Local officials report high COVID transmission

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Jackson County remains at a high level of transmission for COVID-19.

Dr. Eric Fish, president and chief executive officer of Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, shared that news during Thursday’s COVID-19 community update.

“The number of counties in the United States which are at a red level for transmission amounts to 3,028 counties or 94% of all counties in the U.S.,’’ he said. “This information came in today, and statewide, there are 5,222 new positive cases and 23 new deaths.”

Jackson County remains at 2.5, or orange status, but it would appear next week, it should be going red, Fish said.

“Within Jackson County, there were 60 new cases. That’s two days in a row we’ve had over 60 new cases in the county, no new deaths and a positivity rate of 14.9%, right at the cutoff of red,” he said. “At Schneck Medical Center, we continue to see a steady increase in the number of hospitalized patients, averaging between 14 to 17 in-patients over the last week.”

Currently, 37% of Schneck’s in-patient population is for COVID-19, and more than 95% of those patients were not vaccinated, he said.

“We continue to say the vaccine is the way out of this as the virus continues to hit the unvaccinated very hard,” Fish said. “Within our county, we have gone up to 18,824 individuals over the age of 12 who are fully vaccinated.”

In Indiana, around 10% of the ventilators being used in hospitals are due to COVID, and ventilators are in adequate supply at 71%; however, there are only 20% of intensive care unit beds across the state that are available.

Fish also said the hospital’s Regeneron clinic has done a total of 823 monoclonal antibody infusions, and 340 of those were in August. Nearly half of the treatments have been administered in the last 31 days, and at the time of Thursday’s call, 33 infusions have been done in the month of September.

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

Stacy East, infection preventionist at Schneck, reminded those on the call that the Indiana State Department of Health just released new guidelines for COVID-19 school scenarios for the classroom setting. The guidelines do not apply to lunch, band, choir or extracurricular activities.

Close contact: When both people are masked, in-school setting close contact is when an individual is within 3 feet of a positive person for greater than 15 minutes. When either person is unmasked, a close contact is when an individual has been within 6 feet of an infected person for greater than 15 minutes.

Self-monitor: Perform a self-check or be monitored twice daily for a fever of 100.4 F or above. If symptoms develop, even if you’re fully vaccinated, quarantine and obtain testing. Coordinate with your health care provider and local public health department.

Quarantine: May be required when an individual has had a close contact. These individuals shall remove themselves from situations where others could be exposed/infected and self-monitor for symptom development.

Isolation: Required when an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or develops a fever of 100.4 F or above and/or one or more of the following symptoms: Sudden onset of a cough, sudden onset of shortness of breath or sudden loss of taste or smell. Individuals should remove themselves from situations where others could be exposed/infected.

Heather Hiten, school nurse for Brownstown Central Community School Corp., said the corporation has 34 positive cases, 131 who are out for close contact, 10 pending tests and 15 more who are out with symptoms.

Jennings County School Corp. Superintendent Teresa Brown said they instituted a mask mandate this past week after the school board voted Aug. 26. She said the board had the courage and showed the leadership to do it.

“At this point, we do have the mask mandate, so we’re very excited about the new guidelines because it will allow us to keep more kids in school,” she said. “As of today, we have 69 students who are positive with COVID and are out, seven staff members are out and 447 close contacts are out, which is down from over 700 last week, so even in the short time we’ve had the masks, it has helped our numbers go down.”

Talmadge Reasoner, assistant superintendent of operations for Seymour Community School Corp., said the leadership team was meeting later in the afternoon to talk about new guidelines.

“We’re holding our own when it comes to the positivity rate, which is under 1% within the student body and staff, but the quarantining is really becoming an issue,” he said. “We currently have around 320 students who are under close contact quarantine right now.”

For the students in quarantine, their absences are being treated like a long-term illness, but some teachers are voluntarily opening up their Google Meet like they did last year, Reasoner said.

He said there currently is open enrollment for Seymour’s OWL Tech program, a full-time virtual education option being offered this year.

Dr. Christopher Bunce, Jackson County health officer, said in terms of how a mandate works, health officials are going to need support from political leaders in the community and the county, not just the school board.

“The way it’s worded, any school can do it on their own,” he said. “It’s just a matter of finding that support throughout the leadership of the community, and that’s what we’re striving for right now.”