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Elkhart Co. Health Officer says community spread of COVID-19 is once again accelerating

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Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait says the county’s COVID-19 situation has gotten significantly worse over the past three weeks.

“Our county positivity rate has dramatically jumped and is about the highest that we have seen since the beginning of the pandemic,” Wait said at the County Board of Health meeting Thursday.

 

Wait said many testing sites in the county are reporting 25 to 30 percent test positivity, and businesses owners she’s spoken with are experiencing high spread among staff.

 

“Most [are] reporting that this is the highest amount of positive cases that they have seen since the pandemic,” she said. “And it seems to be aggressively increasing.”

 

Wait said hospitalizations in the region are also rising, with area hospitals regularly cancelling elective procedures. 

 

“On occasion, they’ll be able to do a couple a day, but most are unable to do any of the inpatient procedures that require a patient to stay overnight,” she said. “So the system is certainly stressed, and it’s concerning that it doesn’t appear that our positivity rate is plateauing at all.”

 

Board member Dr. Ebenezer Kio said the ratio of unvaccinated to vaccinated patients at Goshen Hospital – which is experiencing its own COVID surge – is roughly 9 to 1.

 

“The patients that come in that are very sick and then ask if they can get a vaccine and if it’s too late – that is a very difficult conversation for doctors and nurses to have when they really want to help,” board member Josi DeHaven added. “But at the point of hospitalization, it’s too late for the vaccine.”

 

With only 42 percent of county residents fully vaccinated, Wait said low vaccination rates are to blame for much of the current spread. 

 

But even in nursing homes, where vaccination rates tend to be high, she said cases are once again rising.

 

“We have one facility right now that’s reported to us that, I think, they have 10 or 12 positive cases within their walls,” Wait said. “Some of the facilities have started to open up their COVID units again, which most had stopped doing for some time.”

 

Wait said the health department will continue its push to encourage vaccination and booster shots, as well as indoor masking. 

 

She said the department has also been working with organizations like enFocus to find new ways to communicate public health messages and build a relationship with the general public. 

 

Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.

 

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Gemma DiCarlo comes to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.