By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — Kosciusko County’s Health officer echoed state officials on Wednesday, saying the pandemic, driven by the Delta variant, is going to worsen.
Dr. William Remington said he anticipates more deaths in the coming weeks as the number of cases continues to rise locally.
The meeting was called just days after Indiana’s State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box described the current circumstances in Indiana as “the darkest time in the pandemic.”
“They were very clear, the worst is yet to come,” Remington said Wednesday
Remington was speaking at a news conference Wednesday morning, Sept. 1, with representatives of the city of Warsaw and Bowen Center, which is operating a large-scale testing operation that has expanded hours twice in two weeks and will do so again soon to meet the demand.
The news conference is the first since late May when local officials were offering regularly scheduled updates.
The newest surge is fueled by the Delta variant, which is viewed by many as more aggressive and appears to be attacking younger people. About 98 percent of the current cases are identified as the Delta variant.
As a result, more people are seeking tests.
The testing clinic at Kosciusko County Fairgrounds operated by Bowen Center is adding staff and will expand hours for a third time soon.
In recent weeks, the clinic was seeing about 10 people a day. On Monday, about 160 people received tests, according to CEO Kurt Carlson.
On Wednesday morning, the clinic opened with more than 40 cars lined up and waiting for assistance.
Bowen Center has been providing tests for 11 months.
“It’s a privilege to serve the community, and it’s disheartening to see this again,” Carlson said.
The county’s current positivity rate was reported at 7.8%, which is the biggest spike since January. In May, as officials saw the pandemic improve, the reported positivity rate was around 3.4%.
Hospitals across the region have seen an increase in hospitalizations, but Remington said he’s not sure if local hospitals are diverting other patients as a result.
Officials were asked if they are looking at any kind of mask mandate.
Thallemer said they’re watching related statistics and could “look at some type of restrictions” in the future.
Remington said “intra-family spread” continues to be a substantial source of community transmission.
Remington said the recent approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine by the U.S Food and Drug Administration provides a boost of confidence and called on more people who qualify to be immunized. “Despite some disappointments, it’s still your best deal,” Remington said. “Get a shot, please.”
Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said vaccines remain the strongest interventional method available to stop the spread and urged people to be vaccinated.
County Commissioner Cary Groninger also attended the meeting. He said the county continues to do what it can to support the health department and Bowen Center. “We want to make sure testing is available and vaccinations are available for those who want them,” he said.
Officials were asked if a lack of appetite for new restrictions of any kind is making it more difficult with this current surge.
Remington responded by saying that in the past week, he had seen a middle-aged woman who was ill and the mother of a teen who was ill, and both adamantly believed it could not be COVID despite the test results.
“It’s just not in their calculous anymore … there is a substantial cohort of the population – they’re just not going there anymore,” he said.
Most alarming to him is that these folks continue to go about life despite the test results.
“That spooks me a bit and I think we’re going to feel that in our schools,” Remington said. “I think that’s going to be a substantial issue in the next month.”
Current testing hours at the fairgrounds are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Tuesday 2 to 6 p.m.; and the second Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Officials noted that there has been an increase in the number of people seeking vaccines. A clinic held at Our Lady of Guadelupe Church in Warsaw, which was supported by various agencies, delivered about 130 vaccines on Aug. 28.
Thallemer said the city and Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory continue to offer to facilitate mobile vaccination clinics for companies and groups seeking one.
The percent of eligible people in Kosciusko County who have been fully vaccinated is around 41%.
The national average is about 52%.