WHITLEY COUNTY — As the coronavirus takes hold of the state of Indiana, especially the northeast district, Whitley County is feeling the effects.

The county tallied two more COVID-19 deaths in a matter of three days last week — the first deaths since July 9, bringing the total death count to eight.

Despite the virus affecting much of the county, Whitley County Consolidated Schools has seen only minor disruptions for in-person classes. Superintendent Patricia O’Connor sent a letter to parents on Friday, outlining the situation at WCCS.

At the time of the letter, the elementary buildings had less than four students test positive, and less than five had tested positive at the middle school since the start of the school year.

Columbia City High School, the district’s largest building, only had 14 positive cases as of Friday.

“All of the students with positive test results were at home prior to the positive test result,” the letter stated.

There have been fewer than three staff members per building with positive tests, and two of the district’s schools have had no reports of positive cases.

“Staff are absent because they are close contacts with other adults living in their homes,” the letter said.

The situation is similar for student absences.

“Although we have sent home a large number of children with COVID-like symptoms (this is the reason for the elevated absences in the schools), the number of students testing positive remains very low,” the letter read.

School nurses are continuing to ask parents to be vigilant, keeping home any children who exhibit COVID-like symptoms.

The high school had to have two e-learning days because of a lack of substitute teachers — otherwise — teacher absences have been filled.

Many other school districts in the area have gone to e-learning for a period of time due to the increase in cases. Though that decision could still be made locally, it may not be immediately necessary.

“Our highest priority continues to be the health and safety of the children and adults in our school community,” the letter read. “It is important for you to monitor your phone or computer for emails or announcements regarding any changes in our coronavirus response.”

O’Connor referenced a statement by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier in the week.

“Our schools are the safest place for our children to be during this pandemic as school personnel are insisting that all follow the safety guidance provided by health officials, including face masks, hand washing and social distancing.”

“Thank you for your patience and attention throughout this fall,” O’Connor said. “We thank you for your vigilance and support during these past many weeks.”

That number may continue to grow as positive case counts are showing no sign of slowing, growing at exponential rates in Whitley County and the state of Indiana.

The county marked a new record last week, 57 new positive cases in a single day — Nov. 13.

As of press time Tuesday, Whitley County was approaching “red” status on the state’s map, which can be found at coronavirus.in.gov.

The county has been in “orange” status for several weeks. The score is formulated based on the weekly cases per 100,000 residents and the 7-day all tests positivity rate.

Weekly cases of 200 or more per 100,000 students puts the county at level red — as of Tuesday, Whitley County had 577 weekly cases per 100,000 residents.

The weekly positivity rate is 13.51%, and the cutoff for “red” is 15% or greater. LaGrange County became the first in northeast Indiana to receive the status and Steuben County is also on the cusp of turning red.

Hospitals in District 3 — northeast Indiana — continue to be stressed, as the hospital census broke the 350 mark for admitted COVID patients.

Last week, Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel announced on his official Facebook page that he tested positive for COVID-19, encouraging the community to do its diligence in taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus.

Find more data on the state’s website at coronavirus.in.gov.

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