Gemma DiCarlo

Reporter

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. 

Gemma is originally from Harrisburg, Oregon, and is looking forward to covering all things Michiana. 

Screenshot captured via YouTube

Elkhart County Commissioner Suzie Weirick hosted a “Candid COVID Conversation” with local leaders on Wednesday to illustrate the situation inside area hospitals.

Jennifer Swain, an ICU nurse at Elkhart General, said the number of nurses in the ICU is double what it was at this time last year – and it’s still not enough. She had six patients die on her last shift alone.

“I can handle the stress of sick patients, but it’s not having what you need," Swain said. "So like, when you need that next ventilator and it’s not there and you say, ‘Sorry, I don’t know what to do.’”

Photo provided courtesy of Goshen Health

Speaking at the state COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday, Sarah Paturalski, Vice President of Nursing and Clinical Services at Beacon Health System, said that Beacon is 10 ICU beds over capacity, meaning staff has had to ration healthcare.

“People who need a screening colonoscopy or an outpatient elective procedure, we’re not able to do that right now," Paturalski said. "We need to deploy that staff to help us with the high-acuity cases we have on the inpatient side of the hospital.”

(Justin Hicks/IPB News)

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, Michigan began a three-week “pause” on several fronts in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the state. 

Under the new restrictions from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, indoor dining facilities, movie theaters and ice skating rinks are all closed. Those are just a few of the new restrictions.

Photo provided courtesy of Goshen Health

As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to rise, many area hospitals have had to delay or cancel elective procedures, which could have a negative long-term impact on community health.

Goshen Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Nafziger said the term “elective” is misleading. Anything from cancer screenings to cardiac surgeries can fall into that category.

“When people say elective, what they’re really saying is urgent and important procedures,” he said. "So it's kind of unfortunate that that's the language that people have been using."

WVPE News

Just over a week after Election Day, St. Joseph County’s offices are seeing a small spike in COVID-19 cases among some employees.

County Health Officer Bob Einterz couldn’t say how many employees were infected or affected by the virus. But in a workplace as large as the County-City Building, he said there’s bound to be some cases. 

“It’s inevitable that employers of this size will be seeing cases of COVID," Einterz said. "With the surge happening within our county, it’s simply inevitable.”

Elkhart Community Schools

Elkhart Community Schools will keep its hybrid in-person and online learning model through the Spring 2021 semester. 

In a video message to parents, Superintendent Steve Thalheimer said the decision was based on uncertainty about flu season and the county’s surge in COVID-19 cases, as well as staffing shortages caused by employees needing to quarantine due to the virus.

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

Over the last month, the 7-day average of COVID-19 cases in Berrien County has jumped nearly fivefold, from about 16 per week to almost 77. That increase has led the health department to ask certain groups to conduct their own contact tracing. 

 

Emma Atkinson/WTIU

After months of back and forth, the St. Joseph County Council finally passed an ordinance Tuesday night that will allow the county health department to enforce its face mask order.

Under the ordinance, businesses – not individuals – can be fined up to $250 for failing to require face masks when six feet of physical distance can’t be maintained. 

County Health Officer Bob Einterz has been trying to pass this measure since July. Though it’s been a long road, he said he’s glad to see elected officials reach a compromise. 

UPDATE: Notre Dame Mandates Virus Testing After Football Celebration

Nov 9, 2020
(Matt Cashore/Pool Photo via AP)

UPDATE (Nov. 9): 

The University of Notre Dame began COVID-19 exit testing for its students Monday ahead of the holiday break. After this weekend’s football game -- where students gathered for pre-game parties and rushed the field in violation of social distancing -- penalties have increased for students who don’t get tested.

In an email to students, University President Fr. John Jenkins called the conduct “disappointing” and laid out the new guidelines: if students don’t report for COVID-19 testing, they won’t be able to register for spring classes. They’re also not allowed to leave South Bend until they receive their results and know they're virus-free. 

The University of Notre Dame
Jennifer Weingart

The University of Notre Dame is reporting a record 220 active COVID-19 cases on its Dashboard. Its seven-day moving average, at 26, is also the highest it’s been since the campus was locked down in August.

