WARSAW — Kosciusko County has thus far not been affected by the incipient spread of coronavirus as it moves across parts of the globe.
As of Tuesday, March 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 60 cases of COVID-19 from 12 states. Twenty-two of those are travel-related; eleven are believed to be person-to-person spread, and for the remaining 27, the source of exposure is still under investigation, the CDC reported.
Cases have been found in Illinois and Wisconsin, but none in Indiana.
“We have had no cases and no quarantines in the county,” reported Bob Weaver, administrator of the Kosciusko County Health Department.
Weaver and his department continually monitor websites such as that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov, which posts up-to-date maps of reported infections.
Meanwhile, local emergency responders are keeping up with the latest alerts. Ed Rock, director of emergency management in Kosciusko County, sent out an updated advisory from the Indiana Department of Health and CDC earlier this week to emergency responders.
The virus also came up at the Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory meeting Tuesday. Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer, who is part of the territory board, said he’s been in touch with both local hospitals to discuss preparations.
Indiana Homeland Security District 2, which includes Kosciusko County, has resources ready for distribution if needed, Thallemer said.
“It’s important that everyone knows we are looking at this,” Thallemer said. “Locally, we think it’s not going to happen here, but we want to be ready if indeed this pandemic does get into our state and potentially into our community.”
Though everyday life in the county has not changed, Weaver suspects “some of the bigger businesses in the county might be affected. But we haven’t heard anything, especially about people overseas who couldn’t get back here.”
The components of Weaver’s advice are down to earth and commonly known. “Just take every precaution you would normally take when you don’t want to get the flu,” he said.
“We’ve had the flu with us for a long, long time and we learned as kids what the precautions are. Most importantly, keep your hands clean. Hand sanitizers are effective. If you remember that, you will be a whole lot better off.”
Weaver corrected one common misconception. “The CDC does not recommend that well people wear masks. There is a terrible shortage of masks around the country and only the sick should be wearing them.”
He advised the public to “stay calm” but to immediately notify a doctor “if you experience any shortness of breath or chest discomfort. That is kind of the hallmark of the coronavirus and the one way it differs from the common flu. The coronavirus quickly goes into the lungs and brings about pneumonia-like symptoms.”
Weaver’s department has compiled a two-page handout summarizing findings from the World Health Organization and CDC.
The handout, current as of March 1, states, “About 80% of people infected with coronavirus will have mild illness. If you have mild illness you will likely be convalescing at home.”
The handout continues, “CDC always recommends everyday preventive actions to help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including:
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, sneezing or going to the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.
• If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.”
Several area businesses have taken notice of the global concern, even though no cases of infection have been reported in Indiana.
“Maple Leaf Farms is closely monitoring news of the coronavirus, and our executive team is meeting to discuss continuity related to the spread,” said Janelle Deatsman, communications manager for the Leesburg-based corporation. “Our business has not had any staff member traveling in China since the quarantines have been in place. Our company has implemented business travel restrictions, and all international travel must be approved by an executive.”
“Maple Leaf Farms does not market food products that originate from China, so our sales here in the United States have not been disrupted.”
Polywood has not sounded any alarms but has taken precautions within its sprawling complex in Syracuse.
The company forges plastic lumber out of recycled material, using an average of 400,000 used milk jugs a day.
“Ninety-nine percent of our materials are sourced domestically,” said Ryan Zimmerman, Polywood’s director of human resources.
“We get no material from China, so at this point, it hasn’t impacted our supply chain at all. As for travel, we know where our employees are every day. We have no regular travel to Asia, but we do travel to both coasts here. We monitor the CDC website every day to see where all the cases and hot spots are.
“Locally here we promote better hygiene because it is the flu season. We put out additional hand sanitizing stations for our 500 employees and put up posters with a list of precautions.”
Beth Morgan is the administrative assistant for Syracuse-based Leading Edge Fabrication, which manufactures high-end countertops for the residential, commercial, RV and boating industries.
She has fielded calls from the company’s clients about potential delays or stoppages in shipping out products. “We have been fortunate,” she said. “Some companies are dealing with overseas suppliers, but all of our suppliers are in the United States, so we have not been affected.”
For more information, call the county health department at (574) 267-4444 or visit www.cdc.gov or www.in.gov/isdh/28470.htm.
Dan Spalding contributed to this report.