ANDERSON — Madison County is in the midst of the largest surge of positive coronavirus cases since the pandemic started in March.
“Our biggest concern is complacency,” Stephenie Grimes, administrator of the Madison County Health Department, said.
“I’m begging the community to wash their hands, social distance and wear a mask,” she said “It’s the small gatherings that are killing us.”
This past week the athletic director for Madison-Grant United Schools went through the grandstands at a basketball game telling spectators they had to wear a mask.
Locally, on Election Day, hundreds of people stood in line for hours waiting to vote with most not following the social distancing guidelines or wearing masks.
The Madison County Health Department is conducting three COVID-19 testing clinics this week on Tuesday in Anderson and Thursday in Anderson, Alexandria and Elwood.
“The idea is mass testing prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings in hope we catch positives cases of people that may be asymptomatic,” Grimes said. “Then they know prior to holiday gatherings and can prevent infecting others.”
The county reported an additional 104 cases and three deaths on Friday.
“I have been checking with both hospitals,” Grimes said. “They are not at capacity. There has been an increase in the number of hospitalizations and the intensive care unit beds being used.”
There was a concern that as colder temperatures arrived and people were staying indoors and in conjunction with the annual flu season the coronavirus cases would increase.
Officials also anticipated an increase in cases when schools started.
“We do have more cases among school-age children,” Grimes said. “We believe most of it is from after-school activities.”
She thinks that Gov. Eric Holcomb moved the state too quickly to Stage 5, which allowed most of the state’s businesses to reopen with some restrictions.
“People thought we were out of the pandemic,” Grimes said. “People became complacent.
“There is a way to live life and do it safely,” she said of the pandemic.
The Indiana State Department of Health data through Wednesday showed that of the 3,473 cases in the county, 54% of them were reported in October and November.
According to state figures, Madison County experienced the first surge in April and May with a downturn in June.
The numbers started a dramatic increase in August with 2,820 positive cases since then.
Of the county’s 111 reported deaths by the state through Wednesday, 50 took place in April, followed by 22 in October.
Jonathan Hughes, the Madison County attorney, said he was waiting to see the new guidelines announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb to combat the most recent surge.
“I’m advising local officials to wait for the governor’s guidelines,” he said.
The Anderson City Building has been closed since March and most of the Madison County Government Center offices are open by appointment only.
Madison County is considered in the middle of the three designations for the coronavirus cases in Indiana.
The restrictions that took effect on Sunday in 87 of the state’s 92 counties, including Madison, include: Limit indoor and outdoor gatherings to 50 people — that includes all extracurricular activities, exempts places of worship; businesses will be required to notify patrons the wearing of a mask is required; customers in restaurants and bars must be spaced 6 feet apart; and community sports leagues are limited to participants and required officials.
“The next problem is if the county is designed red,” Grimes said. “If we get to red we will have to implement restrictions.
“Unless we want to move to red we have to take preventative measures,” she said. “Everyone has a responsibility. We all have a role.”
Health officials are concerned about the upcoming holiday season starting with Thanksgiving Day on Nov. 26.
Grimes said the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to only be with people who live in your household.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.