With the university’s football game against Clemson on Saturday, St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox expressed concern about off-campus gatherings.

Gemma DiCarlo/WVPE

Over 116,000 ballots were cast in St. Joe County, surpassing the 113,000 cast in 2016. 

Democrat Donald Westerhausen lost his second bid against Republican incumbent Dale Devon for the District 5 State House seat by less than 1.5 percentage points. 

Republican Jake Teshka flipped the District 7 state house seat, which has long been held by Democrats. He defeated incumbent Ross Deal by 8 percentage points. 

Justin Hicks / IPBS

Several groups gathered for a post-election demonstration in South Bend Wednesday night. Local chapters of the Sunrise Movement, the American Indian Movement and the Northern Indiana Democratic Socialists of America demonstrated for what they called “the people’s agenda.”

Screenshot captured via YouTube

NEW:

As of Monday afternoon, a winner has been declared in the previously tied race for Berrien County’s fifth district commission seat. In a tiebreaker broadcast via YouTube, Republican Bruce Gorenflo won the election by choosing the right slip of paper.

 

The Berrien County Board of Canvassers confirmed this weekend that both Gorenflo and his Democratic opponent, Rayonte Bell, each received 3,934 votes. 

So, it came down to an old-fashioned tiebreaker: Bell and Gorenflo drew slips of paper from a covered box, and Gorenflo chose the one that said “Elected.”

“Well, it’s just kind of surreal," Gorenflo said. "I think my opponent said the same thing afterwards, he says ‘It feels like a dream.’ It’s kind of strange, but that’s how this year is. Who could have predicted any of this?”

Bell said while it’s disappointing for the election to come down to drawing slips of paper, he’s been grateful for the experience. 

“You know, we campaign and we do the work, so it’s a little disappointing," he said. "But hopefully in the future, people realize that your vote counts. Every single vote counts.”

Bell said he will request a recount after the County Board of Canvassers certifies the election this week. The recount can begin after the State Board of Canvassers meets to canvass the election on Nov. 23.

JUSTIN HICKS/WVPE

Unofficial election results have been posted by Elkhart County.

Elkhart Co. Health Dept.

Elkhart County's Health Officer is issuing new warnings about the transmission of COVID-19 in the county. In data released yesterday by the Indiana State Dept. of Health, the county reported a new all time high in cases for Mon., Nov. 2nd. Also on Monday, Elkhart's Mayor Rod Roberson tested positive for the virus.   

Gemma DiCarlo/WVPE

Rep. Jackie Walorski spoke briefly to her supporters Tuesday night saying that she realizes votes are still being counted. But she says her ampaign feels comfortable in the margins to declare victory and say that she has retained her seat representing Indiana's 2nd District in Congress. At the time she spoke, less than 50% of the votes had been counted. By 11:20pm the Associated Press called the race in Walorski's favor. Hackett spoke to her supporters after Walorski spoke. She stopped short of conceding and struck a calm but defiant tone in her remarks.

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

Polls opened in Indiana at 6 a.m. this morning, with long lines forming throughout the morning at some vote centers in St. Joseph County. 

Emily Collins was in line to vote at McKinley Elementary School in South Bend. She said she didn’t think she had ever seen it as busy as it was this morning. 

“I’m excited to see this many people out," Collins said. "And I don’t know if this is because people can vote anywhere, so there’s more people from other precincts coming, or if it’s because of this election.”

 

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

As election season comes to a head, South Bend Mayor James Mueller and St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners President Andy Kostielney are asking voters to respect the electoral process as winners are announced throughout the week.

Mueller asked voters to remember their sense of community, even though tensions are running high. 

“There’s a reason why there’s historic turnout this year, because people feel a lot is at stake," he said. "But we’ve got to remember that no matter who wins, we’ve got to come together.”

The St. Joseph County Election Board is warning voters not to expect full voting results on Election Night. That’s due to the historic amount of early voting and mail-in absentee votes that have been cast. But even in a normal election year, it’s uncommon to have certified results on Election Night.

