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East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland, seated center, is flanked by Dr. Gerri Browning, Director of the EC Public Health Department, left, and EC Superintendent of Public Schools Dee Etta Wright, right

Flattening the curve of COVID-19 infections means to avoid the rush hour at hospitals

Contributed By:The 411 News

Time will tell if strategies to stay at home and limit personal contacts will slow impacts of coronavirus

Think of commuters packing highways during rush hour to illustrate another way of flattening the curve to limit the spread of the coronavirus. If rush hour were lengthened, traffic could flow freely with fewer traffic jams and less stress.

The nation's strategy to reduce personal contact is by closing schools, some businesses, and restricting some business operation hours. Limiting gatherings to no more than 10 people is meant to slow the virus infections to numbers that our healthcare systems can handle and avoid the rush hour at hospitals.

If not, hospitals would be overwhelmed with coronavirus patients needing more ventilators and respirators than the facilities have on hand. Treating the virus in a hospital requires staff dedicated to isolation units. And that means resources and staff are transferred from taking care of patients not having the virus.

East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland sat down at a press conference Monday with his department heads and other city officials to talk about their responses to the nation's coronavirus pandemic.

"We're taking these actions to protect the public and prevent the spread of the virus in our community," Copeland said. Audiences would not be allowed at public meetings, the meetings would be televised. He announced the closing of recreation centers and public buildings, rentals of public facilities would be paused, and non-essential travel of city employees would be cancelled.

EC Public School Supt. Dee Etta Wright was at the press conference. Two days earlier she had announced the closure of all schools in the district until April 6.

Already in effect was the guideline from the nation's Centers for Disease Control limiting the number of people congregating in a single place to 250. Earlier in the day, the mayor found the guideline had changed to 50. "Before I sat down for this press conference it had changed to 10," he said about the rapidly changing guidelines.

"Lake County hasn't any cases and Indiana hadn't reported any deaths," Copeland said. At that time, Indiana reported 19 confirmed cases of the virus.

A lot changed overnight. The next day, Lake County's Methodist Hospitals and Community Hospitals confirmed 2 cases. Indiana reported its first death.

The Indiana State Department of Health's latest count of infections is now at 79 with a fatality count of 3. Lake County’s confirmed cases is now at 6. Northwest Indiana is next door to Chicago. The Illinois Dept. of Public Health reports show Chicago has the highest coronavirus infections in Illinois. Maps show areas of infections by county. Many counties in each state show zero infections.

Dr. David Walker, director of the Gary Dept. of Health, said limiting personal contacts means to keep those counties at zero and social distancing is the way to do it. "People in unaffected areas don't just stay in one place. They also move about. We're all in this together," Walker said.

Walker sees our nation's journey with the virus as being at the bottom of a mountain trying to get to the top and over to the other side. "Infection numbers will rise until they peak and then drop off. But it's impossible to guess what direction we're headed. It could be we'll need more drastic measures or we'll go back to regular times. We don't want to be where China was 4 months ago and where Italy is today."

The doctor has been pushing the state to issue COVID-19 test kits to local health departments like his. So far, only hospitals are permitted to perform tests. Walker said he will continue to push for the tests.

View the Indiana State Dept. of Health daily coronavirus reports here

View the Chicago Dept. of Public Health coronavirus reports here

Story Posted:03/20/2020

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