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DEMOTTE — At his weekly press conference, Gov. Eric Holcomb extended his mask mandate through the month of October as COVID cases are on the rise across the state, including Jasper County. The DeMotte Christian schools had their first instance of the coronavirus the week of Oct. 5, with the decision to close both the grade schools and the high school as a precaution.

Since the beginning of October, the county has recorded two new deaths, having only had two previous deaths since pandemic deaths have been recorded in the state.

The county was moved from blue with a score of 0 to .5, to yellow, with a score of 1, falling into the category with 10 to 99 new cases reported and a positivity rate of 4.4% on Oct. 16. Yellow means there is moderate community spread of the highly contagious virus. On Friday, the county had 17 new cases reported. The county has reported an additional two deaths from COVID-19.

Newton County sits at a positivity rate of 9.6%, with five new cases reported.

DeMotte Christian Schools Superintendent Devon Brink said everyone is doing well so far. “We are working through this,” he said. As of Friday, the schools had five staff members who tested positive and three students, two in the grade school and one at Covenant Christian High School. “We started with our first case early last week,” he said. This was the first for the private school corporation since school started in August.

Brink said they decided to go to virtual learning as a precautionary measure. There were some people showing symptoms, though not all tested positive for COVID-19. Through contact tracing, they found too many who would need to quarantine and they couldn’t get enough substitute teachers to cover the classrooms.

At KV, Assistant Superintendent Allisa Scnhick stated, “We are communicating with the Jasper County Health Department about the increased numbers in our area, monitoring the positivity rate in our community, and monitoring the situation in each individual building in the Kankakee Valley School Corporation.

“We went for several weeks without a positive case. Since Saturday, Oct. 10, we have had five individuals test positive. Our nurses and administration immediately conducted contact tracing, contacted the Jasper County Health Department, and the State of Indiana contact tracing center.

“Every school corporation must monitor their current situation in each building and consult with the health department to determine what is the best course of action for the individuals in their buildings. The CDC and Indiana State Department of Health had stated that we would see an increased number of cases in October and November. We have encouraged people to properly social distance, wash their hands often, and wear mask/face coverings when around people.”

Brink said the schools continue to do deep cleaning with misters and disinfectants. “We’re doing all the right things,” he said. “We were already using extreme caution. This is our first hit. We will continue to work with the health department.”

Friday, Oct. 9, was already a scheduled day off and the students and staff are on fall break Oct. 22 and 23, so they will have virtual learning for the first three days of the week with the plan to return to in-person learning on Oct. 26, fulfilling the required number of days for quarantine.

Athletics impacted

The Friday night football game at Highland was cancelled due to the coronavirus affecting that school’s team. Brink said so far there are no reported cases or close contacts among the school’s soccer teams, with the girls moving onto regional competition after winning their sectional on Saturday, Oct. 10. “If impacted, we have to make those tough decisions,” he said.

The sectional for the girls’ volleyball team was cancelled.

Governor pleas for Hoosiers to be responsible

Holcomb on Wednesday said opening the state to Phase 5 of his reopening plan was not the “checkered flag” for resuming pre-pandemic life. He acknowledged people have “mask fatigue” but, he siad, in less than a month, the state’s positivity rate went from below 4% to 5.3% with record high number of positive cases. He said Indiana hospitals have gone up to spring numbers, when the pandemic was at its peak.

“Many are showing disregard for other people’s health,” he said. “They act as if this coronavirus doesn’t exist. This costs lives.” He said these decisions have cost over 3,000 lives in this state. “There’s still so much about this virus we don’t understand,” he said.

“Don’t kid yourself – this costs us all.”

He said the numbers have proven that people can go to larger gatherings, such as professional sports and high school games, as long as everyone follows the mask mandate and continue to social distance. “It has to do with many of us letting our guard down,” he said. Through contact tracing, the numbers have increased where people are not wearing masks such as at weddings, funerals or other family gatherings.

“It has everything to do with our actions and inactions, ignoring science and throwing the dice and we all pay for it. Events can take place anywhere but be ever vigilant.

“Please, please be responsible,” he asked of Hoosiers. “This is not the time to abandon what we are doing.”

He said Indiana is not unique in the increasing numbers. It is happening across the country. “We all want to get to the finish line. We all want to return to precovid. The data has to support it.”