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COVID-19 taking a large toll in small communities

Cases in Boone County have more than doubled, putting a strain on the health care system and forcing hospital administrators to get creative.

INDIANAPOLIS — This second wave of COVID-19 is hitting small communities harder than the first one.

Cases in Boone County have more than doubled, putting a strain on the health care system and forcing hospital administrators to get creative.

In their struggle against COVID-19, Lebanon and other small Boone County communities are seeing the number of people testing positive at a higher rate than it was seven months ago.

"Oh they are a lot worse now. A lot worse. Just more and more cases every day," said Dr. Herschell Servies, county health officer. "We haven't reached the plateau yet. We're still going up, up, up."

In four weeks the number of new cases more than doubled from roughly to 75 to more than 180 last week.

Lebanon's hospital is full or nearly filled to capacity every day.

"As of today, we are holding our own," said Dr. Diane Feder, chief operating officer at Witham Health Services. 

We asked what would happen if the numbers of COVID patients continued to increase.

"Patients will die. That will happen if hospital's don't get enough resources," Feder said.

The hospital expanded its ICU, is preparing more beds for COVID patients and getting creative.

Hospital administrators and health care workers are taking on some of the chores done by health care workers. Some are gathering nasal samples from people taking COVID tests.

"They've been taught. They are competent," Dr. Feder said. "So that frees up a clinical person to stay in the clinical side and not pull them away from a bed side."

Credit: Witham Health Services
Witham Health Services

Witham has enough PPE and other supplies. The biggest concern for them is keeping workers healthy.

For public health officials, the biggest concern is pandemic fatigue.

Dr. Servies said he saw it when he stopped at a gas station convenience store.

"I was just sitting watching people. Not one person coming in or going out was wearing a mask."

Barring a vaccine, masks and social distancing are the best weapons in the fight against COVID-19.

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