JASPER COUNTY — The pandemic is hitting hard in Jasper County, with the county’s status for community spread in the orange range, one level below the red designation that could take the county back to stricter quarantine levels. On Halloween, a sixth death due to the fast spreading virus was recorded, and a seventh on Nov. 2, on the Indiana State Health Department’s dashboard.
On Friday, the state’s website posted 909 total cases with 22 of those new and 94 new tests recorded making the total since the pandemic began at 8,221. The 7-day positivity rate was 10.8%. On Monday, those numbers rose with 25 new cases bringing the total to 996 positive cases and 76 new tests with a 7-day positivity rate at 11.2%. After Tuesday’s numbers were updated, the county sat at 10.6%, a drop from Monday, adding another 20 new positive cases and 87 new tests.
In neighboring Newton County, the state’s dashboard showed five new positive cases there with a 7-day positivity rate at 18.8%, placing it the third highest in the state. After Tuesday’s updated numbers appeared, Newton County had the highest positivity rate in the state at 22.9%, followed by LaGrange at 22.8%. The latest numbers added 12 new positive cases and 22 new tests taken, bringing the county’s total positive cases to 370.
In total, Newton County has recorded 12 deaths, most of those recorded near the beginning of the pandemic. Newton County too finds itself in the orange status.
On Tuesday, North Newton School Corp. released this statement: “Due to increased COVID-19 cases in Newton County and the number of staff and students who are under quarantine, it has become crippling to staff classrooms. Without an adequate pool of substitutes, we are facing daily struggles to adequately staff classrooms and provide students with the services they deserve. Starting Wednesday, Nov. 11, through Tuesday, Nov. 24, all North Newton schools will be moving to Virtual Learning. We will assume in-person instruction on Monday, Nov. 30, if information received from the Newton County Health Department indicates such a transition and there is an improvement in infection rates.”
State Health Department Director Dr. Box, in the weekly press conference occurring each Wednesday afternoon, said it has been proven that social distancing, face coverings and masks and hand hygiene work to prevent the spread of the virus. She said these preventative measures are inexpensive and effective. She worries about an increase in cases after Thanksgiving and said the front line health care workers in hospitals and long term care facilities are “exhausted” and concerned about the increase causing stress to hospitals in staffing as well as the stress on ventilators and ICU space.
“Don’t let your guard down. Be vigilant,” she said. Box has had COVID after her grandson was exposed at a day care center. She said her daughter and grandson were in her “social bubble” that allowed them to be in contact with each other.
She said across the state, from Sept. 15 to Oct. 25, the number of cases increased 200%.
The state has been told to prepare for a vaccine to arrive mid-November, “We will be ready to receive it,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver of the state health department. She said they will have five initial sites to vaccinate front line staff first once a team of experts has had a chance to review the vaccine before it is administered in the state. She said the team has 44 participants and 26 entities involved and the number is increasing.
Holcomb said the only campaign he is running is the campaign to save lives. He said a piece of cloth prevents spread, and it’s inexpensive. “It’s about lives and our livelihood,” he said.
The state recommends severely limiting the amount of people attending school activities and sports. It is being left to local health departments to determine restricting the numbers in conjunction with the number of cases in its own local communities.