PERU – Miami County Commissioners on Monday declined to take any steps in an effort to stem the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the county.
“I personally do not like the masks,” Commissioner Brenda Weaver said following roughly an hour of public comments that followed a statement by Miami County Health Officer Dr. James Rudolph. She said she favored personal choice rather than getting “law” involved.
“I don’t think we are getting the truth out of the whole virus thing,” Commissioner Fred Musselman said.
Rudolph appeared before the commissioners during their morning meeting and raised his concerns about the county’s situation as the delta variant of the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the state.
Miami County, he said, is in the “upper limits” of the state’s orange category on the Indiana State Department of Health’s county metrics maps. That category marks the second riskiest category for the highest level of community spread.
“Just a few weeks ago, we were blue,” he said, referring to lowest category.
In addition, he said, Dukes Memorial Hospital is feeling pressure and said officials there have told him that the emergency room is seeing 50 percent more patients than they “normally would.”
Schools are seeing rising cases and officials at Maconaquah High School recently sent students home for a week of e-learning.
Rudolph also pointed that two local businesses were recently forced to close temporarily because of cases among staff.
Part of the problem, he pointed out, is that the county lags behind much of the state in terms of its vaccination rate among those eligible to receive a vaccine.
Most recent numbers, he said, showed that only 35 percent of those eligible in the county had received the vaccine.
The county, he said, had recently gone from an average of about two new cases per day to a rate of around 20.
“That’s close to 600 cases of covid per month,” he said.
Taking steps to stem the rising numbers would not only help businesses and keep people from contracting the virus, but also help keep kids in schools with fewer interruptions and unplanned e-learning days, Rudolph argued.
With Gov. Eric Holcomb declining to institute a statewide mask mandate, he said, the decision fell to county commissioners and offered three options. They could institute a countywide mask mandate, he said, or they could “exempt the community at large” and mandate masks within the schools.
“The last is we do nothing and hope for the best,” he said.
His remarks followed public comments from roughly a dozen county residents who spoke against mask mandates, and the vaccines, citing various information gleaned through personal research. Parents also raised concerns about anxiety among school-aged children stemming from mask-wearing and the unplanned but regular interruption of day-to-day routines because of health concerns.
As commissioners declined to take up a vote on any new countywide health guidelines, County Attorney Steve Downs, recommended that commissioners consider coordinating with school superintendents to “come up with a cohesive policy” to help address concerns within the schools.
This article was posted with permission from Hoosier State Press Association.