Kosciusko County Public Health Officer Dr. William Remington gives the county commissioners an update Wednesday on the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Kosciusko County Public Health Officer Dr. William Remington gives the county commissioners an update Wednesday on the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Public Health Officer Dr. William Remington told the county commissioners that while there are no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Kosciusko as of Wednesday morning, it’s still inevitable.

“I can tell you that, trying to keep a close view on the Department of Health, it’s quickly expanding the number of cases across the state. Almost oddly, we don’t have a case confirmed out of this county,” Remington said, noting that there’s a bunch of rural counties along the U.S. 30 corridor that don’t have a case yet. “It’s inevitable. We’re just expecting that phone call at any time.”

Remington said they’ve been looking at how testing has been going in the county. “That number is hard to get as there’s no mandatory requirement that people doing testing report just the attempting to get a test to us,” he said. “We think that number is around 70-some tests out of this county from early March to yesterday (Tuesday), and not one of them is positive yet. That’s residents of Kosciusko County.”

He said the two emergency rooms in this county – Parkview and Kosciusko Community Hospital – are reporting typical testing and neither ER is reporting people showing up with “terrible pneumonias needing big-type oxygen supplementation.”

Remington said they’re expecting the testing numbers to go up in this county because, “There’s increasingly, day by day, private labs getting specimens from whoever and those will start trickling in. And we, I think, have a pretty confident reporting stream to us, on a positive. We won’t automatically hear the negatives.”

He thanked the commissioners for taking care of the health department employees, as well as all other departments’ employees, and for temporarily hiring a part-time epidemiologist. Epidemiologists are public health professionals who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury in humans, according to online information. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education and health policy.

“She’s awesome. It has really taken the angst off (Kosciusko Communicable Disease Nurse) Teresa (Reed’s) role. She’s been hit really hard, and I was nervous about that. Thank you for taking care of that,” Remington told the commissioners.

Commissioner Bob Conley asked if private labs had an obligation to report coronavirus testing results to a person’s home county. Remington said there’s an automated reporting mechanism that will happen through Reed’s job and the Indiana State Department of Health.

He said for the first case of coronavirus in a county, a leader will get a phone call, usually an administrator in the health office.

“That volume across the state is quickly going up, so that work flow may change, but we’re pretty sure we’ll hear the positives,” Remington said.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Wednesday reported 115 new positive cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed through ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories. That brings to 477 the total number of Hoosiers diagnosed following corrections to the previous day’s total. Fourteen Hoosiers have died. A total of 3,356 tests have been reported to ISDH to date, up from 2,931 on Monday.

Conley asked Remington where he felt Kosciusko County’s count would go.

“For our county, I would say, maybe, we’re just getting started. Maybe, by God’s grace, we’ll never see it. The plague will pass over us. Maybe. I don’t know. But these things are so tough,” Remington said.

The county could also be fine and then get hit hard, and Remington cited the Philadelphia War Bond parade in September 1918 as an example. Tens of thousands of people lined up for that parade, and within three days, the healthcare community was swamped. While that was for Influenza A, which has a short incubation time, coronavirus has a long incubation time.

“So we don’t want to do the Philadelphia thing,” Remington said. He said the county doesn’t want to be asleep on the issue “until the wolf is in the pen.” He said he had no way of predicting what will happen with the coronavirus. “This is not the Spanish Flu of 1918, it’s different. But there are some, perhaps, lessons to be learned from it.”

Commissioner Cary Groninger asked Remington if the ERs at KCH and Parkview were set up as well as they could be. He said he saw the other day where Goshen Hospital had a tent set out to deal with it.

“They’re getting geared up,” Remington said. “They have a lot of good thinking. Both of our local hospitals are part of bigger entities that come to play with loud voices with this kind of thing and assets, and that’s good. That’s really good.”

As a rural county, he said Kosciusko County is as prepared as any other.

“We’ve had the luxury of not having the wolf in the pen, as we know it, yet, and that’s given us some time,” Remington said.