King’s Daughters’ Hospital staff member Shannon Stidham collects a COVID-19 test at the drive through test site held this week at the hospital. More test opportunities are coming to downtown Madison next week at the Senior Center at 208 W. Main St. (Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
King’s Daughters’ Hospital staff member Shannon Stidham collects a COVID-19 test at the drive through test site held this week at the hospital. More test opportunities are coming to downtown Madison next week at the Senior Center at 208 W. Main St. (Madison Courier staff photo by Collin Overton)
COVID-19 cases continued to surge locally this week, forcing some businesses to close and governmental leaders to reevaluate reopening plans for the remainder of July.

Statewide cases, like the rest of the U.S., have seen a sharp uptick in recent days with the Indiana State Department of Health reporting 747 new cases Friday and 54,814 since the start of the pandemic. Gov. Eric Holcomb once again walked back plans to enter Stage 5 of Back on Track Indiana on Thursday, announcing the state would remain in Stage 4.5 for another two weeks and limit social gatherings to 250 people. Events that expect more than 250 people now have to submit safety plans to their local health departments for approval, effective July 23.

The state’s healthcare resources remain stable at the time, with 83.8% of ventilators and 31.7% intensive care unit beds available and COVID patients taking up 11.7% of those beds, according to ISDH, as most virus patients are experiencing milder symptoms and recovering at home.

Jefferson County reported its highest number of cases in a single day with 12 on Wednesday, bringing the county to 111 since the start of the pandemic. Those numbers coincided with the City of Madison’s decision to re-close Rucker Sports Complex and John Paul Park on July 15 due to two recent participants testing positive for the virus. All practices and games are canceled until at least Aug. 1 when the Parks Department will re-evaluate its situation.

“The rise in cases is a result of various situations and will continue as testing becomes more prevalent. The community health of Madison is still very good and we have one of the lowest positive case rates in our region but caution is a must,” Mayor Bob Courtney said in a statement to The Madison Courier. “As it relates to all city facilities, we take the health of all of our employees and members of the community very seriously.

Because of a situation that occurred with one of the participants in our recreation league, Rucker Sports Complex was closed for two weeks to allow for complete cleaning and for anyone near that field to exercise caution. We will always take action when needed and urge the community to be smart and responsible as we navigate through the summer and into the fall.”

Also feeling the effects of a community spread are the restaurants Red on Main and American Legion, which both had employees test positive for the virus recently.

Red on Main owners John and Lori Heitz announced on Facebook Thursday that the restaurant would close for two weeks under direction of the Jefferson County Health Department due to an employee there testing positive for COVID this week. That employee hasn’t worked since last week and since being tested, they said.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our guests and staff. We have done everything In our power to ensure our guests and staff have been safe through this crazy time,” the post read.

No other employees have shown symptoms and three have been tested twice, they said. The entire staff will be tested in the coming days and the restaurant will keep the community posted on the results.

The Major Samuel Woodfill American Legion Post No. 9 on Jefferson Street, meanwhile, had to close two days after opening on July 4 when an employee and her husband tested positive for the virus on July 6. After a two-week quarantine of staff and no additional positive cases, the Legion plans to reopen Saturday at 50% capacity, Post Commander Michael Hunt said.

Hunt said the employee was unsure where she contracted the virus, but decided to get tested with her husband after he complained of back pain and a loss of taste and smell. The couple wasn’t sure how they were exposed, but they told Hunt it could have come from their son who was visiting from Chicago days before they were tested, he said.

Hunt said business will carry on Saturday with employees wearing masks, hand sanitizing stations in place, tables and seats distanced six feet apart and rigorous sanitation procedures.

“I think this is going to go on for a while. We’re going by all the guidelines and everything that’s set up for us and we’re hoping for the best,” Hunt said.

In Kentucky on Thursday, the case count exceeded 21,000 with 413 new cases and five new deaths. Trimble County has seen its biggest jump in case counts in the month of July and reported five new cases Thursday, all adult white females in isolation. Of the 24 cases recorded since March, 11 are currently active, according to the North Central District Health Department.

North Central District Roanya Rice said Trimble’s cases are more indicative of the statewide trend and the department has not pinpointed a single gathering or location causing the county to spike.

“I think Trimble’s seeing the same trends as the state is. You heard folks saying that as we approach Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, people have to be really vigilant about following the rules, and that gets harder for people the longer we go.”

The department tested 25 people in Trimble Thursday through call-in appointments at each county office and tested 150 through their offices in Shelby, Henry and Spencer counties, Rice said. The health department will now begin evaluating at what capacity they have to test on a weekly basis as the need is abundant, but the resources are not available to continue doing drive through testing sites like they did in May, she said.

Rice said the challenge will be compounded this fall and winter by the more traditional strains of flu, as the state is worried that an influx of flu and COVID-19 cases could overwhelm the hospital system and also put a greater strain on health departments to schedule flu shots. For that reason, Rice encourages anyone needing a flu shot or immunization for their child to schedule with the health department as soon as possible. She expects North Central District to get the first flu vaccines in next month or September.

Meanwhile, Carroll County’s case total shot up to 100 on Thursday with 19 new cases and a second death. Among those cases was a healthcare worker, two asymptomatic patients and four people who ended up in the hospital due to their symptoms. Twenty-nine people have recovered since the virus was first reported in a North American Stainless employee on March 26.

Courtney said the rise in cases is expected, but residents should continue following guidelines on hygiene, social distancing and personal protection as the virus isn’t going away anytime soon.

“The recent rise in COVID-19 positive cases in Madison is a reminder that this virus is still among us and will be for the foreseeable future,” Courtney said. “I urge all our residents and visitors to take the necessary precautions as prescribed by the CDC, ISDH, and our local health department to protect themselves such as avoiding indoor crowded spaces, practicing good hygiene and social distancing and wearing a face covering when you need to or as required by any local business and especially to stay home if you have been exposed or experiencing symptoms.”