Vigo County is experiencing “a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths,” the Vigo County Health Department warned Friday.
As a result, the health department continues to discourage large gatherings.
“The current cases are linked to the Cory Apple Festival and other outdoor events with a large attendance,” according to a health department news release. “More formally organized and informal events are upcoming, which leads to public health concerns for the spread of COVID-19.”
Other cases are attributed to events such as weddings and funerals. “These events are important, but please mask-up and practice social distancing,” health officials say.
Vigo County has now recorded 2,119 COVID-19 cases, with 30 deaths resulting from COVID, according to the Indiana Department of Health.
“We are collectively discouraged by the last one to two weeks of increasing COVID numbers and in tracking more and more people coming into the hospital, with increasing death numbers, not only here, but across the state,” said Dr. Darren Brucken, Vigo County health commissioner.
“We have area nursing homes with cases, and we have suffered deaths from those outbreaks,” he said.
Large gatherings such as weddings, funerals and family get-togethers continue to be a problem, he said. The same goes for festivals and community gatherings.
With the governor opening up the state and announcing that the mask mandate will be revisited Oct. 17, “I think the general public feels as though the mask mandate will be lifted Oct. 18, and those of us in public health absolutely hope that it does not,” Brucken said. “The virus is just as prevalent today as it ever was.”
Indiana set a record this week with most number of cases in a single day. Hospitalizations are going up. Deaths are going up. ICU admissions are going up, he said.
Community spread is going up, which, in turn, is having a greater impact on older citizens.
“Now, more than ever, everyone needs to be diligent with masking and social distancing, and to protect those most vulnerable in our society, our older residents,” Brucken said. “This is far from over, and this feeling of ‘laxity,’ which may or may not be motivated by the political landscape, has us on very thin ice — whether we are smart enough to appreciate it or not.”
Brucken added, “Our advice to our most vulnerable citizens is to absolutely stay away from any situation that would put you in danger, such as gathering even with family or friends not masked and not distanced. Pay no attention to the ‘high profile cases’ that seem to have escaped significant illness, as we continue to bury people every week within our county due to this lonely and tragic illness. It is very much prevalent, but very much preventable.”
All eight counties in District 7 of west central Indiana are seeing an increase in cases, according to ISDH.
In addition, Clay County reported a sixth death Friday, with 352 total positive cases since the start of the pandemic.
Elsewhere in the Wabash Valley, Phil Harrison, Southwest Parke Community Schools superintendent, stated on the district website Wednesday stating that “cases of COVID-19 are increasing in Parke County. We are seeing the impact of those cases in our schools, as we now have approximately 120 students across the corporation quarantined due to a combination of positive cases and possible exposures.”
On Thursday, the website indicated that Rosedale Elementary had one positive staff case, zero student cases and 56 students quarantined due to exposure; at Riverton Parke High School, one staff member and two students were positive for COVID, while six staff members and 95 students were quarantined due to exposure.
The school is now on fall break through next week.
“We need your help to ebb the rising tide of illnesses,” Harrison stated on the Southwest Parke website. He urged students and families to follow all the recommended protocols, including masking, distancing and use of hand sanitizer, at school events, whether at outdoor or indoor events.
When out in the community, “please limit group activities,” the website stated. If families or students must participate in a group event, even if it is a family or church event, “please continue to follow all of the protocols necessary to minimize the spread of illness.”
In the Vigo County School Corp., all elementary students attending in-person are now in school five days a week, and next week, in-person middle school students are slated to begin attending five days a week on Tuesday. The district works closely with a COVID-19 task force that includes health professionals and representatives of the county health department.
The district hopes to bring back high schools to full-time, in-person, Oct. 19, but a decision will be made next week.
— Lisa Trigg of the Tribune-Star also contributed to this report.