Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait said Friday she expects the county’s rise in COVID-19 cases to continue for at least the next three weeks.
According to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, Elkhart County has a 7-day positivity rate of 8.6 percent, and recorded 236 cases per 100,000 residents over the last week. The county recently moved to the state’s “orange” category, which indicates high spread of the virus.
At a press conference Friday morning, Wait said the rise will cause COVID patients to take up valuable space in the county’s already understaffed hospitals.
“Our county hospitals are full,” Wait said. “The more hospital beds that are taken up by COVID patients means the less for everybody else, whether it’s your elective procedure, whether it’s influenza, RSV.”
A growing number of those patients are children. Wait said RSV –– a cold-like virus that typically appears in children under age 1 –– is currently the county’s main concern.
Wait said hospitals are also starting to see an uptick in pediatric COVID-19 patients, raising concerns about a possible bed shortage. She said the county doesn’t have the capacity to handle a “huge surge of sick children.”
“Our county doesn’t even have a children’s hospital,” Wait said. “You have to leave our county to even get that higher-level care for your children, and those hospitals just don’t have the capacity to have large COVID surges.”
With hospital staff stretched thin, Wait asked county residents to have patience with healthcare workers. She said medical staff have received death threats and had to manage “aggressive and violent” patient behavior in the ER.
“Please understand that this is a hard time for everybody,” Wait said. “It’s going to take time if you have to go to the emergency room, but please be patient. We’re losing healthcare providers from COVID as well.”
Wait urged citizens to practice as many mitigation strategies as possible, especially if you plan to travel over Labor Day weekend. That means masking, vaccination, hand hygiene and social distancing.
“We already know we’re going to increase,” Wait said. “I’d just much rather that increase be steady and slow over aggressive and peak rapidly –– that’s what’s going to overwhelm our system.”
In response to the county’s rising case count, the Indiana Department of Health will be offering COVID-19 tests and vaccines in Goshen this weekend.
A drive-through clinic will be open from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 4 in the Life Center Church parking lot at 1212 W. Plymouth Ave. Rapid and PCR tests will be available, as well as the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Contact Gemma at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @gemma_dicarlo.
If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here.