dukes.
A sheriff’s employee who tested positive for COVID-19 will also be returning to work on Monday after having two negative test results for the virus in a row. The employee was off work and quarantined for 14 days.
“You’ve done very well in the jail to keep the inmates healthy,” said Council Member Sue Ann Mitchell. “Thank you.”
Kosciusko County Health Department Administrator Bob Weaver also provided council members with an update on COVID-19 cases in Kosciusko County, as well as what personal protective equipment (PPE) the department has in stock.
Weaver said that when tests first became available to them toward the end of March, 25 people tested positive for the virus. All of those individuals were under a doctor’s care but were quarantined at home. Eight people who had the virus were hospitalized.
“Two or three of those were subsequently transferred to Fort Wayne hospitals,” said Weaver. “All eight of those cases recovered.”
In total, the health department has 55 positive cases of COVID-19.
Weaver also said that the department’s stock of PPE has been “pretty good.” The health department has been distributing PPE shipments to seven nursing homes in the county for seven weeks in a row.
“I got a very large supply (of PPE) yesterday,” said Weaver.
County Clerk Ann Torpy gave an update on primary election preparations, as well as how many absentee ballots have been sent out. Torpy said she’s used $3,300 of her $5,000 postage budget just to mail out absentee ballots to citizens.
“Each year, we’ve decreased the budget (for postage) because we’ve not had that many mail-out ballots,” said Torpy. “As of today, we have mailed out 2,065 ballots. This time in 2016, it was 306. And in 2018, it was 161.”
For the primary election, polling locations have been reduced from 69 places to 24.