County health officials recognized the lack of public health staff within the county this week, and many attribute the rising COVID numbers to “COVID fatigue.”

A total of 199 new confirmed COVID cases were reported over the New Year’s weekend. 80 cases were reported on Friday, 86 on Saturday, 22 on Sunday and 11 on Monday. These new cases bring the total number of cases in Grant County to 14,528. No new deaths were reported over the weekend, keeping the total to 273.

Commissioner Mark Bardsley sat on the governor’s commission on public health and was notified that Grant County has a drastically low number of public health nurses compared to the formula derived from public health officials across the state.

According to Bardsley, the formula estimates that one public health nurse is needed for every 5,000 residents in any county. According to the formula, Grant County should have at least 13 public health nurses. Currently, Grant County only has 1.5 public health nurses with one nurse being full-time and the other being part-time. Most counties in Indiana with a population under 100,000 are also seeing the gap between the formula and reality according to Bardsley.

“This commission is going to be taking this information to the legislature as well as the governor and saying that we need to fix this or reduce formulas,” said Bardsley. “We are dramatically lower than where we should be when it comes to public health nurses.”

Public health officials understand the limited staff in the public health sector, but the health department and other organizations are striving to increase the number of health positions in the county in the near future.

“Before my time, there were several more nurses in the county health department. We are now on our way to building up that number again as we identify where we can use them in today’s world,” said public health officer Dr. David Moore. “We want to build to that.”

Last year, the county funded a new nurse manager position that will begin in 2022. Moore believes that the county needs time to grow into the need presented for nurses and the problem will not have a quick fix.

Moore speculated that some of the newer COVID numbers may be attributed to “COVID fatigue,” which describes the normalizing and acceptance of COVID in society.

“It seems – I’m speculating – people have decided that we are going to have to learn to live with COVID,” said Moore. “We’re not having nearly the hospitalizations that we were having before. So, we combine COVID fatigue and people thinking they are not overly vulnerable even as the new variant is sweeping in.”

Regardless of the reasons behind the COVID numbers, public health officials have recognized during the past few weeks that Grant County has reported significantly lower numbers than other areas in the state and the nation, which could lead to a reduced advisory.

“Grant County has not done very badly in regard to how maybe the rest of the state and rest of the nation has fared the last couple of weeks,” said Emergency Management Agency director Bob Jackson. “That’s encouraging.”

Jackson stated that regardless of the lower numbers, emergency services were still very busy over the weekend, especially Saturday. Hospitals are also still experiencing issues with the influx of unvaccinated patients who have tested positive for COVID according to Jackson.
Copyright © 2022 Chronicle-Tribune