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LaPorte County commissioner urges calm after resident tests positive for COVID-19
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LaPorte County commissioner urges calm after resident tests positive for COVID-19

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This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus.

LAPORTE — Three new presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 were reported by the state health department Saturday, including one case in LaPorte County. 

The other two cases reported Saturday are in Marion and Wells counties, the Indiana State Department of Health said in a news release. The department did not specify the genders or ages of the new cases.

The three cases brings the state's total to 15, while neighboring Illinois has a total of 64 cases. The other Indiana cases are in Adams, Boone, Hendricks, Howard, Johnson, Noble and St. Joseph counties.

LaPorte County Commission President Sheila Matias said the patient is a 55-year-old man from the city of LaPorte who is being treated at Porter Regional Hospital. Hospital spokeswoman Kelly Credit confirmed a patient is being treated for the virus and remains in isolation.

"Since identifying the patient as potentially having COVID-19, the individual has been separated from other patients in an appropriate infection isolation room which only a small team of caregivers can access," Credit said. "Visitors and other patients who might come to the hospital for treatment or procedures are not in this area of the hospital."

Matias said she was alerted to the confirmed case Friday night after the man developing symptoms was tested. She said it appears the people he’s had recent contact with are strictly family members at home and at a residence in Joliet, Illinois, where he recently traveled.

"Every contact that he has had has been examined and they are in quarantine,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure there’s no further transmission. He doesn’t appear to have had a lot of contacts from all of the information we’ve been able to gather."

Matias asked residents to remain calm and follow advice like washing hands, covering mouths while sneezing or coughing and staying away from large gatherings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to try and limit the spread of the virus.

“This is a time when the community really has to pull together. We need to be sure we’re looking out for each other. This is not a time for panic," Matias said. "It’s a time for taking care of each other and just hunkering down, being calm, watching movies, play some board games, read to your children. Calmness is the order of the day.”

Franciscan Health hospital in Michigan City said in a news release it has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the hospital. The hospital is requesting those seeking information on the virus not call the emergency department, but rather the hotline at 219-879-5111, ext. 8.

The hospital will offer outpatient testing on a limited basis beginning next week, the hospital said in the release. Tests will require an order from a patient's doctor. 

"Area residents can be reassured that Infection Control teams at Franciscan Health hospitals have implemented procedures with staff and have the necessary equipment to care for any patient with this illness or any other flu strains," the hospital said. "This includes having protective barriers and isolation areas to protect staff and others from airborne exposure to COVID-19."

On Friday, all public school districts in Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties closed, shifting to online classes through early to mid-April. Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered all schools in the state to close through the end of March.

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, has claimed nearly 50 lives in America and thousands worldwide. More than 2,000 cases have been reported in the United States and more than 135,000 globally.

The Indiana health department said Saturday it will continue to prioritize testing for people who are at high risk. It encourages people who don't meet testing criteria to consult their doctor about private testing. 

"Most people with COVID-19 will develop mild symptoms and do not need to be tested," the department said.

The health department's general call center number is 317-233-7125. Calls after 8 p.m. should go to 317-233-1325 and will be answered by an on-call epidemiologist. The health department said call center staff will not offer personal medical advice or provide test results.

Check back at nwi.com for updates as this story develops.

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