In her first
address to the Porter County Commissioners since March 17, Health Officer
Maria Stamp reported on Tuesday, July 14, that citizens' self-quarantining
during the lockdown went a long way to flattening the COVID-19 curve in the
"We lost jobs," she
said. "We felt isolated, anxious, and depressed. But the collective
sacrifice made great strides toward flattening the curve of COVID-19 and
controlling the virus. This, in combination with increased testing, allowed
the stay-at-home order to be lifted incrementally. In May and June, our
infection rates were at their lowest in three months. We were able to
preserve hospital capacity and obtain personal protection equipment. Porter
County had its lowest test positivity rate at the beginning of June."
however, the test positivity rate has risen sharply, driven by new cases
among the younger demographics. "A much larger portion of these new cases is
in the younger age groups, under 30," Stamp noted. "Young people must
understand that even though they may have few symptoms and no complications
from COVID, they can spread the infection to their parents, grandparents,
and those they work with. Increased cases in youth may jeopardize the
ability to open school for in-class instruction."
observed--as the Chesterton Tribune has been reporting for some
weeks--that the surge in new cases has not yet been accompanied by increased
hospitalizations or deaths. "Some wonder if the virus has changed, become
more contagious but less deadly," she said. "COVID-19 has not become less
deadly. Currently, in many states, COVID-19 is overwhelming ICUs and death
rates are climbing. Indiana's hospitalization rate has increased some.
Porter County's hospitalization rate will also increase if we are not
"The point is," as
Stamp put it baldly, "our behavior today affects hospitalizations and death
rates three weeks to two months from now. The ripple effect can be
Department's "expectation," accordingly, is that those gathered in public
wear face coverings. "It is known that face coverings can decrease the
spread of the virus from asymptomatic and mildly symptomatic patients,"
Stamp said. "We know that the risk of transmission when people are outdoors
is much lower than when indoors. Crowds or any mass gatherings, however,
whether indoors or outdoors, greatly increase the risk of disease spread.
The science is clear. Keep distance, at least six feet when possible, even
when outdoors. And wear a mask in public especially when social-distancing
is not possible."
Where to wear
-- In offices and
factories employees who sit and work together in close proximity should wear
-- In retail
establishments shoppers and employees alike should wear masks.
-- In restaurants,
where employees already are required to wear masks, diners should as well,
when entering or exiting the establishment.
-- In schools,
parents, administrators, and teachers should "create the culture and
expectation that face coverings be worn and can be tolerated in the learning
believe that the people of Porter County will cooperate for our collective
well-being and safety," Stamp concluded her remarks. "I have confidence that
the people of Porter County can do the right thing. We will remain vigilant
at the PCHD and advise the county leadership as the trends in our local data
rise or fall. Today's takeaway is that we have a responsibility to work
together to protect each other. Keep your distance. Wear your face covering.
Wash your hands. Support one another. Persevere.”
Health Officer Maria Stamp is urging school districts in the county to adopt
COVID-19 policies which include the mandatory wearing of masks by all
faculty, staff, and students throughout the school day.
plan for school to re-open safely needs to include the requirement or
expectation that face coverings be worn throughout the school day by
students and staff,” according to a letter of communication to school
superintendents released on Friday. “It is reasonable to schedule mask-free
time during the day, perhaps at recess or during very quiet study or test
time, but not during general class time where discussions cause teachers to
speak out to the back row or students turn to look at those responding to
questions. The small number of situations where face coverings might be
removed should be defined if possible to limit confusion. We can create the
expectation that masks will be worn in school and can be tolerated during
the school day.”
“Consistent wear of
masks in our schools, along with rigorous social-distancing, may be the only
way schools successfully re-open for significant stretches of time during
the 2020-21 school year,” Stamp emphasized.
responding to what she called “great concerns among both parents and staff”
that most school re-entry plans “are worded such that the use of face
coverings is up to individual teachers or just recommended.’
Stamp added that
the "culture of wearing masks will be more difficult to develop in the
younger classes and may be near impossible in certain settings, e.g. some
SELF school classes. "However," Stamp said, "the growing body of scientific
evidence is tipping toward the benefit of wearing masks when in group
settings like schools."
"We are seeing that
children in day camps where masks are mandatory are finding it possible,
even among younger ages, to learn to wear masks most of the day without ill
effect," Stamp said. "To those who say that masks are touched and become
soiled during the day, I would respond that the protection afforded from
respiratory droplets significantly outweighs the risk of disease spread from
touching the mask, especially if hands are frequently washed. Also, as
students become more accustomed to wearing face coverings, they will be
touched and adjusted less frequently.”