By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – While the number of new COVID-19 cases continues to decline locally and nationally, officials are urging caution because the transmission rate in Kosciusko County remains high.
The positivity rate has dropped a little in recent weeks, but is still 10.9% in Kosciusko County, according to information provided by the county health department.
“Right now, our community transmission for the Delta variant is extremely high. It’s a very contagious variant,” said Dr. William Remington, county health officer, during a news conference in Warsaw City Hall.
Remington was joined by Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer in calling for people to continue the layer mitigation approach: Stay home if you are sick, get tested if you have symptoms and continue using a mask in crowded indoor circumstances.
The county continues to see about 28 new cases each day and about 100 people are getting tested each week.
But the county’s vaccination rate of 44% remains low despite an ongoing trickle of new vaccinations each week.
Remington said the county recorded seven new deaths, bringing the total to 146 deaths.
He said he believes the number of deaths will begin to drop off locally by the end of October.
Local health officials first heard about the Delta variant in May or June when county cases were very low, but Remington said he didn’t suspect it would come roaring back.
So what are the chances of another variant rising up again?
“I don’t think there is a new Delta-like variant coming with breadth and depth,” Remington said. “I’ve been watching for that. I’m increasingly hearing voices saying perhaps we’re through the worst of this with this pandemic. Perhaps. But be careful. We just don’t know.”
Eventually, as cases fall and the health care burden lessons, the virus will start to look more like a seasonal influenza and won’t require quarantining people who are not showing symptoms.
Quarantining people who have no symptoms has been tough on families, workplaces and schools, he admitted.
“We’ll be shouting with joy at the health department when that goes away. That’s a bear to communicate. Families don’t like it at all. It takes wager earners out of the workforce. It’s really bad,” he said.
“I don’t like it either, but it’s what we feel we need to do when we need an action step when the enemy is so large and so aggressive,” Remington said.
Remington credits the willingness of elderly people to be vaccinated in helping limit the recent spike in deaths.
About 75% of residents 65 and older in the county are vaccinated.
“At least that age cohort did pretty good in getting vaccines. That’s why we didn’t have another 100 deaths in this county over the summer and early fall,” he said.
Testing hours at the county fairgrounds continue to be available. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; noon to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays; and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.
Vaccinations remain available at the K21 Health Pavilion from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Vaccines are also commonly available through pharmacies and physicians.