Despite an extended period with Union County seeing few cases of COVID-19, the community has seen a rapid spike in the past two weeks and, until recently, was scored in the red by the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH).

The Union County Health Department (UCHD) is working to get information out to the community to help curb the spread and has established a list of the department’s top three priorities to promote the health of the community:

1. Keep people healthy and safe from the coronavirus
2. Keep schools open
3. Keep businesses open

UCHD medical director Dr. Susan Bantz encourages everyone to wear masks when out in public, observe social distancing and wash ones hands regularly. The children of the community need to be in school and keeping the community healthy will ensure schools remain open. Recent closures of area schools have been a result of staffing shortfalls as a result of exposure to the coronavirus, not because the virus is being transmitted at the schools. UCHD worries staff availability could negatively impact local businesses in a similar fashion.

Governor Eric Holcomb has instituted COVID-19 guidelines for businesses, as well as a mask mandate for both businesses and the general public. UCHD expects businesses and the public to follow the governor’s mandate.

Union County has set a new record for the most daily positive cases on four days in the past month with six on Oct. 27, eight on Nov. 3, 12 on Nov. 10 and 13 on Nov. 13. The prior record of five cases was set on Aug. 15. The county has also recorded its first COVID-19-related death on Nov. 8. The region’s availability of ICU beds has also hit a record low on Nov. 11.

Union County currently has a score of 2.5, as assessed by ISDH, and color coded “orange.” Restrictions outlined in the governor’s latest executive order are stated by the weekly score of each county. As an “orange” county, Union is under the strictest set of guidelines, including:

• Social gatherings and events are limited to a total of 50 individuals with adequate social distancing and face coverings required.

• Gatherings of more than 50 individuals are encouraged to be canceled or postponed. If it cannot be canceled or postponed, a safety plan must be submitted to, and approved by, the local health department.

• Businesses should limit the number of personnel permitted to congregate in common areas or break rooms and take measures to ensure social distancing.

UCHD public health nurse Kim Klein asks the community not to be a part of the problem, but to be a part of the solution. Klein asks the community to stay informed of the latest guidance from state and federal agencies. She recommends reviewing the Centers for Disease Control at cdc.gov/coronavirus and the ISDH at coronavirus.in.gov to stay up to date. 

The ISDH site provides Hoosiers resources on how to stay healthy, how to identify symptoms, information on how and where to get tested and the state’s COVID-19 Dashboard displaying data updated daily with the number of cases, deaths and tests for each county, as well as the county metrics score and color code for all of the state’s 92 counties. General questions and inquiries can also be directed to the ISDH COVID-19 call center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at 877-826-0011.

Klein advises the community the ISDH has taken over all contact tracing for the state. In a time when we are often inundated with spam calls from unknown numbers, Klein encourages locals to be aware of the contact tracing hotline and answer any calls coming from 833-670-0067.

“We need everybody in the community to work together,” pleads Klein.