By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — Dr. William Remington, health officer for Kosciusko County, reiterated his support for mask mandates in schools and urged local districts to consider the measure.
Warsaw Community Schools returned to a mask mandate a week ago. In doing so, the school has been able to loosen significantly its quarantining policy, thereby keeping more students in class.
He called Gov. Eric Holcomb’s latest executive order involving school policy a “brilliant” option that can be a game-changer for schools.
Remington suggested the change in policy is leading to a decrease in the testing of students.
Bowen Center, which is operating a free testing site at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds, reported a shift in the number of young people seeking tests in the past week. Those lining up for tests now are between the ages of 21-30. In recent weeks, it had been the younger subset.
Remington said he thinks some of that is the result of the Warsaw mask policy, which brings with it less rigorous testing requirements.
“I have to think that that is a palpable end result of that administrative decision. It’s too early to say, to be honest, but maybe,” Remington said.
Remington made the comment during a weekly news conference hosted by the city of Warsaw.
He called WCS’s move “brave” and urged other school districts to follow suit. Wawasee, Whitko and Tippecanoe Valley school districts have embraced a mask-optional policy.
“More schools need to consider that framework,” he said.
While hospitals are still heavily burdened with COVID-19 patients and case counts remain high, officials have seen a very slight “softening” of some numbers that could point to a new light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
Kosciusko County recorded another COVID-related death in the past week, bringing the total to 135 since the pandemic began. The county remains in the orange category (second-most severe), according to the Indiana Department of Health Coronavirus Dashboard.
Remington reported Wednesday that the local positivity rate has dropped from 13.3% to 12.8%.
Statewide, hospitals reported a dip in hospitalizations to below 2,600 people for the first time since June, Remington said.
The leveling off or plateauing of numbers associated with COVID-19 would be a good sign. Remington sounded cautiously optimistic.
He said they’ll have a clearer understanding in a few weeks. “Maybe we are seeing a plateauing,” he said.
But he also added, “We can’t just back off now” with efforts to mitigate the spread.
Remington and Mayor Joe Thallemer both urged people to get vaccinated, saying it remains the best tool to defeat the virus.
With the onset of cooler temperatures, Remington said parents will soon face the challenges of discerning whether their child is sick with the flu or COVID.
Remington’s advice was simple.
“If you’re coughing, feel achy, run-down, don’t go to work. Don’t go to school. Seek a test,” Remington said. “There’s a high likelihood that it could be COVID. Most people will not have horrible experiences, but some will.”