Increase in COVID cases concerns health officials

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The number of daily new positive COVID-19 cases has been staying in the teens in Dubois County.

And that has local health officials on alert, as that is an increase from recent months.

“We're definitely concerned that we're on an upward trend,” said Shawn Werner, administrative director of the Dubois County Health Department. “It's just a matter of how bad is it going to get. That's anybody's guess. I can't predict the future. I wish I could, but I can't.”

He was quick to say that it is still better than our worst months in the pandemic.

“We're nowhere near where we were at back in November, December, January, even some into February,” Werner said. “Across District 10 there was 296 hospitalizations (then). Right now in District 10, we're anywhere from 60 to 90. So it's about a third as bad as it was.

“But the curve is still going up,” he continued. “That's what we don't like. Hopefully it will flatten out and start going back down.”

It’s not known how many of those cases are of the Delta variant, the one health officials are seeing as being more contagious than the original virus.

“They (state labs) don't test every sample for which variant it is,” Werner explained, “because it takes a special test; it has to go to another lab for sequencing.”

The local testing lab is currently closed, but will reopen once state funding is received, Werner said. “Ours is shut down right now, until we get more funding,” he said. “Hopefully that will happen soon.”

Of the sample cases in the state that have been tested for variants, called sequencing, about 87.2% from the current month are the Delta, with the remaining being other variants.

“So it looks like Delta has pretty well taken over the majority of the samples that they are testing,” Werner said

With the community coming together for the Strassenfest this weekend, a festival that was canceled last year, it’s pretty much a guarantee there will be big crowds all around the Square in Jasper and the surrounding blocks. People are encouraged to do what they can to not contract the virus in those kinds of situations.

“Make an appointment with us to get vaccinated. It's probably your overall best protection by far,” Werner said. “Masks are still highly recommended. But when the mandate went away, pretty much all the masks went away too.”

He reiterated the recommendations that have been shared in many other instances:

• Wear a mask if you’re in a crowded, public place or in a confined, indoor area, especially if you are susceptible to illness or viruses or if you have a compromised medical condition.

• Practice social distancing.

• Do your best to not touch your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Use sanitizer and sanitize high-contact surfaces.

• Stay home if you are sick.

“It’s more of an outdoor festival, so you’ve got a little bit less risk outside,” Werner said of the Strassenfest. “But the risk is still there.”

Trying to not stand too close together has to be a conscious effort, especially at a crowded festival. “What kind of worries me is when you get in in big crowds, say for instance walking around the Square or the beer garden or those tighter quarters where you're waiting in line for food,” Werner said. “Try to social distance as much as possible.”

He also said that sharing food should be avoided. “And don't share drinks or those types of things,” he said. “I know that’s happened in the past, but that's probably not a good idea this year. Have your own personal cup and don't let anybody drink out of it.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state officials are encouraging each person to be responsible for protecting himself or herself. “The Governor is leaving it up to personal responsibility for people to do the right things at this moment,” Werner said. “If you wanted to get vaccinated, you've had a chance by now and you still have a chance. We have appointments available every single day.

“Everybody out there knows what they need to do. It's just a matter of making the right choice and protecting themselves and others.”

The Indiana State Department of Health has a mobile vaccine clinic at this weekend’s Strassenfest festival. The clinic was held Thursday and Friday, and will be on site from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday. Appointments are not necessary.

The clinic will dispense the Pfizer vaccine, available to anyone 12 and older, and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, for people 18 and older. People should bring with them their photo identification and, if they have it, insurance card.

People can also schedule an appointment to get the vaccine at the Dubois County Health Department. The department asks that they schedule an appointment for the Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines by calling 812-481-7056. For the Moderna vaccine, go online to ourshot.in.gov to schedule an appointment.

The online scheduling allows people to sign up for the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine, but that specification is not sent to the local health department, Werner has said. If the department does not know which vaccine a person is coming in for, workers may not have the right dose ready. That means the person would have to make another appointment to get the right vaccine, which can be an inconvenience for the person. So the local health department is asking that people looking to get the Pfizer vaccine call the health department instead.




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