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County health administrator commends schools for virus response

By STEVEN MURREY

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 850 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the state’s total to 81,847 since recording began in March.

Additionally, 28 Hoosiers have died from the virus, marking a total of 2,954 dead in the state. The Indiana State Department of Health estimates an additional 211 probable deaths based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.

So far in August, Madison County has reported 291 cases. This accounts to close to 26 percent of known positives for the area. During the first 17 days of July, the county reported only 61 cases.

Madison County Health Administrator Stephanie Grimes said Tuesday deaths from the virus have slowed. Grimes attributed this to preventative measures in place at long-term care facilities, which house those most at risk for the virus.

Of the county’s recent cases, individuals aged 20 to 29 have seen the largest increase. The demographic accounts for 14.6 percent of known cases, and over 18 percent of cases reported for the month of August.

This week, Frankton-Lapel implemented a hybrid schooling model for junior and senior high school students. Grimes said these mitigation efforts can be helpful in slowing the spread of the virus.

“There are fewer people in one place,” Grimes says of the hybrid schooling model.

She noted that the spikes seen in the first two weeks of August appear to be leveling off.

“As I’m watching the numbers this week, they are lower than they were last week,” says Grimes. “Not by a lot, but if we stayed about where we are now, the rolling seven-day average is going to be four or five cases less than it was last week.”

As of Tuesday, the rolling average for the week sat at 14 cases, fewer than the 19 reported last week that prompted Frankton-Lapel’s decision on schooling for the week.

Grimes has for weeks predicted a spike in cases for the third week of August, which began Sunday.

“I’d like to think we’re experiencing it now, we’re kind of in the middle of it,” notes Grimes. “I think the schools are doing a great job of responding. They’re doing contact tracing, having kids stay at home, and moving to hybrid models.”

“I think they are doing everything they need to do to mitigate [the spike] and I’m interested to see what we look like at the end of this week and this time next week,” says Grimes. “I’m anxious to see how that plays out.”

Grimes recognizes that the issue is very divisive, complicated by the impending flu season this fall. She says the Health Department will again offer free flu vaccines, adding that mass utilization could help mitigate the normal increase in respiratory illnesses seen during flu season.

Grimes says that COVID-19 will continue to be an issue until a vaccine is developed.

Still, Grimes is optimistic about the coming weeks and the upcoming flu season.

“It can’t possibly be as rough as the deaths that we saw in the Spring,” says Grimes. “We could see some more cases, but I do not anticipate it getting as bad as it was with the deaths.”

Grimes again expressed the importance of preventative measures such as hand washing and social distancing.

“There is a way to prevent this disease, and we have to keep that in mind, too.”

Madison County has a seven-day positivity rate of 9.1 percent, down from 10.5 percent reported at the end of last week. The county has conducted 13,727 COVID-19 tests as of Tuesday’s update.

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