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As ISDH reports 18th local COVID-19 death, new local restrictions imposed
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On Friday, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) reported the 18th COVID-19 death in Wabash County, while local officials imposed additional restrictions to combat the number of rising cases.

Also, on Friday, Mayor Scott Long announced another free local testing clinic would once again be offered next week.

Testing clinic to return

On Monday, Oct. 26, Mayor Scott Long that the ISDH and the city of Wabash had opened a free drive-thru clinic for COVID-19 testing at the Wabash City Police Department headquarters.

The clinic was open from Tuesday, Oct. 27 to Saturday, Oct. 31, and also from Tuesday, Nov. 3 to Saturday, Nov. 7. Testing was available to everyone regardless of symptoms. Children as young as 2 years of age could be tested with parental consent. Long said Hoosiers were not charged for testing and insurance was not required.

After being open for two weeks, that testing clinic closed up shop, but not before over 1,000 residents were tested.

On Tuesday, Nov. 10, Megan Wade-Taxter, ISDH media relations coordinator, said they “cannot predict future locations” for these clinics.

“We move our testing operations based on need and input from communities,” said Wade-Taxter.

Later the same day, Long said whether or not the clinic returned was not up to him.

“This is directed solely by the ISDH,” said Long. “I have no say in it.”

During a televised press conference Wednesday, Nov. 18, Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner, said though Wabash County’s rising cases and positivity ratings place it in the orange, or second-highest, category, many other counties across the state were in the same position.

“Almost every county in the state of Indiana is above 15 percent positivity right now, so it’s really difficult to use those particular metrics to determine. A lot of times what we do is we look at what other sites are available, where we have been testing, who seems to be going up higher, where we have issues where hospital systems are having trouble keeping up with the number of sick patients. So, there’s a lot of different factors that go into that,” said Box.

Box said that based on their current workforce they only have enough resources to run around five of these free drive-thru testing clinics at any one time in the state. Box said they were also supporting nearly 80 local health department sites across the state, in addition to the OptumServe testing sites in the state.

“We are working continuously to add additional sites. We are currently looking at some of our Optum sites that are overbooked and overrun and do we need to add an additional lane there? And are there particular communities that before didn’t really want to be associated with a local health department testing site or didn’t feel the need for an Optum site, but now we see it’s clear that they need to have a site? All of those things are being looked at and address right now,” said Box.

On Friday, Long said the city, the Wabash County Health Department and the Wabash Emergency Management Agency were working with the ISDH and the Indiana National Guard to once again offer COVID-19 testing.

Long said Wabash Friends Church, 3563 S. Indiana 13, has offered a portion of their facility to set up the testing site, on the north side of the building. Signs will be in place directing those wishing to be tested which way to enter. The testing will be offered from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24 and Wednesday, Nov. 25. There will be no testing available on Thursday, Nov. 26 due to Thanksgiving. The clinic will reopen from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 27 and from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28.

Long said the clinic would be open again from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1 to Saturday, Dec. 5.

“You must wear a mask to enter the testing site and it must remain on at all times unless staff directs you to lower it during the test,” said Long. “There is no charge for the testing, however, you may be asked for insurance information. This testing is available to anyone from the area, not just Wabash or Wabash County residents. We are pleased to assist the ISDH with holding this testing clinic and are blessed to be able to partner with Wabash Friends Church.”

Otherwise, the ISDH only lists one testing site available in Wabash County, which is the Parkview FirstCare Walk-In Clinic, 1655 Cass St., Wabash. An appointment is required and it is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Patients must be symptomatic to be tested. Insurance co-pay, credit card and cash are accepted for payment. For more information, call 877-774-8632.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

New local restrictions

On Friday, Long and Dr. David Roe, Wabash County health officer, released a list of new restrictions and guidelines due to the increased positivity percentage which “continues to climb daily.”

Before Stage 5 of the Indiana Back on Track plan, Wabash County had a positivity rating near 3.5 percent.

“To get the COVID-19 positivity rate under control,” the following restrictions were announced:

Signs requiring masks to be worn must be posted on all buildings. Refusal of anyone to wear a mask may result in the refusal of service. Business owners and employees must wear masks.

While Wabash and Wabash County are in an orange level on the ISDH metric map, groups are limited to 50 or fewer participants. If the map progresses to a red level, groups will be limited to 25 or fewer. No exceptions to these thresholds will be allowed, and social distancing and masks will be mandatory at all times.

