County clamps down with big jump in virus cases

By TOM DAVIES
The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — A northern Indiana county where a coronavirus outbreak prompted the closure of a Tyson Foods meatpacking plant imposed tighter restrictions Monday on who can enter retail businesses.

Health officials also added nearly 100 coronavirus deaths of those living at Indiana’s long-term care centers to the state death toll in the past week, while continuing to say they won't identify nursing homes where outbreaks have occurred.

Meatpacking plant outbreak

Test results over the weekend confirmed about 700 more COVID-19 cases in Cass County, boosting the county’s total to 1,025, the Indiana State Department of Health said Monday. Those new results come after Tyson announced last week it would temporarily close its Logansport plant that was the site of widespread illnesses and have all its 2,200 workers undergo coronavirus testing.

Logansport and county officials announced new orders prohibiting more than one family member and anyone younger than 16 from entering retail businesses. The orders also impose limits on the number of customers allowed inside and urge anyone entering stores to wear masks covering their mouth and nose.

While Cass County has had only one recorded COVID-19 death, its per-person infection rate is nearly four times greater than any other Indiana county.

“This order is necessary to end this threat to the city as quickly as possible,” Logansport Mayor Chris Martin said.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Monday reported 31 additional coronavirus deaths, boosting the state’s confirmed COVID-19 death toll to 844 since the first fatality was recorded seven weeks ago. The newly reported deaths happened between April 10 and Sunday.

Nursing home cases

The 98 additional nursing home deaths announced Monday mean at least 260 residents from 85 nursing homes or assisted living facilities have died with COVID-19 illnesses. Those represent nearly one-third of Indiana’s 844 recorded deaths and a jump from about one-quarter of the state’s deaths a week ago.

Almost 72% of Indiana’s deaths have been among people ages 70 and older as elderly people and those with serious health troubles living in nursing homes are among the most at-risk from COVID-19 infections.

State officials had earlier this month identified some nursing homes with multiple deaths, including an Anderson facility where the county health department has reported 30 fatalities.

But Gov. Eric Holcomb and state health officials have since stopped identifying nursing homes with outbreaks, despite complaints from relatives of home residents about a lack of communication about illnesses and deaths. State officials maintain those facilities face federal and state requirements to notify the families about their COVID-19 status.

“We believe it is the individual facilities that are best positioned to know what is going on in their location and communicate that to residents and their loved ones,” said Dr. Dan Rusyniak, chief medical officer for the state Family and Social Services Administration.

Prison guard deaths

Two Indiana prison guards died over the weekend in apparent coronavirus-related deaths, according to the state Department of Correction.

One guard, 67-year-old Gary Weinke, worked at the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility near the town of Carlisle in southwestern Indiana’s Sullivan County died Saturday from COVID-19 complications and had last worked at the prison on March 29, the agency said.

A guard from the Indiana Women’s Prison in Indianapolis also died Saturday with a presumed coronavirus illness, agency spokesman David Bursten said. No other information about that guard was immediately released.

Four Indiana prison inmates have died with confirmed or suspected coronavirus infections, according to prison system online statistics. Three of those deaths have been at the Plainfield Correctional Facility near Indianapolis and one at the Westville Correctional Facility in northwestern Indiana.

Prisons are regarded as a high risk for spreading the coronavirus because inmates are held in close quarters.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and other inmate advocates have pushed for the early release of some prisoners to lower prison populations. Holcomb has repeatedly said he doesn’t support such actions.




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