By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Six months into a worldwide pandemic, local health officials are still trying to ward off propaganda that attempts to minimize COVID-19.
In a meeting that included some positive news about schools in Kosciusko County, Health Officer Dr. William Remington spent significant time tamping down another brushfire of dissent.
The latest is a “fact sheet” circulating around Chapman Lake that casts doubt on the seriousness of the virus by alleging that very few people have actually died as a result of COVID-19.
Remington, whose even-keeled manner has been on display numerous times this year when asked about naysayers, didn’t hold back on his thoughts about the fact sheet.
“Throw away those things in your mailbox,” Remington said. “Put them in a bonfire as a community and burn them. It’s nonsense.”
The unsigned flyer points out that more than 90 percent of the deaths attributed to COVID also had underlying health issues. It also went on to suggest a “communist” plot involving microchipping people through a vaccine.
Remington – and the national health community – readily argue that those other health problems are made worse by COVID.
“But it’s the COVID that stirs the pot, just like influenza stirs the pot every winter,” he said during the news briefing at Warsaw City Hall.
“These pathogens are inherently involved in the demise of the individual,” he said.
Remington concedes there is fatigue and wariness about continuing to take precautions with social distancing and masks. And he knows there is a hardship associated with being isolated or quarantined.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said anxiety over the pandemic has been a big part “of what’s made this thing so difficult to navigate.”
He said he understands people may question aspects of the government’s response to the pandemic but said they are relying on science, epidemiology and public health as they address issues.
The many unknowns associated with a new type of virus has made it challenging, he said.
“To me, it’s a matter of trying to work through this in the most public health-conscious way of navigating it so we don’t have to go back to some of these concerns a few months ago,” he said.
Remington said he believes some people minimize the virus because they don’t see the horrific nature of it playing out in intensive care units.
Unlike the pandemic 100 years ago where dead bodies were collected with horse-drawn carts, many remain shielded from the current health care crisis.
If people saw what’s happening in some intensive care units, they would likely reassess their outlook, he said.
In related matters, the county health department released new figures on the number of cases being reported in school districts in the county.
According to information made public Wednesday, there have bee 31 positive COVID tests involving people ages 5-18, college students and adults employed with public schools in the county.
Almost half of the cases have involved students ages 14-18, the county said.
A total of 225 people have been quarantined by the health department due to the 31 cases.
City officials also provided insights into a new testing program the city is participating in with the Indiana Finance Authority to test wastewater for signs of COVID.
The city is one of the numerous cities in Indiana that agreed to provide samples.
Samples are being taken from five lift stations and the treatment plant. The city will continue taking samples for nine weeks.
The program is being advocated by the Centers for Disease Control and could potentially help give health officials an early indication.
The CDC refers to the testing as the National Wastewater Surveillance System, Remington said.
Remington compared the testing to using a “canary in a coal mine” that could provide information that health officials would not pick up on otherwise.
He described the testing as a “very interesting tool” that would be used for an array of ways.
“There will be a learning curve for all of us to figure out what to do with this data,” Remington said.