“We have to be the frontline.”  - Commissioner Kevin Overmyer

MARSHALL COUNTY — County Commissioners held a meeting with department heads of Marshall County to address the rise in COVID-19 cases in the county.

On Wednesday, Governor Eric Holcomb said that the state will be moving away from the ‘Back on Track’ stage method in favor of restrictions that are associated with color-coded county metrics.

Currently, Marshall County is in an orange color state. If a county is in orange or red (the two highest metrics), then targeted pandemic response requirements go into effect. Holcomb’s plan will go into effect on Sunday, Nov. 15 and remain in place for the next month. 

For Orange counties, the following would happen:

• Social gatherings of any kind, inside or outside, are limited to 50 people. 

• Special, seasonal, or commercial events planned for more than 50 people will require a safety plan to be submitted to and approved by the local health department.

• Attendance at winter indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular events is limited to 25 percent capacity. 

• Capacity in common areas and break rooms should be reduced and users should be socially distanced. 

• Community recreational sports leagues and tournaments may continue with attendance limited to participants, required personnel and parents/guardians only.

Commissioner Kevin Overmyer informed the department heads that in Region 2 of Indiana, the region Marshall County belongs to, are “in a very critical state right now.” 

“Hospitals are full, we’ve been told that all elective surgeries have been canceled. Hospitals are being overrun. So, we need to take steps,” Overmyer said.

Those steps include closing the county buildings including the Clerk’s Office and the County Jail, to the public. However, the County Courts and the Marshall County Community Corrections will remain open. The public will have to make appointments with specific departments beforehand. 

“We have to be the frontline. When you get to the doctor or you get to the hospital it’s too late,” Overmyer said.

Marshall County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Byron Holm gave an update to the department heads concerning where the county stands.

As of Thursday, there are 612 active cases of COVID-19 in the county. That means that there are 612 people that have tested positive for the virus and they are in the 14 day period. 

“Four weeks ago, we had 40 (positive cases). So you can see the rapid increase that we’ve had in the last, probably, most of it happened in the last two weeks,” Holm said.

He remarked that the COVID-19 testing at the LifePlex has seen anywhere from 120 to over 200 people a day at the present time.

“As we see them go through, the testers are telling me that many of them look extremely ill and sick,” Holm said adding that there were 72 people hospitalized in the county. The day before that there were 80. 

“What that means is, they are at their capacity for beds at the present time,” Holm said. With the hospitals full, non-COVID emergent cases are being placed on a waiting list. Bypass surgeries, traumas, etc… are, as Dr. Holm explains, “difficult to handle.” 

“A lot of the hospitals are on what we call diversion. It means that they can’t take anymore so when the ambulance calls in, they divert them to some other facility. Saint Joe is not on diversion yet, but I think Memorial has been. Memorial is trying to save one or two beds for the trauma since they’re the trauma center,” Holm said.

Holm went on to say that 20 percent of all the positive cases of the coronavirus have a chance at ending up in the hospital for one or more days. When you factor in that 20 percent statistic with the fact that there are 612 positive cases, that equals roughly 120 people that would need hospital beds. 

“We don’t have the capacity to handle that at the present time,” he said.

Holm tackled the concept of herd immunity. At the present time, according to Dr. Holm, the county is at 5 to 6 percent infection. “Herd immunity is reached at 70 percent.”

As of Friday morning, 35 people, that have tested positive for COVID-19, have passed away.

“At our current death rate in Marshall County, which is 35 people, you would have to lose another 490 people to be at herd immunity,” Holm said. “That’s not acceptable to me.”

Community leadership is the solution, according to Dr. Holm. “And every person must take the lead.”

Dr. Holm instructed the commissioners and the department heads that they need to be part of the team in the battle against COVID-19. 

“Life is about working together,” he said. 

Holm stressed the need for the department heads to lead by example. “Every one of us away from home, must mask up, social distance, sanitize regularly.”

Stating goals was another step Holm suggested. “The first goal is that we need to continue to have a place to work and a paycheck that we can bring home. Nobody wants to go back to the total isolation. Goal two, is that we will not lose the lives of our loved ones. This doesn’t hit home until it hits home. Let’s not wait until that happens. We have already lost family members and friends in our community before it was truly their time.”

The third thing that Holm touched on was to let the community know that they are the solution. “I am not commanding them to mask up, social distance, or sanitize regularly, but I am asking them to take a personal responsibility to be a servant to each other by protecting each other.”

With that in mind, the commissioners adopted two resolutions. The first is to restrict public access to all county buildings (with exceptions to the Courts) and that public business be limited to essential services only by appointment. 

The second resolution adopted is a requirement of county elected officials, county appointed officials, and county employees to do the following:

• wear face coverings in all Marshall County facilities, at all times unless the employee provides a medical document stating otherwise,

• continue social distancing as feasible by the separation of six feet from other employees,

• continue to wash and sanitize hands frequently,

• not touch ones face,

• covering ones mouth when coughing and sneezing,

• if an employee has a temperature, cough, or feels ill to stay away from work.

“Any elected official, appointed official, or county employee that does wear a mask properly while in a county facility shall be in violation of the Employee Conduct Regulations,” stated County Attorney Jim Clevenger. The resolution continues that if that is not adhered to, would be subjected to disciplinary action in accordance with the Marshall County Personnel Policy which may include that the employee leave the county facility. If they are asked to leave, that would count as an unexcused absence and would be without pay.

Public meetings will still take place for the time being. Those that wish to attend are required to wear a face covering and their temperature will be taken at the entrance. The county will be having the company BIS coming in early December to install the necessary equipment so that public meetings can be held virtually.

These resolutions will be put into effect on Monday, Nov. 16 at 8 a.m. and may be rescinded and amended by the Commissioners.

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