 

(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

Back in September, the Citywide Classroom partnership between the City of South Bend, enFocus, and the South Bend Community School Corporation received 1.8 million dollars of state funding to expand student internet access during the pandemic. 

Next week, the partnership will begin distributing over 2,000 at-home internet packages and about 2,000 WiFi hotspots to students with limited broadband access, which City of South Bend spokesperson Caleb Bauer said is about 15-30 percent of students in the district. 

MACOG

The Ward Bakery Building in South Bend’s Near Northwest Neighborhood has been vacant for over a decade, but the building could see new development in the coming year. 

The Near Northwest Neighborhood has tried six times to turn the building into low-income housing, but was never able to secure the tax credit funding to do it. 

Instead of housing, the current plan being considered would turn the building into a neighborhood hub for business, arts and retail.  

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

South Bend community leaders are asking churches to encourage their congregants to get out and vote early on Sunday, Nov. 1, just two days before Election Day.

South Bend Common Council President Karen White said "Super Sunday" started about three years ago, when she began researching how churches served as a force for change in communities of color during the Civil Rights Movement.

WFIU/WTIU

Elkhart County Clerk Christopher Anderson said that, like so many things in the year 2020, the county’s early voter turnout has been unprecedented.

“Two thousand twenty is a complete and utter anomaly when it comes to making any type of comparisons,” he said. 

As of 10:20 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28, over 23,500 people had voted early in-person in Elkhart County. Anderson said that represents almost 19 percent of the county’s registered voters. 

In a message to staff on Wednesday, Oct. 28, Penn-Harris-Madison School Superintendent Jerry Thacker announced that he was tested for COVID-19 on Thursday, Oct. 22 and received his positive result this past Monday.

Thacker said in the email that so far, he’s only experiencing mild symptoms and fatigue. He will isolate for 10 days, and as long as his symptoms improve, will return to work on Monday, Nov. 2. 

Justin Hicks/WVPE

It’s been three weeks since the start of early voting, which for St. Joseph County Clerk Rita Glenn and her employees has meant 12+ hour days.

 

“It’s been challenging, and in the same respect, it’s been rewarding to see our numbers up,” Glenn said.

 

As of Monday night, based on figures provided by Glenn’s office, the county has seen approximately just under a 70% increase in early voting overall as compared to 2016 — and there’s still another week of early voting before Election Day.

Image provided by SBPD

On Monday, Oct. 26, the South Bend Common Council voted to raise police salaries by about 9 percent over the next two years. However, some community members would rather see that money go elsewhere.

The Personnel and Finance Committee met Monday afternoon to discuss the wage ordinance and hear public comment.

At that meeting, Black Lives Matter - South Bend member Emmanuel Cannady said that instead of raising police salaries, the city should invest in proactive measures, like de-escalation and intervention training.

Screenshot captured via Facebook

Last week, the South Bend Neighborhood Resources Connection held its second annual Neighborhoods United Summit.

 

This year’s summit lasted a full week, rather than one day. Community members and local leaders met for a series of virtual panels from Monday to Thursday.

 

There were conversations about crime, COVID-19 and housing, but Neighborhood Resources Connection Executive Director Grant Carlile says all conversations turned to one topic: trust.

Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

The City of South Bend and the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #36 announced a tentative wage agreement for 2021 and 2022 on Thursday, the chief goals of which are officer recruitment and retainment. 

Mayor James Mueller said that when he took office earlier this year, the South Bend Police Department ranked 43 in the state for its pension base, and was falling behind both regionally and statewide in terms of officer compensation.

Screenshot captured via Facebook

Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson held a town hall meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21, to review the county’s COVID-19 status with the County Health Officer and the Vice President of Medical Affairs at Elkhart General Hospital.

Jennifer Weingart / WVPE Public Radio

At the St. Joseph County Board of Health meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 21, County Health Officer Bob Einterz gave a COVID-19 status update. 

He said the current level of community spread in the county makes it extremely difficult to pinpoint outbreaks; however, there are a few places community members should know to avoid.

“The places that we all know where people congregate in close groups in indoors: schools, churches, homes, at parties, bars, et cetera,” Einterz said.

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