Wells County is the latest area county with a resident who tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus, and the county's three public school systems have responded by instituting eLearning days this week.
The case brings to 10 the number of Indiana counties with positive tests and to 15 the number of test-diagnosed Hoosiers. LaPorte and Marion counties also had positive tests.
The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed the new cases Saturday. All the cases were diagnosed through the state health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories. All but one are adults, the state said.
The Wells County patient was taken to a Fort Wayne hospital, said Rick Velasquez, Wells County Emergency Management Agency director.
Allen County has no known confirmed cases. However, one case reported from a surrounding county involved a short-term resident of Allen County for several weeks who was exposed and diagnosed in the county, the Allen County Department of Health said Saturday night.
“Because people from many of our neighboring counties come here every day to work, attend events, shop and receive various medical care, it is inevitable we will become aware of additional exposures in our community as the virus spreads,” Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan said. “We are working closely with (the state health department) and the surrounding local health departments to ensure any of our residents potentially exposed are informed and proper steps are taken.”
Allen County residents who are exposed to known confirmed cases of COVID-19 are asked to quarantine at home for 14 days and monitor themselves for fever, cough and other symptoms including sore throat and shortness of breath. Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of those exposed to see if they become sick. Household contacts and family members of people quarantined can go about their normal business but should self-monitor for fever or other symptoms and call their doctor if any develop, the health department said.
Testing for COVID-19 is not currently available on demand or by request. Patients must currently meet the state health department's criteria to be tested, and strict protocol must be followed to ensure no one else is exposed while a mucus specimen is collected from an individual, Allen County officials said.
The state laboratory continues to prioritize testing for people who are at high risk. State data Saturday showed 16 more people were tested for the virus, bringing the total to 89.
The health department is urging people who do not meet criteria for being high risk to consult their own health-care providers about private testing.
Most people with COVID-19 will develop mild symptoms and do not need to be tested, state officials said.
Other Indiana counties with coronavirus cases are Johnson, Hendricks, Adams, Boone, Howard, St. Joseph and Noble.
No Indiana deaths have been reported.
Superintendents of the Bluffton-Harrison Metro School District and the Northern Wells and Southern Wells Community Schools closed schools as a precaution at noon Saturday.
“Specific instructions for each school building will be shared directly with students and parents in the near future,” the closing notice said.
Allen County's four public school districts and Concordia Lutheran High School and other Lutheran schools are closed through April 13. The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend schools will be closed at least three weeks.
As part of the state's responses, Gov. Eric Holcomb late Friday relaxed rules limiting work hours for drivers delivering food and other emergency supplies to retailers.
At a glance
If you're not feeling well
The Allen County Department of Health recommends anyone with a fever of 100 degrees and a cough should first call their health care provider to discuss their symptoms and determine the next course of action.
The following local health care providers have set up specific screening for COVID-19:
• Fort Wayne Medical Education patients should call 260-423-2675
• IU Health patients should download the telemedicine application IU Health Virtual Visit and follow directions or call 260-234-5400
• Lutheran Health patients should call 260-435-5050
• Parkview Health patients should call 1-877-PPG-TODAY or their specific provider; Parkview has also set up a self-screening website at Parkview.com/covid19screening
• Neighborhood Health Clinic patients should call 260-458-2570
Indiana has a call center at 317-233-7125 for questions about COVID-19, and residents can receive alerts by signing up at in.gov/coronavirus. The number of cases is updated at 10 a.m. daily at that website. Calls after 8 p.m. should go to 317-233-1325 and will be answered by an on-call epidemiologist. The health department's call center staff will not offer personal medical advice or provide test results.