Elkhart County Health Dept. Encourages Masking As Delta Variant Drives Increase In Cases

Aug 19, 2021

Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

The Elkhart County Health Department is once again urging all residents to wear a mask indoors, regardless of vaccination status, as the delta variant drives a rapid increase in cases in the county.


Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait said Thursday the county’s positivity rate has nearly doubled in the last three weeks, from just over 5 percent to 9.4 percent.


She also said the county’s two hospitals –– Goshen Health and Elkhart General –– have both seen a “dramatic increase” in COVID-19 patients over the last 10 days. The majority of those patients are unvaccinated.


Wait said with staffing at both hospitals down by at least 30 percent, they can’t handle another surge like last winter. 


“I would say both hospitals are at high risk for being overwhelmed,” she said. “It’s not even nurses, it’s support staff along with that –– secretarial positions, housekeeping. If you think of a job position within the hospitals, they have a shortage.”


Wait said health officials are starting to see more COVID-19 cases in children, but neither Elkhart General nor Goshen Health are well equipped to care for moderately to severely ill children. 


“That means that we’re left to two regional hospitals that will be able to care for these individuals,” she said. “But we have to remember that we’ll be sharing those regional hospitals with all of our surrounding counties.”


To slow the spread of the virus, Wait is asking all county residents to wear a mask indoors while transmission remains high. 


She’s also encouraging local school districts to consider stronger masking policies –– currently, masks are optional at most Elkhart County schools. Goshen Community schools recently required masks for visitors and staff at K-6 schools.


Those under age 12 are still not eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, but wait says all other eligible residents should receive a first shot as soon as possible.


Contact Gemma at gdicarlo@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.


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