PRINCETON — COVID-19 infections continue to rise in Gibson County, with 19 new cases reported here Wednesday by the Indiana State Department of Health.
Gibson County’s rolling seven-day positivity rates are second-highest in the state, at 19.7% for all tests, and 22.3% among people tested for the first time.
As of Wednesday, some 4,607 cases including 96 deaths have been reported among 15,951 Gibson Countians tested.
The county remains at the “orange” level, for moderate to severe spread of the virus, for a second week, according to the latest update from ISDH.
Some 12,044 residents, or 42.7% of the county’s eligible population, have been fully vaccinated. Another 33 residents have received their first dose of the vaccine.
The vaccine is available to anyone age 12 and older. Gibson County Health Department Nurse Administrator Diane Hornby said Tuesday that her agency has two-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as well as the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine available, free of charge.
Hornby said her department offers a Wednesday vaccine clinic, no appointment required, and she’s considering offering another vaccination clinic to see that more people are vaccinated.
“Our COVID-19 cases are going up,” she told Gibson County Commissioners Tuesday night, noting that the case count for June was 38, and in the first half of July, some 112 cases have been recorded. “We are seeing some of the new variant,” she said. “We had a little bit of an outbreak in one of our longterm care facilities, but it was really only about six or seven people. It is pretty much in our community, it’s not just the longterm care facilities that we’re having problems with.”
Hornby said she met with the county’s three school superintendents to discuss COVID-19 safety protocols. She said CDC guidelines and and ISDH guidelines recommend that all unvaccinated people should be wearing masks in public settings.
“We recommended that kids age 12 and under, who are unvaccinated — and especially with high rate of spread — we definitely feel like they should be going in with masks. Then if gets better, we can always back off,” she said.
Hornby said she’s received come calls related to service workers in the county with concerns about whether they need to quarantine if they’re not vaccinated and exposed to COVID-19 as an essential worker.
Hornby said she received some input from the state, and told county commissioners, “As a county, we should have enough staff vaccinated that any public service worker who is not vaccinated and is exposed on the job (EMT, firefighters, police) should quarantine for at least seven days.”
Hornby reminded public service workers of the weekly vaccine clinic at the health department. She noted that Gibson County government employees who are not vaccinated will have to use sick time in order to be paid, rather than the COVID-19 pay previously offered, since that offer has expired.
“As a public service worker myself, I believe it’s our responsibility to take care of the public,” she said. “For police and firefighters, it is their duty to take care of the public and it is their duty to get vaccinated,” she said. “As commissioners, I would ask you to encourage the public to get vaccinated. We’re going to see deaths again if we don’t get a hold on this,” she cautioned.
Hornby said if the community spread continues, the health department may need to restrict the size of events in the community, such as wedding receptions and other gatherings. “People have come out of weddings that are positive,” Hornby said. “Any time you have a large event, especially indoors, there’s a real risk, even if you’re vaccinated...”
Hornby said the county COVID-19 testing site at the fairgrounds closed in June, and the 4-H building that housed vaccination and testing clinics is not available. “Since it closed, we have had a spike in cases and every day we have someone coming to be tested,” she said. “I have made some calls to ISDH about reopening the testing site. We were given $100,000 to run the site, and we still have about $50,000 left. I have the staff that will work it, I just have to find another site,” she told commissioners.
Hornby said she thinks it’s important to offer free testing in the county, because the testing offered through Deaconess can cost $139 if it is not covered by insurance.
Commissioners agreed the county should reopen a testing clinic when a site can be found.
In this area, Knox County reports three new cases for a total 3,865 cases including 91 deaths among 15,615 people tested; Daviess County no new cases for a total 3,080 cases including 100 deaths among 13,201 people tested; Pike County one new case for a total 1,406 cases including 34 deaths among 5,554 people tested; Dubois County no new cases for a total 6,251 cases including 118 deaths among 21,468 people tested; Warrick County 22 new cases for a total 8,005 cases including 157 deaths among 33,742 people tested; Vanderburgh County 59 new cases for a total 23,035 cases including 404 deaths among 103,191 people tested; and Posey County five new cases for a total 2,797 cases including 35 deaths among 11,057 people tested.