Health officials give local coronavirus update


Some patients at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour recently have been tested for the coronavirus, a hospital official said Tuesday afternoon.

“We have tested people, and we do have tests that are pending just like the state has, but we currently have no patients that are positive,” Dr. Eric Fish said during a teleconference call with police, fire, ambulance, government and school officials and local employers.

Fish, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Schneck, said Bartholomew County reported one positive case Tuesday, but no deaths. A second Hoosier — a Johnson County adult over the age of 60 — died Tuesday morning from the coronavirus, aka COVID-19, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

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Fish said in the last 48 hours, Schneck is starting to see employees from local firms that are sick coming to the emergency room at Schneck or a Schneck clinic and say they are being told they can’t return to work until they get tested for COVID-19.

“At this time, we are unable to provide those tests unless they meet certain criteria,” Fish said.

Because there is a limited supply of testing kits available at Schneck, specific criteria are in place to determine who will be tested:

Travel questions

Traveled to or from an area defined as a Level 3 risk for COVID-19 as indicated by the CDC in the last 14 days.

Traveled via cruise line with a positive COVID-19 outbreak or that had ports of call in an area defined as a Level 3 risk for COVID-19 in the last 14 days.

Been in close, sustained or direct physical contact with a confirmed patient with COVID-19 within the last 14 days.

Symptom question

Experiencing fever and symptoms of a respiratory infection, such as cough or shortness of breath.

If the answer is yes to both a travel question and the symptom question, the individual is directed to self-quarantine. If symptoms are acute and the patient requires hospitalization, further testing will be evaluated. Once the sample is taken, the kit is sent to an outside laboratory to be analyzed.

County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Bunce talked about the importance of social distancing during the nearly hour-long call.

“Social distancing is the most important thing we can be doing right now,” he said. “It’s a way to decrease the incidents — that is the rate of new cases — to try to take the burden off the health care system.”

Bunce said social distancing has to do with where people go and with whom they meet.

“… how we interact with them,” he said. “Keeping distance. Avoiding handshaking. Washing your hands. Those are all part of social distancing. It is the most important thing we are doing right now, and it’s what’s causing a disruption for everyone, but it’s absolutely necessary if we are going to get a grip on this.”

Diane Altemeyer with Seymour Community Schools reported that by the end of the week, the corporation was hopeful to have a meal plan to advertise to the community.

“Where students will be able to drive through and pick up meals,” she said.

Seymour students are on spring break this week but won’t return to classes Monday as planned.

Representatives from more than two dozen employers spoke about some of the actions their companies have taken in response to the coronavirus.

Nearly all employers reported they are attempting to help their employees cope with child care needs since schools are not in session; limiting external visitors; and monitoring employee travel. Most, if not all, said they are being flexible when it comes to attendance.

Marvin Veatch, president and chief executive officer of JCB, said bank-related travel has been restricted to the JCB market.

“… and we’re monitoring all employee travel,” he said.

Veatch also said JCB employees are stepping up cleaning of everything in the entire organization, which includes branches in Jackson, Bartholomew, Jennings and Monroe counties.

“We have instituted the social distancing,” said Tammy Barker, director of human resources with Pet Supplies Plus Distribution Center in Seymour.

On Thursday, the company is going to start scanning everyone with noncontact thermometers, she said, and on Tuesday, anyone exhibiting COVID-19 or flu-like systems is not allowed in the building.

“We’ve been very flexible on our attendance at this point in time, and we have also looked at the possibility of bringing in day care options for some of our team members if the situation continues,” she said.

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