Commissioners focus on COVID-19 response

CASSOPOLIS — COVID-19 was on the minds of Cass County commissioners Thursday evening.

Meeting in person, the Cass County Board of Commissioners convened Thursday, with commissioners wearing masks and limiting the number of residents in the audience. Among those in attendance were representatives with the Van Buren/Cass District Health Department. Administrator Jeff Elliott and Director of Health Promotions Danielle Persky addressed the board to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the department’s response to it.

“It’s been a wild road for the past 120 days for local health departments,” Elliott said. “It’s amazing how many phone calls we have been getting.”

As of Thursday’s meeting, Cass County had recorded a total of 192 positive COVID-19 cases, seven deaths and 104 recoveries.

According to the health department’s data, the county is seeing a 2- to 3-percent rate of positive cases out of the total of COVID-19 tests conducted. Persky said this percentage rate has remained relatively flat throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and Cass County has not yet seen a large surge in the percentage of positive tests.

“The data can be confusing because we see the cases rising, and absolutely they are rising again. I don’t want to take that lightly,” she said. “But it’s also really important to pay attention to the percent positive, which is basically saying, ‘of the tests we have conducted, these are the tests that are positive.’”

Cass County Administrator Jeff Carmen expressed concerns about the fact case numbers had nearly doubled in the county over the past 37 days and the county’s proximity to Elkhart County in Indiana, which has seen a surge in positive COVID-19 cases.

When he asked if the trend of increasing cases could be expected in Cass County, Persky said she believed it would if residents did not take precautions against the virus.

“If we don’t take masks seriously and take measures like distancing and avoiding large crowds to prevent community spread, I don’t know why we wouldn’t [see an increase],” she said.

Persky offered the following advice for residents to take to help stop the spread of COVID-19:

• Wear a mask

• Maintain a social distance of 6 feet from others

• Limit the number of groups one visits regularly

• Use proper hygiene, wash hands and avoid touching the face, eyes, nose and mouth

• Carry hand sanitizer when leaving the house

“Just take it seriously,” Persky said. “The goal is for us to get out of this as soon as possible, and so the more we collectively, actively participate in prevention methods, hopefully, the sooner we will see that case count decrease.”

In addition to the health department’s presentation, the board voted on a resolution to allow county departments to more easily secure COVID-19 related funding. Resolution 101-20, which passed unanimously, resolved that the Cass County Board of Commissioners acknowledge the importance of securing grant funds and the importance of timely applications and directed the Cass County Administrator and the Cass County Finance Director to pursue any and all grant funds that may benefit the county and its residents.

According to Cass County Finance Director Becky Moore, the resolution will make applying for and pursuing COVID-19 grants more efficient by consolidating the process in one place. That way, the county would not have multiple departments applying for the same grant.”

“We have [COVID-19 grant opportunities] coming out all the time,” Moore said. “We don’t want to be overlapping and asking for money that we shouldn’t be because we don’t know what the right hand and the left hand is doing. We are trying to make sure everything goes through one central location.”

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