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Hospital facing critical increase in COVID-19 patients; Administrators, staff asking community to help

Henry Community Health is reaching out to local residents asking for their support as the hospital is facing a critical point with an aggressive influx of COVID-19 patients.

“We need everyone to understand how dangerous the current trends are as we are experiencing a dangerous rise in both the number of COVID cases and the number of COVID patients requiring hospitalization,” stressed Paul Janssen, HCH president and chief executive officer. “This alarming increase in COVID patients could make it difficult to care for patients who require hospitalization – whether they have COVID or need care for another serious health problem such as for a heart attack, cancer or influenza.”

Janssen added transferring patients to other hospitals may not be an option as those hospitals, too, are near capacity and cannot accept transfer patients.

“Please recognize the severity of this situation and follow the advice of Governor Holcomb and the CDC. We urge you to wear a mask whenever you are in public, limit social gatherings, wash your hands frequently, follow quarantine and isolation advice from the local health department, and socially distance,” implored Janssen. “Stay home at Thanksgiving and ask your relatives who don’t live with you to do the same. And to be truly safe, stay away from gathering with friends and family members who don’t live in your household.”

COVID cases significantly increased in November

According to a recent White House Coronavirus Task Force report there is now “aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration. Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both COVID and non-COVID emergencies.”

Janssen said, “If individuals in our community don’t take this seriously, Henry Community Health may not be able to care for them or their family because of lack of beds and decreased number of staff who care for patients. While our care team members are committed to providing care to our community, they are tired and under a significant amount of stress. We need the community’s help to keep them healthy and rested to care for those who need it the most.”

Hospital already limiting procedures and services

The expansion of the COVID unit, along with the increase in hospitalizations, has forced Henry Community Health to limit elective procedures. The delay of elective surgical procedures may have a negative effect on the health of many patients.

The hospital also had to close down several elective outpatient services such as Sleep Center, Pulmonary Function Tests, EEGs, Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, and some services at HealthRidge.

According to Janssen, the virus has also had a significant impact on staffing.

“Several staff members have COVID, are quarantined due to exposure, or are staying home with their children who are quarantined or attending school virtually due to school closures,” he said. ”This creates a significant burden on their ability to provide care to an increasing number of patients.

“Please, do your part to help our healthcare workers on the frontline,” Janssen continued. “They are putting their lives on the line daily to care for you. You can make a difference.”

Visitor restrictions continue

For the safety of staff and patients, no visitors are allowed at Henry Community Health, with the following exceptions:

One visitor in the Women’s & Children’s Unit

Inpatient Surgery (day of surgery only)

At time of admission to or discharge from inpatient unit

Minor’s may be accompanied by one guardian

End of Life

Patient Need, i.e. dementia, assault, etc.

Vaccine is coming but the need to wear masks, social distance must continue

“There is good news about the potential of vaccines that are proving to be effective in clinical trials. While it is unsure when distribution will begin or who can first receive it, please closely watch the news and take the vaccine when you are eligible,” Janssen added. “In the meantime, please continue to wear a mask, socially distance, limit social gatherings and wash your hands regularly.”

Milestone Contractors were at work bright and early Friday putting down the first layer of hot mix asphalt on Race Street in New Castle. Mayor Greg York expects the final layer of blacktop to go down in the spring.


Serving up safety this holiday season

Another holiday season is almost here with an uninvited and dangerous guest – the coronavirus.

As health officials discussed the rise in COVID-19 cases with Henry County Commissioners Wednesday, Angela Cox, the health department administrator, emphasized the danger that could interfere with the joy of big family gatherings.

This year, “happy” and “merry” need to take a backseat to the word “safe.”

“Due to the continued rise in COVID-19 cases in the community and an increase in the number of citizens requiring hospitalization for COVID-19, the Henry County Health Department will not be approving events with more than 50 people through December 31,” Cox said. “It is critical that the citizens of Henry County help stop the spread of COVID-19 now more than ever. We understand that this is disappointing news but we are making decisions that will keep everyone safe until other means of fighting the virus become available.”

Along with those words of caution, Cox offered the following tips:

Celebrate outdoors instead of in small indoor spaces with poor ventilation;

Maintain six feet of distance at all times with those who do not live directly with you in the same house;

Wear your mask, especially around family or friends that do not live directly with you in the same house;

Ask older family and friends to stay home. Visit with them over the phone or internet instead;

If you do get together keep the group small, 10 or less;

Travel safely using your mask, washing your hands and watching your distance;

Quarantine after traveling to areas with high community spread or even if you don’t travel but attend a gathering where protective measures are not taken; and

Change events to drive by/drive through which will allow people to maintain physical distancing and enjoy contactless pick up of gifts and food items.

For more ideas about how to stay safe this holiday season, visit: https://www. coronavirus.in.gov.

