By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – Kosciusko County’s health department plans to visit businesses that are possibly not adhering to state guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
Health Officer Dr. William Remington said Wednesday, Nov. 25, the department has set aside some people who will be visiting businesses in what is being viewed as an educational effort.
The visits will be based on complaints, but will also be random, Remington said during a news briefing held at Warsaw City Hall.
That announcement comes at the same time hospitals in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties are struggling with demand and have begun diverting some potential patients elsewhere.
Remington predicted the county will shift to category red within the next two weeks and warned that large group events could face new restrictions.
Kosciusko County remains in the orange category, which permits gatherings of up to 50 people, but requires permission from the health department for larger events.
Gatherings in red counties are limited to 25 without approval from the health department.
For a recap of the current state restrictions, click here.
Social distancing and the use of masks are the main issues when they visit businesses.
“The health department is poised to offer a little stronger arm on the enforcement side,” Remington said.
Representatives of the department would seek to go through expectations for the business and food establishments, he said.
“We want to work with you. Please work with us should one of our staff from the health department enter your food establishment or business,” Remington said.
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer acknowledged plans by the health department and said he hopes verbal warning would suffice.
“I appreciate what the health department is doing. They’re put in a very difficult position,” Thallemer said.
Remington offered his thoughts on holiday gatherings and even Black Friday in light of the pandemic that has worsened nationally and locally in recent weeks.
While Remington said his own family curtailed Thanksgiving day plans, he believes each family needs to decide for themselves. At the same time, he urged people to use caution and consider how big of a group it will be and how long the event will last.
All the basic safeguards – the use of masks, social distancing, hand washing, avoiding crowds and staying home when ill – was echoed again Wednesday.
“All those things are strongly needed by all of us to try to slow the spread and decrease the demand and fallout at our health care institutions and perhaps save some lives,” Remington said.
He also suggested avoiding large shopping crowds the day after Thanksgiving.
He said he thinks the local death rate is going to rise sharply in the next few weeks.
“Not to frighten people … but please, really respect this pandemic. It’s really showing its teeth at this point.”
While Remington has been a strong supporter of expanded testing, his outlook on who should be seeking tests came with a caveat as demand for testing grows.
“If you are just curious and want to see what your test is, please don’t get in line in cars. If you are symptomatic, certainly seek a test, if you consider yourself a close contact, get a test,” he said.