Health department pens letter to community


With COVID-19 numbers increasing both nationwide and locally, the Jackson County Health Department has written a letter to Jackson County businesses, schools, churches and citizens.

The letter is regarding how infection levels are looking to increase in the coming months and strategy in combating the virus.

It’s authored by Dr. Christopher Bunce, public health officer for the health department.

“I am certain all of you are aware of the increasing problem of COVID-19 infection, both nationally and locally,” he wrote. “Jackson County is experiencing unprecedented numbers of new infections. These infections are resulting in significant disruptions in our schools, workplaces and our county hospital, Schneck Medical Center.”

It’s noted that despite the statewide shutdown and stay-at-home order earlier this year, the problem is worse than it was at that time.

“At the Jackson County Health Department, we monitor new infection numbers every day and have seen an alarming increase that bodes poorly for the weeks and months to come,” the letter continues. “While effective and safe vaccines are on the way, it is unlikely that we will have sufficient quantities for the bulk of our county residents until well into 2021.”

Due to a vaccine not expected to be widespread until next year, Bunce said Jackson County “must redouble efforts toward containing the spread of infection.”

The health department says its priorities in controlling infection have been promoting facial masking, social distancing and avoidance of crowds. The department also believes it’s vital to the county to protect the local hospital and all health needs, not just COVID-19.

The letter says the ability to provide care for all health needs has been seriously compromised by the large numbers of infected people who are requiring hospitalization and intensive care support.

“Many of you do not see what happens inside the walls of Schneck Medical Center,” said Bunce, who also is an infectious disease specialist at the Seymour hospital. “The medical staff are being tested as never before and are approaching the limits of what can be reasonably expected of them.”

The health department urges the community to help in “slowing the tide of this pandemic in our area.”

“Strict adherence to masking, physical distancing, crowd reduction and crowd avoidance will turn the tide if we all work together,” Bunce wrote. “In addition to helping our hospital, it will help keep our schools open and our businesses operating.”

The letter notes that Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has mandated a 50-person indoor/outdoor limit on events.

A statement in bold reads, “The Jackson County Health Department will not be reviewing or approving any plans for larger gatherings without exception at least until the end of the year.”

“In fact, we strongly encourage all of you to take even greater precautions until this crisis passes,” Bunce wrote.

In the midst of a holiday season, Bunce said gatherings and parties are strongly discouraged.

“It is important to understand that much of the transmission we are seeing is happening among friends, neighbors and family members in close contact,” he said. “Keep the numbers small, wear masks and keep your distance. These measures are proven to work, but not if we ignore them.”

The letter concludes with “The Jackson County Health Department thanks you for your help and cooperation.”

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