By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – While Kosciusko County Community Fair officials were applauded Wednesday for cancelling the fair over concerns with the pandemic, the same folks are cautiously supporting local Fourth of July fireworks plans.
County Health Officer Dr. William Remington and Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer both expressed support for the fair board’s decision on Monday to cancel the fair, which had been set for mid-July.
But they – along with Winona Lake Town Manager Craig Allebach – support plans for large scale fireworks displays set for July 4 in Winona Lake and see a difference in comparing the fair and fireworks.
Remington said the circumstances expected for people who go to the park to watch fireworks “sounds better” than what would be seen in a crowded midway.
At the same time. he admits enforcing social distancing for that type of event “will be tricky.”
“I’m not opposed to Fourth of July celebration with some precautions and I would suggest if you are someone with an underlying medical condition or if you are elderly, I would strongly suggest you think carefully about attending,” Remington said.
He made the comments during the weekly news conference at Warsaw City Hall about the COVID19 outbreak.
Thallemer said it’s a tough decision for everyone.
“It really comes back to people practicing a lot of this social distancing, masks and hand washing – things we’ve talked about since Day One – and apply that with what they are going to do,” Thallemer said.
The town will have signs encouraging social distancing for the fireworks, Allebach said.
He also said beaches are more of a concern because of social distancing.
“When you put an influx of people on a 90-degree day there isn’t enough beach for everybody,” he said.
Fireworks will start at about 10 p.m. and a patriotic concert near The Village is set for 8 p.m.
The decision to move ahead with fireworks in both Winona Lake and Syracuse comes at a time when the county is seeing what Remington described as “a significant surge.”
He didn’t provide numbers but said many of the new cases have resulted in mild symptoms and only a few have been more serious. According to a chart provided by the county, there have been 79 new cases reported in the past seven days.
The number of those requiring hospitalization – a handful in recent days, he said – is similar to what the county saw during its original surge.
Indoor congregating of large groups, he said, is “fodder” for spreading the virus.
Much of the recent spike in cases has been identified as coming from mobile home parks.
The city and county recently worked with firefighters and others to provide information to all mobile home parks in the county and used federal money to begin offering free testing at three MedStat sites in the county for county residents.
Remington didn’t have statistics about the number of tests provided since the testing sites opened, but said the effort has been “very helpful.”
“It’s been one of the best interventions I’ve seen,” Remington said. “I know our testing has gone significantly up with a fair amount of positives in the last few days within that demographic base so I think we’re getting testing to where we want to get it.”
Thallemer said firefighters plan to distribute upward of 300 masks this week to the mobile home parks. The masks will be in plastic bags and dropped off at park offices.
The updates also come ahead of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to move into stage 4 of the reopening of Indiana on Friday – two days earlier than originally planned.
Stage four includes the opening of beaches, parks and taverns which will be asked to limit capacity to 50 percent.
The final phase – Stage 5 – is set for July 4 and will permit large gatherings and major sporting events.