For restaurants, there will be a 50 percent indoor seating capacity limit, 100 percent outdoor seating capacity limit, no bar top seating, table service only with a minimum of 6 feet of distance between tables of 10 people or fewer. Restaurants are to encourage carry-out dining, curbside pickup or delivery service. There will be no self-service salad or other food bars.

For fitness centers and the YMCA, there will be a 50 percent capacity limit, and social distancing and masks will be required when appropriate.

For schools and recreational athletic events, team participants will be allowed two guests at each event, masks will be worn by attendees at all times and social distancing between attendees must be maintained. Failure to comply will result in the attendee being asked to leave. Cheerleading, dance and non-essential staff should not participate at events to keep the numbers at a minimum. Live streaming and media broadcasting of sporting events is encouraged.

“These measures will remain in place until Wabash and Wabash County attain a positivity rate of 5 percent or less,” they said. “The goal is to reduce the number of positive cases of COVID-19 locally, and the only way we see to do this is to enact stricter measures to control the spread. Local officials can enact stricter controls that the state, but we cannot enact lesser controls. We have chosen to enact stricter controls and have set a goal of 5 percent. You can help us reach this goal by enacting the practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) of wearing a mask, social distancing, washing your hands frequently and the liberal use of hand sanitizer when in public. Together we can take steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19 before the complete closure of schools and businesses is mandated by a higher authority. Our goal is to keep schools and businesses open, and these steps must be taken to accomplish this.”

Long-term care facilities

On Wednesday, Nov. 18, the ISDH updated their long-term care facilities dashboard with results as of Wednesday, Nov. 11 and were updated on 11/18/2020. The dashboard is updated weekly at noon Wednesdays. New positive cases and deaths have occurred over a range of dates but were reported to the ISDH seven days before the last dashboard update.

During the latest update, in Wabash County:

Timbercrest Senior Living Community in North Manchester reported fewer than five new resident positive cases, fewer than five total resident positive cases, fewer than five total resident deaths and 10 staff positive cases.

Peabody Retirement Community in North Manchester reported 14 new resident positive cases, fewer than five new resident deaths, 49 total resident positive cases, seven total resident deaths and 97 staff positive cases.

Miller’s Merry Manor – Wabash East reported fewer than five total resident positive cases and seven staff positive cases.

Miller’s Merry Manor – Wabash West reported fewer than five each new resident positive cases, total resident positive cases and staff positive cases.

Wellbrooke of Wabash reported six staff positive cases.

Autumn Ridge Rehabilitation Centre reported fewer than five total resident positive cases and five staff positive cases.

Vernon Health & Rehabilitation reported 16 new resident positive cases, 16 total resident positive cases and eight staff positive cases.

Rolling Meadows Health Care Center in LaFontaine reported 45 total resident positive cases, 10 total resident deaths and 11 staff positive cases.

School figures

The ISDH’s latest school dashboard results are as of 11:59 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13 and were updated Monday, Nov. 16. The dashboard is updated weekly at midnight Mondays.

Statewide, 288 schools reported no cases, 1,681 reported one or more case and 397 have not reported.

During the latest update, Wabash County schools with one or more confirmed cases included:

Manchester Jr./Sr. High School (MHS) reported fewer than five new student positive cases, fewer than five new teacher positive cases, fewer than five new staff positive

cases, 13 total student positive cases, fewer than five total teacher cases and six total staff positive cases.

Manchester Elementary School (MES) reported fewer than five each new student positive cases, total student positive cases and total staff positive cases.

Manchester Intermediate Schools (MIS) reported fewer than five total student positive cases.

Metro North Elementary School reported fewer than five each new teacher positive cases, total student positive cases and total teacher positive cases.

Sharp Creek Elementary School reported fewer than five each new teacher positive cases, total staff positive cases and total teacher positive cases.

Northfield Jr./Sr. High School (NHS) reported fewer than five new student positive cases, fewer than five new teacher positive cases, 11 total student positive cases, fewer than five total teacher positive cases and fewer than five each total staff positive cases.

Southwood Jr./Sr. High School (SHS) reported fewer than five each new student positive cases and total student positive cases.

Southwood Elementary School reported fewer than five each new teacher positive cases and total teacher positive cases.

Wabash High School (WHS) reported fewer than five new student positive cases, fewer than five new teacher positive cases, fewer than five new staff positive cases, six total student positive cases, fewer than five total teacher positive cases and fewer than five total staff positive cases.

O.J. Neighbours Elementary School reported fewer than five each new student positive cases, new teacher positive cases, total student positive cases and total teacher positive cases.

