GOSHEN — With the third-highest number of COVID-19 cases in the state, members of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have come to Elkhart County to get at the heart of the local spread.
Jen Tobey, director of the Elkhart County Emergency Management Agency, said she had a preliminary meeting Tuesday with two members of a CDC team that’s been dispatched to the area. The two are the first to arrive of a team expected to be made up of six people working locally over the next couple weeks.
Their task will be to focus primarily on researching data in order to pinpoint how the coronavirus is spreading in the county, as well as how it’s spreading among various groups and cultures.
“The CDC’s going to come in, pull all that data together, do what they do as far as their epidemiologists, and then help us figure out like is it community spread? What percent is business spread? What percent is this culture, or what percent is that culture? That type of thing,” Tobey said. “That’s what they’re going to look into: Who is this really affecting and how bad?”
The CDC’s arrival came as the county reported 21 new cases of COVID-19 Monday and five new related deaths between Friday and Monday, according to Indiana State Department of Health information. The new figure brings the number of local cases reported since March up to 3,320.
That leaves Elkhart County behind only Lake and Marion counties in the number of reported cases. Calling the county a hot spot, Tobey said the state reached out to the CDC.
“The state department of health is the one that initiated the CDC to come to our county,” Tobey said.
The team will work remotely, and Tobey couldn’t say what exactly is all on their to-do list. But a key priority will be analyzing contact tracing information gathered by the county health department and the state. Contact tracing is a process for tracking a disease by identifying infected people and those they came into contact with as a way to try and control the spread.
Combined with other sources of information, Tobey said the team will be deep diving into data.
“The epidemiologists that the CDC is bringing is going to help up us really pull that data out and look more specifically at cultures and age groups, and community spread vs. industry spread,” she said.
She’s the arrival of fresh perspectives to help provide some potential “out-of-the-box” ideas or solutions to help manage the pandemic situation locally.
“We’re excited,” Tobey said. “We’re excited to learn from them. We’re excited to see what we may have been missing in hopes that we can help our community. The numbers are clearly still going up.”
Tobey indicated the CDC team would be working in the county through about July 23, analyzing data including information from local communities, various demographics and age groups.