Those were some of the words St. Joseph Co. Health Officer, Dr. Mark Fox, used to describe his reaction to the latest COVID-19 stats the county is facing.
He says 10% of all COVID-19 cases in the county occurred in just the last week. He says it has been 34 weeks of collecting pandemic data and during that time, 10% of all cases occurred in the last week. He says there are more than 2,000 active cases in the county at this point. 121 people are in area hospitals which is the highest those numbers have been according to Fox. He says there are not plans at this time to try and set up a field hospital, but he says some area hospitals are limiting visitation, cutting back on routine shceduled procedures and in some cases having to transfer patients to hospitals outside the area. Some hospitals are also doubling up rooms - putting two patients in what would typically be a private room.
October was the deadliest month from the coronavirus by far in the county. 73 people died from the virus in St. Joseph County last month. Fox says that is three times as many deaths as compared with any other month in the pandemic. In fact, a third of all pandemic deaths in the county occurred in October. And 70% of those deaths were among residents of long-term care facilities.
One glimmer of good news that Fox shared is that it appears the virus is coming under better control now at long-term care facilities. However, there are "clusters" of the disease at five facilities currently.
The highest proportion of cases now is among school age kids he says. But Fox says he doesn't think spread is happening at schools. He believes kids are "importing" the virus into the school and are actually being infected in social settings.
He says the amount of COVID-19 in the community is higher now than at any other point we have seen.
South Bend Mayor James Mueller said, "We are entering into a place that we have worked so hard all year to prevent. The danger is real. The threat is real." Mueller said that if you attend a 10-person gathering, there is a 30% chance at least one of those 10 people is infected.
Officials expressed concern about the upcoming home football game this weekend between Clemson and Notre Dame. Fox says he isn't concerned about what happens in the stadium, but he is concerned about people gathering in restaurants, bars, private homes and at off-campus tailgates. He says those types of gatherings carry the greatest risk for the community.
Officials also expressed concerns about the upcoming holiday season.
As for Election Night earlier this week, Fox was asked about examples of parties that were held where elected officials did not wear masks or socially distance. Fox reacted by saying, "It's discouraging and disheartening." He described it as blatantly ignoring guidance from the governor and the public health order in effect in St. Joseph County. Fox said with the election behind us, he hopes that county leaders will agree to a measure that would allow fines for violations of pandemic-related health orders.