On the Manchester Community Schools’ (MCS) own dashboard the information is updated once contact tracing is complete and all close contacts have been notified. MCS defines close contact is when an individual is within 6 feet for more than 15 minutes of someone with confirmed COVID-19.

“The Wabash County Health Department determined close contacts in conjunction with school personnel and advised us who to quarantine,” stated MCS.

The individually reported MCS cases include:

Sept. 28: One case each at MES and MHS, with five people quarantined.

Oct. 10: One case at MHS, with one person quarantined.

Oct. 14: One case at MHS, with two people quarantined.

Oct. 15: One case at MES, with five people quarantined. And one case at MHS, with two people quarantined.

Oct. 16: One case at MHS, with 34 people quarantined.

Oct. 20: One case at MHS, with no additional people quarantined.

Oct. 21: One case at MIS, with one person quarantined.

Oct. 28: One case at MHS, with no additional people quarantined.

Nov. 2: One case at MHS, with two people quarantined.

Nov. 3: Two cases at MHS, with two people quarantined.

Nov. 4: One case at MHS, with one person quarantined.

Nov. 4: One case at MIS with one person quarantined.

Nov. 5: One case at MHS, with one person quarantined.

Nov. 6: One case at MES, and one case at MHS, with two people quarantined.

Nov. 8: One case at MCS Transportation, with one person quarantined.

Nov. 9: One case at MHS, with one person quarantined.

Nov. 10: Three cases at MHS, with three people quarantined; and one case at MES, with one person quarantined.

Nov. 13: One case at MHS, with three people quarantined.

Nov. 14: One case at MHS, with three people quarantined.

Nov. 16: Two cases at MHS, with seven people quarantined; one case at MCS Transportation including all schools in the district, with 25 people quarantined; and one case at MHS, with five people quarantined.

Nov. 17: One case at MES, with 22 people quarantined; and one case at MCS Transportation, with four people quarantined.

Nov. 19: One case at MHS, with six people quarantined; and one case at MCS Transportation, with one person quarantined.

During the latest ISDH update, Wabash County schools with no reported cases included:

Wabash Middle School

Saint Bernard Elementary School

White’s Jr./Sr. High School

Schools of higher learning are not listed on the ISDH schools dashboard. However, Manchester University maintains its own, separate dashboard.

As of Tuesday, Nov. 17, the school had conducted 52 tests during the past seven days, with 100 percent of those being negative and 0 percent being positive. In total, there had been 1,987 tests performed, with 98.3 percent of those being negative, and 1.7 percent being positive. Also, there had been 36 self-reported cases on the North Manchester campus, and nine on the Fort Wayne campus.

Local figures

On Wednesday, the ISDH reported 62 new local positive COVID-19 cases, bringing Wabash County’s total to 1,243, with 8,786 tests. The local seven-day positivity rating for all tests was 13.4 percent. The local seven-day positivity rating for unique individuals was 20.9 percent.

On Thursday, the ISDH reported 63 new local positive COVID-19 cases, bringing Wabash County’s total to 1,305, with 8,897 tests. The local seven-day positivity rating for all tests was 12.6 percent. The local seven-day positivity rating for unique individuals was 21.3 percent.

On Friday, the ISDH reported 60 new local positive COVID-19 cases, bringing Wabash County’s total to 1,365, with 9,011 tests. The local seven-day positivity rating for all tests was 13.4 percent. The local seven-day positivity rating for unique individuals was 23.4 percent.

Statewide figures

On Friday, the ISDH announced that 6,912 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 282,311 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

A total of 4,952 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 63 from the previous day. Another 254 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days.

To date, 2,030,938 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 2,009,763 on Thursday. A total of 3,785,422 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26.

The state Department of Health will offer free drive-thru clinics from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the following locations through Saturday this week:

St. Timothy Church, 1600 W. 25th Ave., Gary.

Clay County Testing. 911 Bonnie Geyne Miller Drive, Brazil.

Spencer County Community Center, 1101 E. CR 800 North, Chrisney.

Kankakee Fire Station, 12161 N. County Road 200 East, Wheatfield.

To find other testing sites around the state, visit www.coronavirus.in.gov and click on the COVID-19 testing information link.


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Harvesting compassion

On Monday morning, the sun was shining bright and the weather was cool as local farmer Dan Dale rode atop his 12-row combine, shelling corn.

Several other volunteers had all gathered that day starting at 8 a.m. Dan Dale said he arrived a little bit after that.

