Health Officer answers questions about COVID-19, medical resources in Indiana
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. – ABC57 spoke with the Deputy Health Officer for St. Joseph County, Dr. Mark Fox, about the uncertainties surrounding COVID-19 and how medical resources are being utilized.
We asked Dr. Fox several questions regarding issues with how hospitals and the government are addressing the crisis, as well how Michiana is experiencing the impacts of the pandemic and what he advises everyone to do to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
New York is expecting the peak there this week – but what’s the best estimate you have for a peak here in our area in Michiana – are we getting closer yet?
Dr. Mark Fox, Deputy Health Officer for St. Joseph County:
I do think we’re getting closer – the best modeling data suggests that the peak resource utilization in Indiana will be in about 11 or 12 days. That largely reflects the burden of illness in Indianapolis right now. Based at what we’re looking at for our region, we’re expecting it’ll be more like 3 weeks before we see the peak here in our area.
Do you have estimates on how bad it’ll get at that point?
It’s very hard to project. One of the issues that we’re really concerned about and focused on is the virus doesn’t respect county boundaries. The area hospitals in St. Joseph County likely will see patients from surrounding counties and southwest Michigan and others coming in to our facilities, especially for intensive care purposes. We’re trying to model based on the catchment areas of the hospitals, and we’re really planning for additional bed capacity of several hundred, even up to five hundred additional beds – beyond what the hospitals can provide.
Health experts are recommending everybody where those homemade masks now. Are you suggesting that for people in St. Joseph County and why not the more medical-style mask?
The medical-style masks will do a much better job of reducing the amount of virus that is transmitted in expired air, but we really need the medical-grade masks for healthcare workers, because we have to keep medical workers safe and protected or our influx in this region will be even more profound. The cloth, fabric masks probably offer some benefits – there’s not great data about that – but my concern about the masks is it should be in addition to other measures, such as staying at home, only going out in public for essential functions, and when you do, to observe strict guidance about physical distancing. The staying at home and observing physical distancing will have much more impact than the cloth mask will do, so I don’t want people to be overconfident and think they’re invincible because they’re wearing a cloth mask.