By Leah Sander
WARSAW — COVID-19 cases have increased in the county recently, but the rate of cases is a bit off still.
That was the word from Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. William Remington and Communicable Disease Nurse Teresa Reed on Monday, Oct. 19. The two spoke during the Kosciusko County Board of Health’s meeting at the Kosciusko County Courthouse.
Essentially, the county’s positivity rate is higher than it should be because not all negative tests are being reported.
The two said the problem lies in the expansion of more rapid testing. People are getting their results back faster especially with antigen tests, but officials have not been able to keep up in reporting all tests.
That leads to the county looking like it has a positivity rate that is higher than what it really is because positive tests are being reported but not all the negative ones. If all tests, positive and negative were reported, the positivity rate would be somewhat lower.
The two did say they believed officials weren’t purposely skewing the results, but they just didn’t have enough time to enter all test results. They said with less human activity needed in entering the results, the less error there would be.
They noted that the new testing site which opened last week outside the Bowen Center in Warsaw will have less manual entering of results, so its positivity rate should be more accurate.
The new drive-thru testing service opened last week and will remain open until June of 2021.
Aside from the positivity rate issue, Remington said the county is seeing a wave of cases.
“We, unfortunately, are in our greatest surge of cases yet,” said Remington. As for causes, he said that currently, schools didn’t seem to be the problem or “incubator” for the rising number of cases.
Reed said some of the increase could be attributable to work environments.
“They think that they have allergies … it’s that hard to tell if it’s COVID or allergies, it’s just a challenge and then you find out that it wasn’t just allergies when you start to see sick people pop up around others,” she said.
She said people are also suffering from “pandemic fatigue” and taking more risks than before because they’re tired of the pandemic and its restrictions.
People are also not answering calls from the state health department working on contact tracing, she said. She said part of that may be due to people thinking the calls are a scam.
As for cases in schools, Reed noted since the beginning of the school year, 500 Kosciusko County students have had to quarantine because of potential exposure to the coronavirus. She said 80 students have actually had the virus.
In response to a health board member’s question, Reed said her “guesstimate” was 40% of the students who’ve had to quarantine so far had to because of being exposed to COVID-19 outside school versus 60% potentially being exposed through school.
A board member asked about residents being counted positive several times. Reed said each person would be recorded as positive once per case. She said there’s only been one instance so far of a woman contracting the virus at least twice in the county, but that person had an immunodeficiency. She was listed as having two cases of the virus months apart.
Remington said at this point it appears people may be able to contract the virus twice, but some of that has been some people still having the material of the virus in their nasal passage after they’ve technically recovered from it. He did say he’s against multiple tests being done on a person who has already tested positive.
In other business, the board:
- Approved plans for the health department to develop a public information position. Remington said he’s had the idea in mind since before the pandemic started, but the pandemic reinforced the idea in him. The person filling the role would handle public relations for the department as well as perhaps grant writing for it.
- Decided its 2021 meeting dates will be on the same day of the week and time. The board meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of the month in January, April, July and October.
- Reapproved having dentist Karen Scripture on the board and agreed to look for a replacement for outgoing board member Cindy Kaiser. They hope to find someone involved in education as Kaiser was.
- Heard from health department Deputy Administrator Neil Brown that not as many requests are coming in for the county’s supply of personal protective equipment (PPE). The department has “a small stockpile” and places like nursing homes, dental offices and the like can request some for COVID-19 protection if they choose to. Most of the requests came after the state starting reopening up after being shut down in the spring.