COVID-19 resurging locally


By Mitchell Banks

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Schneck Medical Center suspended its community COVID-19 updates in March due to the low number of positive cases being reported in Jackson County.

Those updates resumed Thursday as Schneck and essentially every other hospital in Indiana have experienced surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“(We’re) definitely not where we want to be, but based on our lack of vaccinations, or 50% of vaccinations within the state (and) within out communities, this is where we are at,” said Dr. Eric Fish, president and chief executive officer of the Seymour hospital.

He reported 2,947 or 91.52% of all counties in the country are at a red level for COVID-19 transmission. Only 146 counties are at an orange level, 40 in yellow and 86 in blue, he said.

As for COVID-19 hospitalizations at Schneck, there are currently 17 in-patients, Fish said.

In the past week, the average for COVID-19 hospitalizations at Schneck has been between 12 and 17, he said.

Fish said 83% of the total COVID-19 in-patients at Schneck have not been vaccinated.

“This is currently a situation we’re dealing with due to the unvaccinated status of individuals,” he said.

In Indiana, there have been a total of 9,900 breakthrough cases of COVID-19, or COVID-19 infections that happen to people who have already been vaccinated.

Of that number, 371, or 0.01%, have had to visit an emergency room, and 272, or 0.0008%, have been admitted to an intensive care unit.

“This is consistent with the message that has been sent out that the vaccine is effective and reducing severe diseases and hospitalizations,” Fish said.

At Schneck, 24% of the intensive care unit beds are in use due to COVID-19, while 70% of ventilators are available.

Stacy East, infection preventionist at Schneck, reminded those on the call that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine recently was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

The vaccine, however, is still under an emergency use authorization for children ages 12 to 15.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee also approved a COVID-19 booster shot for people who are immunocompromised. That booster shot is only for the immunocompromised who received Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Jackson County Health Officer Dr. Christopher Bunce said he expects a COVID-19 booster shot to be available for everyone 18 and older in the near future.

Once that is approved, he said the booster shot can be received eight months after the person received their second shot of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

While Jackson County is currently classified as a level 2.5 county and an orange level threat by the Indiana State Department of Health, Bunce said he considers the county to be in the red.

The state calculates those metrics by looking at the percentage of positive tests in addition to the case rate per 100,000 people per week.

In Bunce’s opinion, he said case rate is more important, and the county is a red level threat considering that parameter.

On July 4, the county’s case rate was only seven per 100,000. Currently, it’s 457.

Fish said while Schneck’s vaccine clinic closed in July, the hospital’s pharmacy is accepting walk-ins for people to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The pharmacy is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vaccines also are being administered at all of Schneck’s primary care clinics.

Other places in Jackson County that offer the COVID-19 vaccine include the health department and Walmart, CVS and Walgreens pharmacies.

Fish also said the hospital’s Regeneron clinic has done a total of 800 monoclonal antibody infusions, and 270 of those have been in August.

Regeneron is the brand name for a monoclonal antibody infusion treatment that uses two synthetic antibodies to fight off infection.

Indiana is expected to see its COVID-19 hospitalization peak in approximately five to six weeks, Fish said.

Due to COVID-19 hospitalizations and staffing issues, Fish said nearby hospitals in other counties have been suspending surgeries for two weeks.

While Schneck isn’t currently suspending surgeries, Fish said the hospital is monitoring its conditions twice a day to see if that is necessary.

The Indiana State Department of Health announced Thursday that 5,717 Jackson County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 36 from Wednesday’s total.

The positivity rate for Jackson County is at 13.2%, a 0.8% increase from Tuesday’s 12.4%, according to the department’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The rate is determined by a seven-day moving average with a six-day lag to give time to receive comprehensive results. The current positivity rate for the county would be for Aug. 13 to 19.

No new deaths attributed to COVID-19 were reported in Jackson County on Thursday, leaving the county’s death toll at 78.

There have been 67,428 COVID tests administered to 21,437 individuals in the county since March 18, 2020, an increase of 350 from Wednesday’s total.

The latest results are as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. The coronavirus dashboard is updated at noon daily.

Also Thursday, the state’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard reported 18,115 or 39% of 46,428 Jackson County residents have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 18,571 or 39.9% of county residents have been fully vaccinated.

Since Dec. 14, 3,092,960 Hoosiers have received their first dose, while 3,072,178 are fully vaccinated.

On Thursday, 5,027 additional Hoosiers across the state were diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at the ISDH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories.

This brings the total number of Hoosiers known to have had the novel coronavirus to 838,869 following corrections to the previous day’s total.

The state’s total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 is 13,915 with 12 new deaths reported Thursday.

For the state, a total of 12,069,548 tests have been administered, an increase of 58,051 from Wednesday.

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