Meanwhile, Commissioners and health department officials offered words of support for local business owners who often depend on sales at this time of year to bolster their bottom lines.

Commissioner Ed Yanos had empathy for business people and the difficult situation they face with mask mandates.

“Business owners are forced with chasing away a badly needed customer if they try and enforce the mask mandate,” Yanos said. “I think that puts them in a very awkward situation.”

Cox encouraged residents, particularly senior citizens, to take advantage of curbside service when offered.

Local Briefs

No newspaper on Thanksgiving

As a reminder, we will not publish on Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. Our Thanksgiving edition will publish on Wednesday, Nov. 25, and be delivered in the mail to our subscribers. The newsstand price of the Thanksgiving edition will be the same as our Weekend Edition.

– Courier-Times Staff

City’s Thanksgiving trash schedule

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday next week, Thursday trash in New Castle will be collected on Friday.

– Provided by the City of New Castle

Gubernatorial inauguration events postponed

INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Hupfer, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party and campaign manager for the reelection effort of Governor Eric Holcomb, announced Friday that traditional celebratory events related to the swearing in of the governor will be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Information regarding the legal swearing in of Governor Holcomb into his second term will be released by the governor’s official office at a later date.

– Provided by Holcomb for Indiana campaign

Eight sides of Christmas decor

SHIRLEY — The landmark Jane Ross Reeves Octagon House at 400 S. Railroad St., Shirley, will be dressed up on all eight sides in holiday splendor for two weekends again this year.

Strolling through the unique, fully-restored rooms and viewing at least 20 decorated Christmas trees and other adornments is free to the public. Gov. Eric Holcomb’s safety recommendations will be in place with masks required, temperatures taken and social distancing ahered.

The doors will open 4-8 p.m. weekends of Fridays-Saturdays, Dec. 4-5 and 11-12.

To-go meals both weekends

Along with the self-guided tours, there will be carry-out dinners available. The first weekend will have chicken and noodles with mashed potatoes, green beans, dessert and drink for $12. The second week’s fare is vegetable soup or chili, pulled pork or sloppy joe sandwich, dessert and drink for $10.

Organizers mention what’s new for the walk and at the historical home. Becky Skinner of Ben’s Bar in Shirley donated $200 for new outdoor lights and sponsors three trees.

Shirley Warehouse on Main St. has a new tree as does the new downtown business, The Trusty Gavel.

A couple more tree sponsors are needed. Any organization, individual or person wanting to honor or memorialize a loved one may do so for $25 by calling Cheryl Wright at 737-6856 or Virginia Harrell at 738-6736.

Harrell, for example, decorated the house’s library in memory of Jane Ross Reeves who originally owned the home. Dec. 22 will be her 196th birthday anniversary.

“They need to come and see the house this year because it is different,” says Harrell. “We have different trees, different decorations on the staircase and outside.”

There’s also a new decorator to the committee, Becky Spegal of Shirley, although she has helped with meals in the past. Spegal says she is involved because of, “The history. It’s just so beautiful.”

Also new in 2020 are the upgraded grounds, with landscaping taken over by the Master Gardeners of Greenfield. “It’s beautiful,” says Harrell.

The home and grounds are available for rent. A family reunion is $50 and wedding $150. Harrell mentions a beautiful bridal shower that took place on the porch this year.

Anyone interested in renting the place can use the contact numbers above.

Organizers, all volunteers, are looking forward to seeing the house get fresh paint in 2021 along with an upgraded handicap ramp. They plan to have the community fish fry there in July and also a meal in September.

Also, they report that the Octagon House Endowment Fund offered through the Hancock County Community Foundation reached its goal last year so that funds will be available for maintenance into the future.

Several key volunteers memorialized

The committee lost some key dedicated volunteers in 2020. For Cheryl, the loss is keen of her mother-in-law, Carol Wright. She speaks of the love Carol had for the house and how Carol’s 64 descendants, including kids, grandkids and greats gathered this month to make fabric-wrapped ornaments that look like old-fashioned candy in Carol’s memory.

The ornaments fill a tree upstairs in the house’s loom room with a photo of Carol and her extended family beside it.

Also missed and remembered are volunteers Lamoine Harrell and Don Hammer.

Missing these loved ones and Octagon House supporters are felt by she and the committee, Cheryl says, “But we know they would want us to keep setting goals and moving forward.”

Meanwhile, the volunteers gave this newspaper a preview tour of the decorated trees and decorations such as the Woodlands tree, the large tree in the Hammer Reception Room that features vintage-type dolls Cheryl found in hues of burgundy, purple and gold with coordinating ornaments.

Cheryl adorned the Ben’s Bar room tree in blue and white.

Attendees can vote for their favorite trees by contributing money in containers beside the trees.