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Sullivan County moves to RED status, the highest COVID-19 designation


Sullivan County Health Department Health Officer Dr. Michael Gamble
predicted on Monday in his report to the county commissioners that Sullivan
County would move from an Orange to Red status for COVID-19 per the Indiana
State Department of Health.

Gamble's prediction came true.

Sullivan County is now one of 21 Red counties statewide due to having the
highest 7-day all tests positivity rates — all are over 15%, with Sullivan
County at 18.3% on Thursday.

The county has seen an upsurge in positive case numbers in November, rising
from 500 on Nov. 1 to 759 in the latest ISDH numbers on Thursday.

Commissioners' president Bob Davis asked Gamble about his department's
contact tracing, noting the department is shortstaffed, but asked if it has
also been a struggle because people aren't responding.

"That's part of it … at the state level and the local level," Gamble said.
"The state dumps (information) into a system and they get a text message
and a call from the state, but the state is overwhelmed. They are not able
to complete (contact tracing) either.

"So they're dumping it onto the local health department. But right now
we're having 20 and 25 cases per day. These calls are one, two or three
hours sometimes."

Gamble said the average number of close contacts per individual case is
about six, but several are higher.

Due to contact tracing, he said his department has been unable to do their
regular health programs, such as safe sleep, car seats, safety or cancer

Gamble told the commissioners on Monday the 7-day positivity rate for
Sullivan County was 17.3% percent — 18.3% on Thursday — "which is pretty
high. And our case numbers are high. So you look at the numbers and do the
math, we will probably turn red this week as far as the county color code

Davis had asked Gamble if this is just a reflection of increased testing.

"And the answer is no, it's sick people," Gamble replied. "So the hospital
graph shows that. It's at an all-time high in Indiana for the past week."

Gamble emphasized people should wear masks in all public situations.

"If you wear your mask, you're probably 70% less likely to get sick," he

Gamble shared with the commissioners statistics from a COVID-19 Event Risk
Assessment Planning Tool, acknowledging all numbers are not known based on
the testing.

"But if there's an event with 10 people in it in Sullivan County tonight,
there's a 26% chance  somebody in the room has COVID. If there's 25 people
in the room, there's a 54% chance somebody in the room has COVID. And 50
people in the room it's 78%, based on our numbers."

Gamble also told the commissioners he planned to asked the county council
for their advice as far as what to do on the CARES Act Version 2 funding.

"The governor called last Wednesday, they were sending $20 million to local
counties, cities and towns," he said. "There has been no mention of what
they plan to do with that or the guidance for that. I haven't heard
anything about that yet."

Commissioner John Waterman Sr. asked if the COVID-19 surge going on now is
milder than the earlier surge.

"I don't know if I would say that," Gamble said. "There's talk it's less
virulent, but the natural history is people get sick. And those people,
it's the second week they get hospitalized … it's 20% get hospitalized and
5% get really, really sick and maybe a 0.6% death rate."

Gamble said staffing for ambulance services, noting hospitals in some parts
of Indiana are completely covered up.

"And the progression means it's going to get worse for those hospitals," he

Gamble stressed everybody should heed the following ISDH guidelines when
your county is in Red status:

• Social gatherings of any kinds, indoors or outside, are limited to 25

• Indoor special, seasonal or commercial events are not advised to be held.
A special, seasonal or commercial event for which more than 25 people are
requested to be in attendance must submit a plan for the local health
department and receive approval before proceeding. College and professional
sports are included

• Vulnerable populations should remain isolated. Social and holiday
gathering participation is not advised

• All business capacity must adhere to strict social distancing guidelines;
curbside pickup is preferred

• Local officials may consider limiting hours for the operation of bars,
nightclubs and restaurants

• Senior center activities are suspended

• Hospitals, long-term care and other congregate settings may impose
visitation limits

• Common areas and break rooms should be closed

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