One person has died, some students are studying at home for two weeks, and the availability of beds in area intensive care units has fallen below 20 percent as Miami County and the state continues to cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases.
As of Thursday’s report from the Indiana State Department of Health, Miami County hadseen more than 150 new cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus this month. The total of 609 cases now identified since March is up from 446 on Oct. 2.
On Friday, the state added more cases, bringing the total to 630 in the county.
The sharp climb is expected to continue before it levels off again.
That’s according to Miami County Health Officer Dr. Christi Redmon who spoke with the Tribune on Wednesday.
Wednesday was the day that state officials moved the county up to the third stage of alert on the four-tier “county metrics map” and the same day that Peru Community Schools Superintendent Sam Watkins announced that Peru High School students would begin a two-week period of virtual learning on Thursday.
Redmon expressed frustration at the turn events, which she said were largely preventable.
“The disappointment is, as a county we haven’t learned very much of anything,” she said.
The jump in recent positive tests, which has also accompanied an outbreak of at least 15 cases and one death at Miller’s Merry Manor, one of the county’s four nursing homes, seems to be tied to cases among high school students and at least two local businesses (and possibly a third), Redmon said.
Discussions with state health officials, privy to what is being learned by contact tracers contacting those who have tested positive, suggest, Redmon said, that much of the spread has happened in groups in which people are not wearing masks or practicing social distancing guidelines.
While Redmon said she knows that some debate the efficacy of masks and many have grown weary of pandemic precautions, they remain important in order to prevent the disease spreading to the elderly and those with conditions for whom the virus can be deadly.
“It’s not about you,” she said. “It is about who you are trying to protect.”
For those who are not afraid of contracting the virus because they will likely recover without complications, Redmon said they should consider what their actions could mean as they spread the virus through the community and to others.
You may be fine, she said. “But there are some vulnerable people who are not going to be fine.”
Right now, cases show no signs of leveling off.
Thursday’s update from the state added 22 news cases to the county’s total. The positivity rate for unique individuals tested was 11.6 percent.
Redmond said those cases are going to climb in the coming days as contact tracers, whose job it is to call those who have had contact with positive cases, continue their work and reach out to possibly infected individuals.
“They will be positive also,” Redmon said.
The solution now, she said, is for residents to cooperate with those tracing efforts, follow the quarantine guidelines provided by state and local officials and double down on efforts of wearing masks and social distancing practices.
“If we have a hope of containing this it has to be through contact tracing and quarantining people,” she said.
As of Thursday, the Indiana Health Department’s District 3, of which Miami County is one of 11 counties, state numbers showed that hospitals have 18.3 percent of the intensive care unit beds open, the lowest it’s been since August with the exception of one day in September.
This story has been updated with data from Friday.