MOUNT CARMEL — Mount Carmel’s recent COVID-19 surge, which has drawn national attention, continues to accelerate at a rapid pace.

The outbreak, which Health Department officials point to — at least in part — due to a mini-prom hosted at the Anderson Building on Aug. 4, has been featured nationally on networks such as CNN and NBC.

National media attention aside however, the outbreak is coming at a truly alarming rate.

The majority of the infections have occurred within the younger crowd, with a handful of recent graduates reporting as positive, though some Wabash School District 348 faculty have tested positive as well.

And as of Monday afternoon, Wabash School District 348 had announced it’d be opting for fully remote learning for the foreseeable future, due to the outbreak.

Wabash School District 348 Superintendent Chuck Bleyer, and members of the School Board, had eyed a full return to the classroom on Aug. 24. Their intentions were to use the first two weeks of learning as a blending method, with a Maroon and Gold group reporting the classroom on rotating days, while learning remote for the other half, followed by the full return.

Since last Tuesday the county’s case total has nearly doubled, rising from 37 confirmed to 72, with 36 current positive tests and two hospitalized residents, necessitating the shift to remote in the meantime.

This recent surge might prove detrimental to businesses within the community as well, as several have announced closures since the outbreak.

Among some of the reported closures or cancellations of businesses or events include:

  • The Centennial Celebration of the 19th Amendment which was scheduled for Aug. 22 at Merchants Park has been postponed due to COVID.
  • Vick’s Bread and Brew, located on Market Street, has opted to shut down for the next couple weeks amid the surge. Owner Vikram Singh said the measure is strictly precautionary.
  • Taco Tierra, a local eatery favorite, has closed until at least Thursday, Aug. 20 due to workers having tested positive for COVID-19. They could reopen as early as Friday, as long as the building is thoroughly sanitized and they’re given clearance by the health department.
  • Two Farmers Burgers and Beignets, a popular food truck option in the city, cancelled its appearance in Mount Carmel on Sunday after learning they had been in contact with a COVID-19 positive resident recently. Despite the Health Department’s green light to continue, they erred to the side of safety and elected to sanitize their truck and protect the community.
  • First National Bank closed all of its lobbies inside local locations effective Friday, Aug. 14. Their drive-up windows and ATMs remain open for use.
  • The Mount Carmel Public Library is closing for two weeks due to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. Library officials report the employee had worked on Monday, Aug. 10, and Tuesday, Aug. 11. They will resume normal operations in two weeks.
  • Eclectic Boutique had an employee initially test positive for the virus, but the results came back with a negative for all store employees in a rapid result follow-up test on Aug. 12. They closed on Aug. 11 following news of the initial positive test, and will remain closed until they’re given clearance by the Health Department to reopen.
  • Effective Aug. 15, Mount Carmel Public Utility will close its lobby until further notice. The office will remain open and customer service may be reached via phone at 618-262-5151 or 1-877-262-7036.

Mount Carmel Mayor Joe Judge addressed the outbreak on his Facebook page on Saturday, cautioning against “pointing the finger” at anyone in particular for the outbreak, and called for a collective response.

“As I sit here strolling through Facebook there are a lot of comments that I do not care for,” Judge wrote. “We have made the national media for all the wrong reasons. And it has cost the residents of Mt. Carmel and Wabash County more than all of us know,”

“In this time of a pandemic I see people guessing who and where the positive cases are coming from. And in the same tongue being hateful, nasty and negative toward other people... This is not the Mt. Carmel we want to portray to the national media is it? Several years ago Wabash County made national news for being the most giving county in the mid-west... Please follow CDC Guidelines not only for yourself but for others around you. Because the next positive case could be you or someone you care for and seeing them suffer is not something I think any of us want to go through.”

If you’re in public and social distancing cannot be followed, you’re encouraged (and in some settings, required) to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Everyone has a role to play in containing the spread of this contagious virus.

If you believe you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, contact the Wabash General Hospital COVID-19 hotline at 618-263-6233. Symptoms of COVID-19 include (but are not limited to): cough, sore throat, fatigue, headache, fever, congestion, sneezing, chest soreness, cold chills, and body aches.

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