It has been fewer than 100 days since Daviess County recorded its first case of the coronavirus. In that time, the county has had 104 confirmed cases of the virus.
“I am not surprised at all,” said Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender. “It is a pandemic and we expect to have even more cases in the future. We received confirmation of four more cases today. It is just part of it.”
When it comes to confirmed cases, Daviess County is about in the middle of the pack in the state where there have been over 35,000 confirmed cases.
“We are still testing,” said Sullender. “We want our numbers to stay low. We are still very concerned about the possibility of big outbreaks. That is something we don’t want to see. That’s why we are still suggesting that people follow precautions even though the state is loosening up on things.”
Those precautions of hand washing, using sanitizer, wearing masks and staying in where possible are still recommended.
Sullender says that the bulk of the cases recently have been traced back to family and close associates of other people who have been confirmed with COVID-19.
“We have had no random cases,” said Sullender. “We have been able to trace them back to a specific person. Many of those we have discovered recently were showing no symptoms at all.”
Daviess County has been working closely with Dubois County after a Farbest turkey processing plant had a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases.
“They report they are now seeing a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Sullender. “We had some cases turn up from the outbreak in Huntingburg. One of the things we have learned during this pandemic is the number of people who may live in Daviess County but work in Jasper and Princeton and Boonville and Evansville. It really surprised me.”
The Daviess County Health Department has had some help in dealing with the virus from some unexpected corners.
“All I can say is thank God for our community liaison people,” said Sullender. “They were hired to perform completely different roles, but they have been able to work through the language and cultural barriers in our Hispanic and Haitian communities and work with those who have been infected and their families. They have been instrumental in getting information out and helping to explain things like isolation and quarantines.”
Another helpful but odd surprise came from a one-time intern.
“For the first time ever, last year we had an intern epidemiologist,” said Sullender. “When Purdue shutdown she came home and continued to work with us through this pandemic.”
Ketcham Memorial Recovering
One of the hot spots for the coronavirus in Daviess County was Ketcham Memorial Nursing Center in Odon. During the outbreak there were 29 residents and 15 staff members who contracted the disease. The 15 residents who died there represent the bulk of Daviess County’s 17 COVID-19 deaths.
“We are now 10 days out of the facility being COVID-free,” said Ketcham Memorial Administrator Kathy Wittmer. “When we reached that point it was a wonderful feeling but we feel we still have to be extra cautious. We know what it is and that it can spread again.”
The coronavirus took a big toll on the residents and the caregivers at Ketcham.
“We celebrated life here,” said Wittmer. “We went from giving out hugs to people we considered family members to putting them in isolation and only dealing with them while wearing PPE. It became like your worst nightmare. Words cannot express how extremely difficult it became. We were so close to those residents that we lost and we really have not had a chance to grieve. We are still trying to wrap our heads around what happened here.”
She points to the community support as one of the big reasons Ketcham is able to carry on.
“The community has been so good to us and the staff,” said Wittmer. “We are so thankful for their support.”
“I feel better with things improving there,” added Sullender. “I know no one wants to see a repeat there or in any of our nursing home facilities of a situation like that.”
With some of the restrictions being loosened around the state, there is a growing concern that there could still be a problem with the virus moving forward.
“I am afraid that as more things open up, people will become laxer on their precautions,” said Sullender. “We know we are going to see more cases. We just don’t know how it is going to play out.”
“That relaxing of restrictions makes me nervous,” added Wittmer. “With this disease it is so different. You don’t know if the person standing next to you is a carrier and they don’t even know it. I spent six weeks without seeing my grandchildren. I am still nervous about going out. We are going to move very slowly when it comes to reopening our facility to the public. We don’t want to go through that heartache again. When it comes to people going out, put on the mask and keep up the precautions. Let’s do it right. It might save your life.”