As Tippecanoe County officials prepare for local COVID-19 vaccinations, their warnings for caution continued Wednesday as case counts stay high and hospitals brace for the possibility of more holiday-season patients in the coming weeks.
“I think one of the biggest challenges is: we have to get through the next month,” said Dr. Dan Wickert, vice president of medical affairs at Franciscan Health Lafayette. “And we’re concerned about where our numbers will go in the next month, particularly with Christmas coming up.”
IU Health Arnett Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jim Bien said whether hospitals have to bear that additional pressure in the coming weeks -- and prepare for the worst --depends upon the community.
“So it will happen, unless people sacrifice the traditions that they’ve wanted to turn on this year, and they give up what they’ve previously done, and they follow the guidelines that Dr. Adler has continued to emphasize,” Bien said. “Or it will happen. And we’re prepared. But it doesn’t have to happen.”
The Indiana State Department of Health reported 171 additional COVID-19 cases in Tippecanoe County in its Wednesday update, and one additional death. The county’s case total Wednesday was at 12,873, with 52 confirmed deaths. The county remained in the state’s orange category this week, though Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said the county’s high testing positivity rates pushed it close to red. Local health department contact tracing also established that since Thanksgiving, 212 confirmed cases in the age ranges of 60 and over and 18 and below were directly tied to attendance at a gathering for that holiday, though the department estimates that the number of cases connected to Thanksgiving could be even higher.
“Really, in general, we’re looking at widespread community transmission,” said Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler. “So the virus is really -- it’s everywhere. It’s reached every corner of our community, and we all need to take appropriate precautions to keep ourselves healthy.”
Adler urged the same holiday precautions in the coming weeks: avoid gatherings with people outside of your household, and if you choose to gather, wear masks and socially distance.
Adler also outlined the four stages of Indiana’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, which begins with the inoculation of healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff before transitioning into vulnerable and at-risk groups, residents of correctional facilities or group homes and critical workers, and the general population.
Adler said the health department is currently working on obtaining a large, indoor space for its own vaccination clinic; IU Health Arnett has been designated as a vaccination site for healthcare workers. Vaccinations for long-term care facilities will be handled by local pharmacies beginning Dec. 28.
Adler said the timing of phases two and three was “unknown,” but added it had been estimated it could occur in late winter or early spring.