Officials, leaders talk COVID-19 response, support at weekly conference

Lutheran Health Physicians/Kosciusko Medical Group Vice President Megan Martin speaks about what is going on at KCH during the pandemic. Also pictured is United Way of Kosciusko County President Darren Bickel (L) and Kosciusko County Commissioner Bob Conley (C). (Photo: Nick Deranek/News Now Warsaw)

Local leaders and officials held their weekly COVID-19 update press conference at Warsaw City Hall on Wednesday.

In attendance was Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer and Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. Bill Remington, along with Kosciusko County Commissioner Bob Conley, United Way of Kosciusko County President Darren Bickel, and Lutheran Health Physicians/Kosciusko Medical Group Vice President Megan Martin.

Mayor Thallemer started the meeting noting the city’s stay-at-home order being extended through May 1st, going along with the state mandate. He also credited Governor Eric Holcomb’s office for working hard with health officials and the joint effort with other area states who are working together on a reopening plan. Thallemer wanted to remind the public that any local restrictions will continue along the lines of what the Governor issues from Indianapolis.

Reminders were also given by the Mayor regarding cloth mask giveaways at WWFT Fire Station #2 on East Center Street, mentioning that donations of masks would be most welcome there. He also reminded local small businesses regarding the loans that KEDCo is issuing up to $10,000, and donations to the Kosciusko County Community Foundation’s emergency fund.

Dr. Remington made note about the original model that was brought out, talking about an “explosion” of cases, and if that were still to happen, we would be in that time line now. He says there needs to be a few more days of reports from the state department of health to get a better idea on how things are progressing. He is also in support of more testing, but from a case management standpoint, “things have been a little bumpy.”

Remington went on to state that he is also in support of more testing, but the supply chain for Kosciusko County is not as large as it is in other communities.

He also reminded the public that a survey was posted by the department on Tuesday (which can be found here) and the response to that from the public has been huge. The survey is aimed to help the health department get a better idea of how the COVID-19 pandemic is moving along in the county and could help them figure out how testing should proceed in the future.

As in past weeks, Dr. Remington has been using an analogy of a baseball game to show where we are along in the pandemic. He noted we are in the “fifth inning, and extra innings is still something that could be considered.”

Remington was asked about the health status of the nursing homes in the community and said that the main clusters of positive cases in Kosciusko County “thankfully” have not been in those facilities. They, along with the state, are in constant contact with those facilities to keep up-to-date with the health of their residents. The Indiana State Department of Health “strike team” is also ready to be on hand to visit facilities if clusters do appear.

Bob Conley chimed in about the updates coming from Kosciusko County Health Department and monitoring and handling the current cases in the county. He said the work the epidemiologist is, going on the baseball analogies, hitting a home run.

Much of the discussion was in thanks for what the community has been doing for others and the non-profit organizations. Megan Martin said she credits the amount of “overwhelming” support that has been received at Kosciusko Community Hospital, whether it has been donations of masks, monetary donations, or even the vocal and visual support from the public to their healthcare workers.

Martin made mention that KCH has been “very nimble” about the care plans that have been put in place, one that was noted, was telehealth. She said that has been a big help in speaking with patients from home, or even those who wanted to be screened for the coronavirus. Those that have had more aggravating factors regarding health, they have been allowed to visit in person at the hospital. The facility has implemented social distancing measures at their desks, waiting rooms and do constant cleaning and sanitizing for those that need to come into the office.

Martin says MedStat has a drive-thru testing site. There is a number that people can call to get a screening to see if they should come through the drive thru or get directed to the proper health professional.

She also said that KCH has been well supplied and prepared for the pandemic in terms of supplies for its healthcare workers, along with anyone that visits the hospital. Officials also hold a daily COVID meeting to review patient statuses, amount of supplies, and to recap the previous day. KCH has also been preparing with the city and county emergency teams in case there is a supply shortage and plans are in place in case there is ever a shortage.

Brian Bickel said the United Way of Kosciusko County mentioned the “cleverness” and support from the community has been amazing, saying the public has helped in so many unique ways. He also credited Warsaw, Wawasee and Tippecanoe Valley schools for their work in handing out meals for their students, noting that between the three districts combined, over 29,000 meals have been given out.

The phone at the UW-KC office has been ringing off the hook regarding ifferent emergencies and issues that families have been hit with. One example was a waitress from a local restaurant that had been shut down. “She said that she had been furloughed and didn’t want to ask for help. People should not be afraid to ask for help, and they certainly should not be going hungry.”

Another weekly update on the local COVID-19 front will be held at Warsaw City Hall next Wednesday at 10:30 AM.