St. Joseph County, Indiana, Has 1st COVID-19 Case

Mar 11, 2020

St. Joseph Co. Health officials in Indiana announce the first COVID-19 case in the county at a news conference on March 11, 2020, in South Bend.
Credit Annacaroline Caruso/WVPE

The St. Joseph County Health Department confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the county this afternoon. Health officials say they are expecting more cases in the next few days.

The confirmed case is a man in his 50's and local health officials say he’s in self quarantine at home. They are still in the process of tracing where he got the virus but say he was in close contact with someone else in Indiana who was confirmed earlier this week with COVID-19.

Health officials will not say if the individual who tested positive is connected to Stanley Clark School in South Bend where class has been cancelled as school officials await the results of a test on a teacher who was concerned about exposure to the coronavirus. 

Officials estimate they’ve tested between 50 and 60 people in the county for COVID-19 so far. They expect more positive cases in the coming days.

Dr. Robert Einterz is the County Health Officer. He said it’s not a surprise the virus has spread to this area.

“We have been expecting this to occur for the last several weeks. It’s been an expectation for some time. We likely will not be able to contain this virus across the United States. What all of us would like to see is no COVID-19 in any community. That’s not rational.”

Einterz said the focus is now on containing the virus as much as possible in order to slow the spread. He said this will make it easier for medical professionals to prepare. A large outbreak could strain the healthcare system. 

 This is the 11th case of COVID-19 in Indiana to date.

Local health officials recommend keeping a social distance of 6 feet, washing hands, and limiting mass gatherings.

They are not recommending school closures yet.

Einterz said closing schools might do more harm than good.

“Any sort of closing is a double-edged sword. On one hand it may prevent transmission of COVID-19 but the economic and social consequences of people being out of a job for two weeks, four weeks, six weeks can have significant adverse health consequences.”

Einterz said students are likely to get together whether schools are open or not.

He said the case is different for colleges and universities where students live on campus.

Several universities across the state have announced transitions to online classes.

Contact Annacaroline at acaruso@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @AnnacarolineC16

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating at:  https://wvpe.thankyou4caring.org/