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HCCSC talks COVID-19 cases and closure scenarios

As HCCSC students and staff plan to return to school on August 5, the board of trustees met with health officials to discuss potential COVID-19 cases and related closures.

Public Health Nurse Emily Schamehorn says the Huntington County Health Department has been working closely with HCCSC board members to come up with a safe reentry plan. Schamehorn noted that while it’s important to keep students healthy and safe, it’s also important to keep students on track.

HCCSC Superintendent Chad Daugherty says the reentry plan is fluid and could change very quickly if necessary. According to Schamehorn, the infection rate is not as bad as it could be in Huntington County.

“If at some point we see a rise in cases or see a lot of cases are coming from the school corporation or are being spread in the school corporation or if we see that there’s a low attendance rate we can close the schools,” Schamehorn said.

Closing schools or shutting down a classroom will depend on how well students are social distancing, handwashing and following other mitigation tactics against COVID-19 including wearing protective face masks.

“If we are socially distancing our students properly, if we do have a student who becomes positive, it’s a possibility that we would only have to close a classroom for a couple of days to clean it instead of closing a whole school,” Schamehorn said.

In the event of a student testing positive for COVID-19, the Health Department will quarantine close contacts (anyone within six feet of an infected person for 15 minutes or longer)

“That’s why we try to distance our students as much as we can in the classroom,” said Schamehorn.

Typically when a person tests positive, the case will go to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) contact tracing team. The team will call the infected person and contact people who may have been around them and have them quarantined for 14 days.

In the event of an HCCSC student or staff member testing positive, the school would likely be one of the first to know, Schamehorn says.

“In that instance, the schools would be calling me and say ‘I have a positive student or I have a positive staff member’,” Schamehorn said.

The Health Department would then work with the school to determine where the staff member worked or which building the student attended and find out the last day they were present as a start.

Unlike some states, the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) is making reentry plans based on local decisions, rather than a statewide plan, according to Daugherty.

“The one thing that the Indiana Department of Education has expressed to us is they are going to make this a local decision rather than making this a state mandated decision.”

HCCSC plans to begin the 2020-2021 school year as scheduled, with the first student day beginning on Wednesday, August 5th.

Volunteers make Huntington parks 'shine'

Dozens of volunteers came out to make Huntington “shine” during the City’s “Make It Shine Week” through several opportunities at parks across the community.

“This week is our annual Make It Shine Week and we will have a different volunteer opportunity every single day,” Community Engagement Volunteer Coordinator Shawna Balsiger said.

Although heavy downpours led to the Waltonian Gardens workday getting pushed back to Tuesday, Balsiger says she’s thankful the group of volunteers who pledged to help out stuck around the next day to get the job done.

Also on Tuesday, volunteers spread countless loads of wood carpeting around the playground at General Slack Park in order to make the playground equipment safer for children to use.

“It’s looking safer already,” Balsiger commented as volunteers deposited wood carpeting around the playground.

On Wednesday night volunteers from St. Peter’s First Community Church in Huntington showed up for a Sunken Gardens work day which included staining the large set of wooden stairs at the southwest end of the garden.

The community didn’t stop there, as several volunteers turned out to power wash the large pavilion at General Slack Park and give a fresh coat of green paint to nearly a dozen picnic tables.

In celebration of Arbor Day, volunteers also planted several trees around Yeoman Park on Friday to cap off “Make It Shine” week.

As part of preventative measures, Balsiger says she checked volunteers’ temperatures using a digital thermometer as the work days were some of the City’s first group volunteer efforts since the public health emergency began.

Parkview and Anthem reach contract agreement after extended negotiations

Parkview Health and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield reached an agreement on Thursday following a two-day extension as both entities worked to negotiate a new contract.

The multi-year agreement provides Anthem members with continued in-network access to all Parkview Health providers and facilities.

“It was of the utmost importance to us that our patients have uninterrupted access to the Parkview physicians, care teams and facilities they trust,” said Mike Packnett, President and CEO, Parkview Health. “Parkview has been focused on delivering the best care at the best cost, as we know it’s what our region’s patients and employers expect and deserve. As caregivers, we are grateful we can continue to provide high-quality care for every member of our community.”

An existing contract expired between Parkview Health and Anthem of Indiana at midnight on July 30 following the two-day extension. Packnett says the entities worked to overcome differences to avoid disruptions to patient and area employers.

“We’ve made progress, but both sides felt it was important to take more time to try to work through our differences rather than allowing the contract to end tonight at midnight,” Packnett said.

Parkview Physicians Group providers based in Ohio were not impacted and remained in-network for Anthem members during the negotiations.

“This agreement accomplishes what healthcare consumers want most—high quality care at an affordable price,” said David Lee, M.D., Vice President of Health Solutions for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. “We listened to our customers and kept their concerns about healthcare affordability at the forefront during these contract discussions. We’re pleased to continue our partnership with Parkview Health and recognize the important role they play in the delivery of quality care to our members.”