“I drive a school bus, too. With COVID there are no substitute bus drivers,” he said. “I think we’re going to get done in a pretty good time anyway. Pretty nice day to work, though.”

Dan Dale and the dozens of other volunteers were gathered that day to help harvest the fields of one of their own, Dean Stouffer, who has been hospitalized with the virus.

“This is probably the biggest ordeal I’ve been involved in,” said Dan Dale, when asked if he had helped other farmers in this way in the past. “Luckily, it doesn’t happen every year.”

Dan Dale said both he and his wife had been sickened by the virus earlier in the year, but both had recovered.

“I had a nasty cough. My wife was unable to get out of the chair. But she could breathe and the doctors didn’t want us to go to the hospital,” he said.

Dan Dale said once it was announced that one of their neighbors needed assistance, people volunteered themselves immediately.

“I guess guys were just coming out of the woodwork once they announced they needed help,” he said.

Ryan Chambers was one of the organizers of the event. He said they had seven combines running simultaneously and numerous truck drivers waiting to haul the shelled corn away from the fields located just west of Wabash.

Chambers said they decided to put the event together because time was of the essence.

“There was concern the crop wouldn’t be standing by the time he … could get back out here,” said Chambers.

As the combines made their way through the fields row by row, Dean Stouffer’s brother, Dale Stouffer, rode his truck between locations to check on the progress.

“Half these guys have been sick and half haven’t,” he said. “We’ve been trying to make it so the guys that have been over it are taking the lead. Everyone else, I’m trying to keep them safe.”

Dale Stouffer said he and his family were overwhelmed by the “unbelievable generosity.”

“None of these knuckleheads, especially my brother, take help well,” he said, on Tuesday. “They all do this because they have it in their hearts to be a good neighbor and a friend when another is in need.”

Dale Stouffer said most every volunteer remarked about “how much fun they had.” He said most didn’t even accept the offer of donated fuel at the end of the day.

“They said things like, ‘We didn’t do it to get paid,’” he said. “It’s a humbling thing seeing all these men that I have always looked up to, be at their very best, helping my brother and his farm.”

Dale Stouffer said in just under four hours, the volunteers had shelled around 200 acres, in addition to a crew led by Dave Wolfrum and Matt Whitesel and others shelled around 50 acres around Dean Stouffer’s house on Friday, Nov. 14.

On Wednesday, Dale Stouffer’s daughter in law, Katie Stouffer, said their family was on the mend, but that it was a slow process.

She said the family wished to thank the following volunteers for their contributions: Ben Smith, Dan Metzger, Gary Kratzer, Adam Shafer, Joe Stephan, Ryan Barton, Colt Shepler, Sam Gardner, KJ Clupper, Kale Clupper, Clay Shepler, Chris Hann, Ceres Fuel – Jeff Porter, Keith Ogan, Gary Wilson, Rick Sweet, Ryan Chambers, Heath Lehner, Dan Dale, Junior Utte, Paul Townsend, Chris Niccum, Cliff Airgood, Jerry Enyeart, Tim Ranck, Mitch Snyder, Agventure, Brodbecks, Bobby Hettsmanperger, Advanced Ag Resources, Rodger Peebles, Dave Wolfrum, Matt Wolfrum, Matt Whitsel, Randy Rensbarger, Chris Haun, Tony Cochran, Ray Lester, John Westerfield, Corey Shepler, Mitch Rebholz, Randy Airgood, John Schuler, Shane Pingleton, Ricardo Trejo, Bryan Ranck, Brian Ridgeway and Craig Hoppes.


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'Operation Reach Out' seeks to connect with those who are most isolated
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On Tuesday, Jaime Kinsey, a local dental hygienist, said she saw a need in the community and decided to do something about it.

Kinsey said she had recently started “Operation Reach Out,” a “care shower concept created to encourage residents in Wabash County nursing homes and rehab facilities.”

Kinsey said she started a Facebook group for the project and several teachers had already reached out with the intention of having their students make cards for these residents who may be suffering from loneliness.

“This is a huge need in our community,” said Kinsey.

On Thursday, Jami Bartel, a nurse manager at Miller’s Merry Manor East, said she was “so excited” when she was contacted about the program.

“Our residents need this cheer at this time of the year,” said Bartel. “Most of them don’t understand what is going on outside our doors but they do understand when they get something to brighten their day. This is something that none of us have lived through. We will take any kind of small things to cheer up our residents.”

Bartel said it was “amazing” how the community was coming together to support seniors who had been isolated due to the outbreaks of COVID-19 in facilities all over the state.

