At the end of the biweekly COVID-19 press conference Wednesday, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said there was a bunch of “Stop Means Stop for School Buses” signs at Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory station 2 on East Center Street. “These are the school bus arm reminders for anybody who wants to put these yard signs out,” he said. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
At the end of the biweekly COVID-19 press conference Wednesday, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer said there was a bunch of “Stop Means Stop for School Buses” signs at Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory station 2 on East Center Street. “These are the school bus arm reminders for anybody who wants to put these yard signs out,” he said. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Despite the double-digit positivity rating the Indiana State Department of Health was showing Wednesday on its website for the county, Kosciusko is not seeing an explosion of positive COVID-19 cases, Public Health Officer Dr. William Remington said.

Speaking at the biweekly press conference at Warsaw City Hall on the coronavirus pandemic, he said, “I want to reassure the residents of this county that we do not have an explosion of clinical cases. You should not fear sending your child to school because of this high positivity rate. We are watching the school situation closely.”

Remington pointed out the first U.S. proven case of COVID-19 is quoted as Jan. 20. The first Kosciusko case was March 26.

“And here we are, not quite six months later, over 1,000 proven cases, which underrepresents the total volume of cases. This has been quite the pandemic,” he said, before offering his condolences to the families of those who have died from the virus. The county has had 16 deaths reported to the Kosciusko County Health Department.

“Our recent trend, I think, is reassuring. Our number of positive tests is still not zero. We’re still a long way from that, but we’re not as robust as we were in June. After we swung past Memorial Day, it was bumpy for us,” he said.

He was glad Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered the mask mandate at about that time. “It was the right thing to do,” Remington said.

Kosciusko’s numbers are starting to trend downward a bit, he said. August’s numbers are better than July’s as far as total number of tests positive.

“We are not seeing an explosion of clinical cases. Our frontlines are not feeling an ordinate new pressure from COVID. We are not seeing an explosion of test-proven cases, and I want to emphasize that,” Remington said.

Speaking on the positivity rate, he said that is the number of tests positive (numerator) divided by the number of tests (denominator).

“So there’s two factors here. Our positivity rate shot up in the last week or so, and it was not from an explosion of the numerator, as I just said. It’s important. What we’re seeing is the power of the denominator with a big change,” Remington said. “We are not doing the volume of tests to dilute the numerator. That’s number one.”

He said the county lost the ISDH mobile testing site at Center Lake. There were a lot of negatives out of that testing and the county “lost that buffer” as it relates to the positivity rating. The ISDH did about 200 tests a day for four weeks, but now that’s gone.

“We just don’t have the access to testing at that level. People get tests, they get all kinds of tests. Thank you (city and county) for funding MedStat, Parkview, Goshen Health testing in our county. All that’s good, but it doesn’t have the robust presence that the pop-up tents did at Center Lake,” Remington said.

He said because of the amount of testing in the county has decreased, “That is why our positivity rate is so high. One of the highest in the state, and you’re going to hear more about that. ... We’re going to light up as a county.”

Earlier in the press conference, Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer talked about the tests that were done in the county.

The city’s CARES Act money funded a mobile site Saturday at Our Lady of Guadalupe where 70 people were tested. It was a one-time local site, which could possibly be duplicated in the future.

On the number of COVID-19 tests given at the three MedStat locations in the county, Thallemer said since June, 549 tests were done, with a vast majority at the Warsaw location. A smaller percentage were given at Syracuse, with a minor percentage done at Nappanee.

“Looking at kind of what we’ve done with testing so far as far as affordable testing, if you will, CARES Act and State Department of Health-funded testing, I’ve estimated that between the Indiana State Department of Health local site that went for four weeks; the recent Guadalupe test site; Parkview was getting started with the CARES Act testing; and the MedStat numbers, I just gave you, we’ve funded roughly 3,700 tests since we’ve started in June. While I think that’s good, the testing is evolving ... there’s different types of tests available. We’re getting a lot of opportunities to try to continue to advance testing because that still seems to me to be the top factor in trying to keep this thing controlled,” Thallemer said.

Later, he announced, “We’ve been contacted by the state to be a site for the Fairbanks Study in October, which will not be random testing, it will be by-invitation testing. Surveillance testing that tries to determine the rate in the general population. They did like our site and they’ll be coming back in early October for two days to do Fairbanks testing.”

Toward the end of the press conference, Remington asked everyone to “please get a flu shot this fall.”

He said, “Influenza immunization does not work perfectly in preventing influenza, but population widen it certainly dampens the population experience and we will really want that this winter if COVID continues to co-mingle as we think it will. Influenza activity traditionally picks up after Thanksgiving and will bump around every season a little different, hard to predict, until mid April or so. Please get a flu shot as soon as you can.”