Though better than rest of state, Putnam COVID cases still on rise

Thursday, November 19, 2020
According to the latest COVID-19 metrics released by the Indiana State Department of Health on Wednesday, Putnam County’s combination of new cases and positivity rate is the best in the state. However, new data from this week also indicates a rising number of local cases.
Graphic courtesy ISDH

It’s true: Putnam County is the yellow spot in a sea of orange and red counties on the latest Indiana State Department of Health report regarding the state of COVID-19 around the state.

With a rating of 1.5, Putnam is the only county in the state rated as yellow in its weekly score, the second-lowest level of alarm in the metric that takes into account weekly cases per 100,000 residents and seven-day positivity rate.

There are no blue counties (0 or 0.5 score) in the state, with Putnam as the only yellow (1 or 1.5), 70 orange counties (2 or 2.5) and 21 red counties (3).

For the week ending Nov. 15, Putnam had 295 new cases per 100,000 residents (for a score of 2) and a positivity rate of 4.3 percent (a score of 1), for an average of 1.5.

For Putnam County’s 38,000-plus residents, that translates to 111 new cases during the week of Nov. 9-15.

However, it’s unclear how long such numbers will hold with more recent data reported by ISDH.

Following the relatively small number of cases reported on Monday and Tuesday (nine each day), Putnam on Wednesday reported 44 new cases, tying the largest single-day increase since the pandemic began, the same as when an outbreak at Putnamville Correctional Facility drove the numbers on Aug. 5.

There appears to be no current outbreak at Putnamville. As of Thursday afternoon, the Indiana Department of Correction was reporting eight offenders in isolation as possibly suffering from COVID-19, while four others were in quarantine for possible exposure.

All told, 251 Putnamville offenders and 56 staff members have tested positive since the beginning of the pandemic in March. One staff member passed away from COVID-19 last month.

No, these cases seem to be in the community, with 1,090 Putnam County residents having now tested positive for COVID-19.

A total of 25 county residents have died. Of these, 16 (64 percent) were 80 years old or older, while six others (24 percent) were 70-79. One each were 40-49, 50-59 and 60-69.

Across District 7, which includes Vermillion, Parke, Putnam, Vigo, Clay, Owen, Sullivan and Greene counties, 42.9 percent of ICU beds remain available, while 78.5 percent of ventilators are available.

However, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients from the districts is at 100, the highest it has been at any point in the pandemic.

Back here in the county, Greencastle Community Schools is the only corporation currently experiencing any sort of closure due to the pandemic.

On Wednesday, GCSC announced that all students in middle school and high school would be on at-home learning until the Thanksgiving holiday. After break, these students will be on a hybrid model in which half of the students attend in person on Monday and Thursday and the other half attend on Tuesday and Friday.

All students are expected to complete assignments from home on the other weekdays, including everyone on Wednesday.

The move was necessitated by a staff shortage due to contact tracing. At this point, GCSC has reallocated staff members to the three elementary schools to keep these students attending school in person.

Supt. Jeff Gibboney said there are eight current active COVID-19 cases in the corporation between staff members and students.

Since the beginning of school, GCSC has had six students and five staff members test positive, according to the Putnam County Health Department.

In the other corporations, North Putnam has had nine student positives and five staff members. Cloverdale has had four students and three staff members. South Putnam has had three students and two staff members.

At DePauw University, where in-person classes will conclude Friday and not resume until March 1, there were 10 active cases on campus as of Thursday afternoon. Nine students were in isolation, while 45 others were in quarantine.

With Thanksgiving coming next week and cases on the rise, citizens around the country have been encouraged by health and governmental officials to limit their holiday gatherings. On Wednesday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb joined a bipartisan group of governors from Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota in penning a Washington Post op-ed urging Americans to stay home on Thanksgiving.

“Right now, cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing in the Midwest and across the country,” the group wrote. “As the weather gets colder and more people head inside, it will get worse. It is more important than ever that we double down on mask-wearing and physical distancing to help more people get through the winter and protect those on the front lines of this crisis — our doctors, nurses, grocery store workers and truck drivers.”

On Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control also recommended against travel.

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  • With DePauw students soon to go home, I can only imagine our positivity rate will soon increase and show it's true number, since DePauw will no longer be random testing students at the same rate as they are now. Those random tests make our county positivity number lower than it truly is.

    -- Posted by gfd622 on Thu, Nov 19, 2020, at 4:16 PM
  • People in our community are still holding birthday parties and other social you really think they will stay at home for Thanksgiving?

    -- Posted by kbmom on Thu, Nov 19, 2020, at 9:22 PM
  • In light of all the comments regarding how badly Putnam County citizens are behaving, the rest of the state must be flat out awful in their behavior.

    -- Posted by beg on Fri, Nov 20, 2020, at 9:18 AM
  • At Beg - it’s awful everywhere!

    -- Posted by GladysK on Fri, Nov 20, 2020, at 3:29 PM
  • Every time I go to Walmart there are people all over the store not wearing masks. It is posted on the door that it is mandatory to wear a mask, but they don't follow through. And people wonder why people are still getting sick. Are all Walmart's this way or just herein Greencastle?

    -- Posted by Queen53 on Fri, Nov 20, 2020, at 8:54 PM
  • Walmart employees across the board have been instructed not to confront customers who refuse to wear masks. They don’t want to be on the next viral video.

    With all these anti-maskers and such low numbers here, I be has to wonder just what kind of line we’ve been fed about Covid and masks.

    -- Posted by techphcy on Sun, Nov 22, 2020, at 4:19 PM
  • WalMart home office in Arkansas says ever store is required to wear mask or service will be refused. I have talked to the home office personally myself. Our store manager must be afraid of a fight or confrontation. So to prevent anything happening he chooses to let customers do whatever they want- including letting his employees get COVID.

    -- Posted by Nit on Sun, Nov 22, 2020, at 10:32 PM
  • Techphcy. Possible you have not lost anyone dear to you or a family member due to COVID. It hurts and this virus is real.

    -- Posted by Nit on Sun, Nov 22, 2020, at 10:35 PM
  • I didn’t say the virus isn’t real. I said the masks might not be helping. Those are two entirely different things.

    -- Posted by techphcy on Mon, Nov 23, 2020, at 8:12 AM
  • Did you try googling “Walmart mask policy” and reading any of the first page of results?

    -- Posted by techphcy on Mon, Nov 23, 2020, at 8:14 AM
  • I believe masks DO help. I wear a mask to protect you, you wear a mask to protect me.

    So many social media posts where gatherings are happening, without masks. Going out to eat...can’t obviously wear a mask to eat, leaving you vulnerable. Sporting unmasked while competing. Hmmm, maybe the virus is dormant while competing unmasked? Insert eye roll.

    Let’s not stop living, but let’s scale WAY back to help stop some of the spread. This “it won’t happen to me and if it does, it won’t be bad” or just ignoring the health departments close contact tracing is ridiculous, in my opinion. I’ve witnessed enough of the ignoring to know what I’m talking about.

    -- Posted by kbmom on Mon, Nov 23, 2020, at 8:58 AM
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