Officials provide update to St. Joseph County’s COVID-19 response

NOW: Officials provide update to St. Joseph County’s COVID-19 response

SOUTH BEND, Ind.— St. Joseph County and City of South Bend officials held a press conference on Thursday to provide an update to their joint response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox, St. Joseph County Commissioner President Andy Kostielney, COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Rea, Rep. Jackie Walorski, and Mayor James Mueller all spoke at the press conference.

As of Thursday, there were 154 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in St. Joseph County.

Fox said that an additional death has been reported in St. Joseph County, bringing the county’s total to two COVID-19 related deaths, Fox said.

An elderly woman in St. Joseph County, who was tested in March, died following a prolonged hospitalization on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday night, 19 people in St. Joseph County were hospitalized with coronavirus.

About 36.8% of patients who require hospitalization in the county are in the 60-69 age range.

The average wait time for tests is about five days. 

Fox added that health officials are hoping to make testing more available on the west side of the county.

“Here in St. Joseph County, we’re seeing a significant flattening of the curve,” Fox said, adding that while the data is encouraging to him, he is asking that community members continue to take protective measures, such as practicing social distancing and limiting errands to only those that are essential.

Fox said that people should not gather for religious celebrations and instead attend services virtually. 

Mueller mentioned that the South Bend Police Department were called to a party over the weekend to break it up.

“Cancel them now before we cancel them for you,” Mueller said, adding that the community must continue using social distancing measures.

Mueller said that the area is still a “few weeks away from the peak.”

As for upcoming religious holidays, Mueller echoed Fox in saying that physical gatherings of any kind could threaten community members’ safety.

“Those considering holding in-person services must find an alternative,” Mueller said.

The city’s Best. Week. Ever. event has been postponed and will no longer take place in early June, Mueller said.

Walorski mentioned the recent passing of the C.A.R.E.S. Act, which would involve the rolling out of assistance programs including stimulus checks for many Americans and the expansion of unemployment benefits.

The COVID-19 Response Coordinator for the city and county, Rea, has been in the newly created role for about a week.

Rea said officials are working to identify overflow facilities or isolation facilities that could be needed in the future. 

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