Elkhart County quickly becoming Indiana’s newest COVID hotspot

Elkhart County. (Map via Google)

ELKHART (Network Indiana) — Indiana’s newest coronavirus hotspot is Elkhart County.

Elkhart County’s coronavirus cases have doubled in three weeks. Indiana’s sixth-largest county now has the third most cases in the state. One of every 83 residents has now tested positive — only Cass County, with an outbreak which tore through the Tyson pork-processing plant in late April, has a higher rate of infections.

Elkhart County Health Department director Lydia Mertz says unlike Logansport, the Elkhart County outbreak isn’t traceable to a single facility. She says too many residents let their guard down, especially over the Memorial Day weekend, and gave the virus a foothold.

Cases are rising even faster in neighboring LaGrange County. Cases have doubled there in just 12 days. LaGrange is now requiring people wear masks in public. So is Saint Joseph County, to Elkhart’s west. Elkhart isn’t. Mertz says a mask requirement would create difficult questions of how to enforce it. Instead, she says she’s counting on Elkhart County residents’ commitment to do the right thing to protect their neighbors. She says the county will mount an intensive education campaign to get across the importance of wearing masks and taking other precautions. The county will launch a broadcast and Internet ad campaign, and may purchase billboards.

Elkhart County commissioners asked Governor Holcomb to leave the county out of last week’s lifting of restrictions on bars and nightclubs in the rest of the state. State health commissioner Kristina Box has said the state considered extending restrictions in Elkhart and LaGrange, but decided not to. And the commissioners opted against imposing restrictions themselves, as Indianapolis and Gary have. Mertz says that’s always an option if the surge continues.

The state health department is wrapping up three days of stepped-up testing in Goshen, Shipshewana, Topeka and LaGrange, with particular attention to Hispanic and Amish communities.