“Wabash is a great community that seems to always come together and help with any needs that arise. We at Miller’s Merry Manor can not thank everyone enough for doing this,” said Bartel.

On Thursday, Mary Norman, Wabash Middle School fifth grade teacher, said her class was participating in this project.

“I feel this is an excellent way for them to spread joy and put a smile on some faces this Christmas season,” said Norman. “In class, we talk often about being kind and making a positive impact on people. These fabulous fifth graders were very excited and eager to participate. Some are even making more cards at home with their families. We are truly hopeful that the special people receiving our cards will be blessed and encouraged.”

Kinsey said they were always accepting more volunteers.

“Help us help them,” said Kinsey. “All facilities have been contacted and will disperse cards evenly among the residents as they come in.”

Kinsey said the cards need addresses to “Operation Reach Out” followed by facility address.

The facilities in need of cards include:

Miller’s Merry Manor East, 1900 Alber St., Wabash, IN 46992. (The estimated resident count is 60.)

Bickford Cottage, 3037 Niccum Road, Wabash, IN 46992. (The estimated resident count is 25.)

Miller’s Merry Manor West, 1720 Alber St., Wabash, IN 46992. (The estimated resident count is 30.)

Wellbrooke of Wabash, 20 John Kissinger Drive, Wabash, IN 46992. (The estimated resident count is 70.)

Vernon Manor, 1955 Vernon St., Wabash, IN 46992. (The estimated resident count is 56.)

Autumn Ridge, 600 Washington St., Wabash, IN 46992. (The estimated resident count is under 50.)

Rolling Meadows LaFontaine, 604 Rennaker St., Lafontaine, IN 46940. (The estimated resident count is 80.)

Peabody Retirement Community, 400 W. 7th St., North Manchester IN 46962.

Timbercrest Senior Living, 2201 East St, North Manchester, IN 46962.


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Library board tables salary, health insurance discussions

At Tuesday’s Wabash Carnegie Public Library (WCPL) board meeting, proposals to vote upon the upcoming salary ordinance and schedule and employee health insurance benefits were both tabled until their December meeting.

On Wednesday, Ware W. Wimberly III, executive director, said the salary item was tabled “due to comparative information the board wanted to know before making a decision” and that the employee health insurance item was tabled “due to the absence of a trustee who is the point person on that subject for the board.”

During previous Wabash City Council meetings, Mayor Scott Long had warned various city departments about potential upcoming revenue shortfalls due to the economic slowdown caused by COVID-19. Before Tuesday’s WCPL board meeting, Wimberly said they were on track to provide raises to their staff in the upcoming year. However, on Wednesday, Wimberly said the library board was worried about the potential for shortfalls in the future, as well.

“Although the library budget is independent of the city of Wabash’s budget, those same concerns with revenue shortages are what the library could face too,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly said the library’s funding is primarily comprised of property tax allocations from properties within the library district. For the WCPL, the library district boundaries are coextensive with Wabash city limits.

“Library revenue can also come from fines and fees but that is becoming less of a source over the past number of years,” said Wimberly.

Wimberly said libraries may also accept endowment gifts, grants and donations.

“Any possible revenue shortfalls would come primarily distributions it receives twice a year in terms of property taxes and monthly Local Income Tax distributions,” said Wimberly. “Our library has had tremendous community support over the years both in patronage and bequests and the library takes its fiscal stewardship very seriously.”

Wimberly said the 2021 budget had been submitted to the State of Indiana Department of Local Government Finance for approval. The budget public hearing date was Sept. 15 and the budget was adopted Oct. 20.

For salaries and wages, $501,121 is allocated in the 2021 budget, including both full-time and part-time team members.

Additional money, $202,000, is budgeted for benefits such as employee health care, State Retirement Fund (PERF) and other associated costs.

At the Monday, Sept. 28 Wabash City Council meeting, Wimberly presented their annual budget and said they were “blessed” with reserves, though they do have some restrictions in terms of what it can be used for.

Wimberly said the library’s budget was below the Maximum Levy Growth Quotient of 4.2 percent, with 3.6 percent increase. The civil max levy is $659,054. The property tax cap credit estimate is $88,430.

In the general fund, the budget was set at $1,322,593. The maximum funds to be raised (including appeals and levies exempt from maximum levy limitations) is $655,207. The current tax levy is $632,439. The levy percentage difference is 3.6 percent.

The library improvement reserve fund budget estimate is $300,000.

The total for both funds is $1,622,593.

The next WCPL board meeting is set for Tuesday, Dec. 15.