Late last week the number of deaths from COVID-19 in Jefferson County made a dramatic increase, jumping from 38 — which the number had been on for about a week — to the now current number of 62 — a 62% increase.
Although the higher death toll number does reflect how many Jefferson County residents have died with the virus, the jump in deaths was not truly a one-day surge. Instead, a statewide audit found previously uncounted deaths that were due to COVID-19 adding 1,507 deaths to the state’s COVID-19 death totals including the additional 38 in Jefferson County.
“There have been 62 resident deaths from COVID in all of Jefferson County, but they didn’t all die in our county,” said Jefferson County Health Department Administrator Tammy Monroe. She explained that local residents sometimes die in other locations, such as hospitals in other counties, and its takes some time for their deaths to be included in Jefferson County’s COVID data.
“We will get the death certificate for all that die in Jefferson County, but not if they pass away in another county,” Monroe said, noting the information still goes to the state. “If they don’t die in our county, we won’t know until the state notifies us.”
Similarly, because healthcare facilities in Jefferson County serve surrounding counties, Monroe noted those counties must wait to be notified by the state if any of their residents die in Jefferson County.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box said last week that many of the additional deaths were discovered during a year-end audit that entailed matching every death certificate with COVID-19 as a cause or contributing cause to a positive test.
In a press release, Box said, “Never before have local and state departments of health had to present data, in real time, before it was fully vetted. Since day one we have been committed to collecting and studying the data and ensuring data integrity so Hoosiers can rest assured that they are getting the accurate information.”
The new data on additional deaths created a muchmore bleak picture of the exponential climb in Indiana’s death rate. From June to September, the state averaged about 12 deaths per day as well as about 27 deaths per day in October, 64 in November, 94 in December and and 57 in January.
The state also reported that Jefferson County had 19 new cases of COVID-19, increasing the overall number to 2,835. So far 14,246 residents have been tested and the seven-day positivity percentage is currently 8.0% and the unique positivity rating is 14.5% — both improvements in the infection rate.
In Switzerland County, there were six new cases of COVID-19, increasing the overall number to 729. So far, 3,697 residents have been tested and the seven-day positivity is currently 15.9% and the unique positivity rating is 20.8%. A total of seven deaths have been attributed to the virus pandemic in Switzerland County.
Overall the state reported 58 new deaths and 1,065 new positive cases. So far there have been 640,744 positive cases overall and 11,459 deaths.
At last report, about 4,365 Jefferson County residents have received at least the first of two doses of the COVID vaccine. In Switzerland County, 755 have received at least the first of two doses of the vaccine.
In Kentucky, 1,532 new cases of COVID-19 were reported on Feb. 7, according to the Kentucky Department of Health. There have been 377,790 positive cases overall and 4,051 deaths including 31 new deaths. Carroll County has reported 833 cases of COVID-19 while Trimble County has reported 553 cases of COVID-19.
COVID vaccine and appointments for the vaccination are being taken by the state for the Jefferson County Health Department for residents age 65 and older, first responders and health care employees. Appointments must be scheduled by visiting www.ourshot.in.gov or calling 2-1-1.
For more information on COVID-19, you can visit the Indiana State Department of Health or the Kentucky Department of Health’s websites.
It was bitter cold last weekend, but the forecast is for even colder weather this week but the Salvation Army in Madison is ready to provide a warm place to sleep at night and a meal for those without shelter.
Salvation Army Lt. Stephanie Hartley said last weekend the warming shelter averaged one to three clients per night at the Salvation Army building, 331 East Main Street.
“This year that’s about what we have had,” Hartley said, noting daytime temperatures have been in the 30s and 40s but colder last weekend.
She thinks the forecast for even colder temperatures ahead will result in more people needing the warming shelter. “This coming weekend, we’re supposed to have an arctic blast coming in, and with it being even colder, I think we will have a higher number.”
Operating the Salvation Army and warming shelter has been a challenge over the last few months amid COVID concerns and the impact the virus has had on the community both as a health and financial crisis.
She said she is grateful for the community’s support. The warming shelter was funded for the winter through pledges and donations and the organization’s Red kettle drive, held during the Christmas season, collected $126,899.01 — slightly more than the $115,000 goal.
“It was amazing with how everything has been,” Hartley said.
She said the facility is well equipped with supplies and has 36 cots, along with blankets and food to easily meet the warming shelters’ needs based on past history.
“Our biggest need is volunteers,” Hartley said., adding that the availability of volunteers is critical to the Salvation Army’s ability to provide the shelter in Madison.
Hartley and her husband, Lt. Justin Hartley, were appointed to serve at the Madison Salvation Army in the summer of 2019. And while a number of volunteers have stepped up, even more are needed.
“We have roughly 20 trained volunteers, but it takes six to run at night,” she said, and it becomes challenging if the same people are needed to volunteer on multiple nights in a row, particularly for those with families and work responsibilities. “It would be amazing if we could have 50 to 60 volunteers,” she said. “It would take the stress off the volunteers that we have now” particularly during cold waves when the shelter might be open for several consecutive days.
Clients needing shelter must check-in starting at 7:30 p.m. with check-out by 7 the next morning. There are two volunteer work shifts from 7:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. that involves registration and assisting with dinner service and the other from 1:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m., which involves overseeing the facility, and helping tear down the shelter and set up to prepare breakfast since the shelter and dining room occupy the same space.
To volunteer, participants are required to complete a two-hour Safe from Harm training, which provides four years certification. The training provides education on interaction with clients. Additionally, volunteer are encouraged, but not required, to take five hours of Emergency Disaster Services training.
“It’s not mandated but we like them to have that, so they have the full picture” of what they might encounter as volunteers, Hartley said.
Anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Salvation Army at 812-265-2157.
A Columbus man and a North Vernon man were both arrested recently in connection with unrelated sex crimes that allegedly took place in Jennings County.
William Wyatt, 31, of Columbus, was arrested by the Jenning County Sheriff’s Department on Saturday, Feb. 6, following an investigation into alleged undisclosed sex crimes in Geneva Township, based in Scipio, Indiana.
Deputies responding to a report of a sex crime at a Geneva Township residence charged Wyatt after conducting an investigation. Wyatt was located and arrested in Bartholomew County and lodged in the Jennings County Jail on Level 3, Level 5 and Level 6 felonies and is being held without bond, according to the JCSO.
Citing efforts to protect the identity of the alleged victim, the sheriff’s office declined to release additional details in the case and booking information on the Jennings County Jail website lists only that charges are pending.
Earlier, on Feb. 3, deputies from Jennings County arrested Mark Liles, 23, North Vernon, on a warrant for rape, a Level 3 felony.
That arrest came after a nearly four-month investigation that was initiated on Oct. 9, 2020, after JCOS Sgt. Doug Brown was notified that a juvenile female had been the victim of an unwanted sexual encounter while at a residence in Sand Creek Township in the north central part of the county.
During that investigation, it was determined that Liles had picked up the female at her residence and took her to a remote cabin in Sand Creek Township where he allegedly made unwanted sexual advances after being told to stop.
Liles is also being held in the Jennings County Jail without bond.