The COVID-19 virus is a persistent organism that is sticking around in our region, the nation and the world. Many people want to wish us to a time when we don’t have to worry about mass infections that would overwhelm our local hospitals, but that is a dangerous stance to take.

After reaching a zenith of 957 positive cases of COVID-19 for June 14-19, Elkhart County case numbers began to decline — until this week, from Sunday to Friday of this week 272 new cases were reported in the county by the Indiana State Department of Health.

Local health care experts credit the regrowth of the pandemic in Elkhart County to the lack of precautions being taken by those who are choosing to socialize or mix among others in the community, such as when shopping.

DR. DANIEL NAFZIGER, Goshen Hospital’s chief medical officer, pleaded this week for the public to help stem the spread of the virus. “We continue to ask our community to show support for our local health care providers, support staff and each other by taking every precaution possible, starting with wearing a mask in public,” he said.

Some COVID-19 statistics can easily fool the public into a false sense that everything is OK — that the risk of getting the infection is low. But let us caution, the statistics add up. For every COVID-19 patient who is hospitalized, a nurse, a bed and perhaps a ventilator are required for full-time care, local hospital officials have pointed out. This week’s numbers show Goshen Hospital alone had 15 COVID-19 patients.

Dr. Michelle Bache of Beacon Health Systems, which operates Elkhart General Hospital, said her hospital is also experiencing a surge in COVID-19 patients.

“The situation basically continues to get worse. We are having more positive cases,” she said. She added that if the need for ventilators and ICU beds continues to increase, it will be difficult for the hospital to provide non-COVID care to the community and surgeries. So, let’s not get to that point.

WE KNOW THAT there is a huge disagreement in the public realm about the effectiveness of cloth masks in protecting the wearer from the virus. It seems to us that those who don’t want to wear a mask us that argument to justify their action.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the wearing of face masks to prevent the spread of the virus by people who are not yet showing symptoms of infection.

The goal is to slow the spread of the virus from person to person so hospitals and health care workers are not overwhelmed and exhausted. Plus, health care workers, from ambulance crews to nurses, to hospital janitors, are all put at great risk of contracting the virus.

In addition, other front-line workers, like our friends and neighbors who sell us groceries, care for our children and sit near use in church, are also potential victims of the virus. Shouldn’t we be willing to don a mask for a little bit while shopping or attending gatherings to help protect them?

As the CDC puts it, “Your cloth face covering may protect them. Their cloth face covering may protect you.” That statement sums up the common-sense approach to slowing the spread of the virus. Do your part, wear a mask in public.
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