Coroner James Elliott

James Elliott

Elkhart County Coroner James Elliott is testing for what could be his first fatal coronavirus case, but he won’t know for sure until testing comes back.

“I just had the first one today (Monday) and I’m getting ready to send the test in,” Elliott said. The woman is from Bristol. He said two days ago she was in the emergency room for shortness of breath, cough and a fever. She had multiple medical issues that could relate to her death if COVID-19 is not involved, though, he added.

“Because of the pandemic, I decided we needed to test her,” he said.

His staff, comprised of mainly former emergency services workers, are following guidelines set by the Center for Disease Control when dealing with someone who has died at their home. “If someone passes away at home who has had a cough, fever and dyspnea (shortness of breath), then you take precautions,” he said. And if their prior health is not known, then staff assume everybody has it until otherwise, he said.

As of right now, Elliott said, the coroner’s staff has enough protective equipment. He tried to order more, but the suppliers are out of everything. So, they are using the equipment as necessary.

“We are going to get through it,” Elliott said.

He advises that when people call 911, whether for someone with a medical issue or who has passed away, that the caller be truthful so first responders don’t become contaminated.

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