A jump in positive COVID tests results and the identification of hot spots in the community has led to some new rules from the Daviess County Health Department.

Dr. Merle Holsopple, Daviess County health officer, has suspended all indoor visitations at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The Daviess County Health Department has reported an outbreak of COVID in an unnamed assisted living facility in the county.

“We have had 35 new cases in the last week,” said Daviess County Public Health Nurse Kathy Sullender. “We are trying to protect people who are at the highest risk. We also have reports of outbreaks from churches. It just seems like any place people are gathering.”

The Indiana State Department of Health reports that while 25.5% of people age 60 and over are reported as testing positive to the coronavirus, that same group of people represent 92% of those dying from the virus. The state reports that about half those deaths were nursing home patients.

While the action has closed the doors at some nursing homes, the health department order means a continuation of the visitation policy at Ketcham Memorial.

Ketcham was hard hit by the COVID virus when the disease first began. The nursing facility in Odon had several patients and staff members infected by the disease and it resulted in many of the 20 deaths that have been reported in Daviess County. The facility has now been several weeks without a case of the coronavirus. Part of that is because the doors have remained closed to indoor visitors.

“We had not reopened from our fight with COVID earlier this year,” said Ketcham Memorial Administrator Kathy Wittmer. “We started seeing a lot of spikes in the virus around us. I was not about to let it back into the building again.”

While Ketcham has begun allowing some outside visitation, the disease and the limitations it has left behind on both the residents and the staff is making an impact.

“It has been very difficult on the residents,” said Wittmer. “The families have been very good. We try to have staff on hand during a visitation and all of our visitations are booked. It is also hard on the residents because before the disease they could go visit with each other in their rooms and we would get out in the community and go places and now we can’t do those things. It has taken a great toll on our patients.”

The toll on the staff has also been stiff.

“This has really put extra pressure on our staff,” said Wittmer. “We just received a grant for some mental health counseling for our staff. We will just never be the same. The number of people we lost and those who were sick changed our lives completely. The staff here need that extra help. They and the residents have suffered a lot. They have lost a lot of friends.”

Sullender points out that the outbreaks in the last few weeks have raised the total number of COVID cases to more that 260.

“They are all over the county,” she said. “We have cases in Plainville, Montgomery, Odon and Alfordsville, everywhere, all across the board. This order for the nursing homes is to try and keep the coronavirus out of those facilities.

“We want to prevent the spread of the disease,” said Sullender. “We also want to try and prevent any more deaths.”

At Ketcham, with its recent history, they understand the need for the order to keep visitors out of the nursing homes. Right now, there is little expectation for that need to change until the disease is brought into check.

“We really want to have indoor visits,” said Wittmer. “We want things to go back to normal. But first we have to see the infection numbers flatten. I’m all for people being as free as they want to be, but they need to deal with the virus. They have to wear a mask. They have to social distance and they have to wash their hands and use sanitizer. They have to do these things until we get this under control. We know this COVID is for real and I feel for any facility where COVID shows up.”

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