Patients with questions can contact Anthem at the number on the back of their health insurance card or call Parkview at 1-844-241-0032, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Officials remember Indiana's 48th Gov. 'Joe' Kernan

State officials paid tribute to Joseph E. Kernan, 48th Governor of the State of Indiana, after he passed away on Wednesday following a long illness.

Governor Eric J. Holcomb began a virtual press conference on Wednesday afternoon calling Kernan a “devoted man, a loyal man, and someone who taught so many so much.”

Kernan’s distinguished career began as a United States Navy Lieutenant. He and his co-pilot were shot down while on a reconnaissance mission over North Vietnam in 1972. He spent 11 months as a POW in Hanoi, including at the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’ prison.

“He had a loving toughness – a grit about him – that I will never be able to relate to and hopefully most of us won’t have to because he did,” Holcomb said. “When General Douglas MaCarthur talked about duty, honor and country, the general was talking exactly about Joe Kernan – our Joe Kernan.”

A graduate of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, Kernan returned home in 1974 to begin a career in business. In 1980, South Bend Mayor, Roger Parent asked him to serve as the City Controller in his administration.

Seven years later in 1987, he was elected to his first of three consecutive terms as mayor of the City of South Bend. In his third election as mayor, he received over 82 percent of the vote – still the widest margin of victory in the City of South Bend history.

In 1996, Frank O’Bannon, who was running for Governor of Indiana, asked Kernan to join him as the candidate for Lt. Governor. O’Bannon and Kernan were elected in November of that year. The team of O’Bannon and Kernan won reelection four years later in 2000.

When Governor O’Bannon died unexpectedly of a stroke in 2003, Kernan was sworn in as the state’s 48th Governor. Kernan made history immediately by appointing Kathy Davis as Indiana’s first female Lt. Governor.

Upon retirement from politics in 2005, Kernan moved back to South Bend and convinced fifty other members of the community to purchase the minor league South Bend Silver Hawks baseball team. At the time, the team was precariously close to leaving the city.

Kernan and his investors were able to keep the team in South Bend until a new owner by the name of Andrew Berlin was found in 2011. Not only did Berlin agree to keep the team in South Bend, he signed a twenty-year lease for the stadium at the same time.

Kernan continued to work as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Notre Dame, and through his own consulting firm until his death on July 29.

“Indiana mourns the loss of Joe Kernan, a bone fide American hero, decorated Navy officer, and truly selfless statesman who always placed the interests of his fellow Hoosiers first,” Holcomb said. “Distinguished isn’t a strong enough word to describe him. Without regard for personal cost, Joe Kernan devoted every ounce of his life, time and again, to upholding the oath he took, and serving the country and state he loved.”

After being shot down and tortured in Vietnam, he returned and led his beloved City of South Bend as mayor for three terms, and the state’s as our 47th lieutenant governor. And when duty called him to step into a role he didn’t seek, he served as our 48th governor.

“Through his decades of servant leadership and sacrifice, Joe Kernan modeled all the best of what it means to be a Hoosier and his legacy will continue to live on in each of us whom he inspired,” Holcomb said. “Janet and I ask Hoosiers across our state to join us in lifting up in prayer Mrs. Kernan, their incredible family, and all whose lives he touched.”

Kernan passed away at 5:30 a.m. this Wednesday after a prolonged illness. Arrangements are being made by Welsheimer’s Funeral Home in South Bend. Kernan, always a loyal friend, had expressed a preference for Welsheimer’s because the funeral home sponsored his little league team in 1958 when he was 12 years old.

“Joe Kernan’s many and noteworthy contributions to Notre Dame, our community, the state and our nation cannot be overstated,” said John I. Jenkins, C.S.C, President of the University of Notre Dame. “A student-athlete at the University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in government, then entered the Navy and served as a decorated aviator in Vietnam, where he demonstrated uncommon heroism when shot down and held prisoner of war for 11 months.

“As a three-term mayor of South Bend, he set the city on an upward trajectory that continues to this day. He likewise served our state with distinction, first as lieutenant governor and then, upon the sudden passing of Gov. Frank O’Bannon, stepping up as governor.

“In addition to his government service, he was a beloved civic leader who never shied away from challenges. He was always a good friend to Notre Dame, and a friend and support to me personally. We were proud to have him as an alumnus, and as an adjunct faculty member in political science.

“In presenting Joe with an honorary degree in 1998, the University praised him as ‘an accomplished public servant who played a pivotal role in strengthening the University’s town-gown relations.’ He went on to deliver a superb commencement address to the graduating class.

“Our prayers are with his wife, Maggie, their family and his many friends. We grieve over his passing, while simultaneously recognizing a remarkable life. May he rest in peace.”

Memorial contributions may be made to the Veterans Fund at the University of Notre Dame. Please direct your gift to support scholarships and fellowships for military-connected students to, by phone (574) 631-5150, or by mail: University of Notre Dame, Department of Development, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556.