NOBLE COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – A day after Allen County’s health commissioner issued an advisory to wear a mask indoors regardless of vaccination status, another county in northeast Indiana is following suit.
In a phone interview with WANE 15, Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff says a significant increase in COVID-19 cases has strained Parkview Noble Hospital.
“Their volume of patients has increased enormously over the last several days to the point that they’re at capacity and looking for the ability to transfer patients elsewhere,” Dr. Gaff said.
Due to the high volume of patients, Dr. Gaff is urging Noble County residents to not go to Parkview Noble Hospital for a COVID-19 test. Instead, they should call the health department or visit the clinic at the county’s public library in Albion.
Dr. Gaff issued the following statement to residents on Tuesday morning.
In agreement with and support of the advisory published by the Allen County Health Commissioner as well as on the basis of the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the following advisory is issued to the citizens of Noble County.
We continue to be in the midst of a global pandemic of COVID-19 that has taken more than 600,000 American lives. Despite safe and effective vaccines being readily available, the vaccination rates for Indiana and Noble County lag behind the national average. There is currently a significant surge in COVID-19 cases in Noble County and Indiana, which is coupled with an increase in hospitalizations. This is related to the Delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which appears to spread more easily than the original novel coronavirus.
Because of our current situation, Noble County residents should take the following actions:
- Get vaccinated – All three vaccines are safe, effective, and remain the most important tool in reducing your personal risk of severe disease and protecting the hospitals and healthcare workers. As of today, the Pfizer vaccine has full Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for people aged 16 years and older. (Emergency Use Authorization continues for ages 12-15.)
- Wear a mask indoors – Noble County is an area of HIGH COVID-19 spread, and CDC recommends universal masking in areas of HIGH or SUBSTANTIAL spread, regardless of vaccination status. The current level of spread can be visualized here: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#county-view
- Masking in K-12 schools regardless of vaccination status– While children are at lower risk for hospitalization and death, this is not a benign illness in children. Children under 12 are not yet eligible for any of the vaccines. Children who are infected can easily spread the disease in their households and are an important driver of overall community spread. Vaccinations and masks are our best tools for keeping schools open for in person instruction. I urge school boards and heads of school to implement universal masking in K-12 schools as recommended by the CDC, IDOH and AAP.
It is critically important that we not overwhelm our healthcare systems or our healthcare workers. We have an obligation to our families, our friends, and our community to protect one another from infection and disease during this COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Gaff says the department stopped short of mandating masks in the county. Instead, he hopes county residents will follow these guidelines themselves.
“We need to give people the opportunity to, and the freedom to, make decisions for themselves,” Dr. Gaff said. “But we want to encourage them to make their decisions that we feel are (necessary) to educate them.”
Noble County has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the state with less than 40% of residents fully vaccinated. The county is also under “orange” status on the state department of health’s COVID-19 dashboard due to a high rate of new cases and positivity rates.