Will Lake County Be Able To Keep Up with the Covid-19 Surge?
Updated: Aug 1, 2020
by Rocio Villasenor
First of a three part series
Northwest Indiana top health officials from Lake County, East Chicago and Gary discuss their departments COVID-19 preparedness from testing, contact tracers, to educating the public on safety precautions. As of July 21, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has ordered Hoosiers to wear masks in public.
Lake County As Northwest Indiana faces an uptick of COVID-19 positive cases, top health officials in Lake County said their department is dealing with the pandemic as best they can. Only two cities have their own health professionals and departments – Gary and East Chicago. All other areas in the county are served solely by the Lake County Health Department. But the county department still gives aid and support to those two cities if needed.
Dr. Chandana Vavilala, Lake County Health Department top health official and physician, said as of July 10 that Lake County is still reporting the highest positive cases in the state.
Vavilala said the county nursing division is short-staffed. Two of her five nurses recently resigned. She said up until May 11, when the state stepped in to help with contact tracing, the nurses were doing 200 calls and emails per day. With schools reopening soon, the department will be focused on immunizations and tuberculosis surveillance.
“It is going to fall back [on] our local health departments to do the contact tracing because schools cannot wait for the state to respond to the students being positive,” Vavilala said. She also was concerned that the state would end support for personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and gowns that are distributed to nursing homes, long-term care facilities and medical facilities. Vavilala said they are continuously preparing for any increase in numbers and are coordinating with hospitals and the state for drive-thru testing. The testing sites do not require symptomatic requirements that were originally imposed in March. “Anyone can go in there if they feel that they need to be tested.”
She also mentioned that testing sites were rotating throughout the county weekly. They have been in Hammond, Gary and Merrillville. Beginning in September there will be a plan to have three long-term location testing sites in Lake County five days a week until the end of June 2021. She also said there should be two extra sites in Gary and East Chicago, but expressed concern that she would need more funding and staff.
Watch for Gary and East Chicago (Pt. 2 and Pt. 3)