Thanks for reading! Want to show your support for local journalism? Please click here.HUNTINGTON — The Huntington County Health Department announced Wednesday evening the first death from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The individual was an adult female from Huntington County.

The third positive COVID-19 case in the county was also announced by the department on Wednesday evening by the department.

The adult from Huntington County died on March 31. No further information about the patient will be released due to privacy laws.

The death of the Huntington County woman is one of 78 deaths linked to the COVID-19 virus across the state, according to the latest numbers from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) on Thursday morning.

“As Huntington’s testing numbers begin to rise, and they will continue to do so for a time, it’s important to remember that it’s okay for those numbers to rise right now,” said Huntington Mayor Richard Strick in a digital newsletter from the City of Huntington. “It means that we’re finally getting an honest and accurate assessment of the problem.”

The county’s three positive cases are also included in the count of 3,039 positive COVID-19 cases statewide, according to the same ISDH report.

The first case of COVID-19 was reported by the Huntington County Health Department last week on March 26. The secondary positive COVID-19 case was confirmed by the ISDH on Monday, March 30.

“The Huntington County Health Department investigates these cases very thoroughly and has contacted everybody who needs to be contacted regarding quarantine and what to do if there are positive symptoms,” said Huntington County Department of Health nurse Emily Schamehorn.

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel, or new, coronavirus that has not been previously identified. It is not the same as the type of coronavirus that causes the common cold.

The Huntington County Health Department is in contact and working in conjunction with area long term care facilities and hospital infection prevention teams to ensure testing is given to those at highest risk.

A spokesperson from Parkview Health told The Herald-Press testing numbers on a county-by-county basis cannot be released because ISDH only accounts for the total number of COVID-19 tests given statewide rather than per county.

According to ISDH’s latest report on Thursday morning, 16,285 Hoosiers had received testing, an increase of 1,910 tests statewide from the previous update 24 hours earlier. According to the latest numbers, only 18 percent of Hoosiers who received testing for the virus actually tested positive.

Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced on Monday during a teleconference that he and other state health officials are anticipating a surge in COVID-19 numbers statewide.

“We see a surge coming and we’re calling in the reinforcements, bolstering Indiana’s capacity to provide additional health care services during this emergency,” said Gov. Eric J. Holcomb. “By eliminating licensing barriers and tapping in to the available talent pool of healthcare workers, Hoosiers are staffing up and stepping up to meet this challenge head-on.”

According to Schamehorn, not everybody will get tested because there is a very short supply of PPE (personal protective equipment), and equipment that is required to run a specimen for COVID-19 (swabs and reagent for the test).

“If somebody has symptoms of COVID-19 (fever, cough, shortness of breath), they need to self-isolate inside of their home away from other people,” Schamehorn said. “They should also call their healthcare provider. Their healthcare provider will determine whether or not they should be tested.”

Health officials are asking those who think they are experiencing symptoms to take extra precaution and follow steps when seeking care.

“If they are having severe symptoms and they feel as though they need to be seen at an ER or walk in clinic, they need to call that facility before they seek medical care,” said Schamehorn. “They should indicate what symptoms they are having so that the proper infection prevention practices can be used by staff and for the sake of the other patients in that facility. If they are calling 911, they should also indicate what symptoms they are having when they are talking to dispatch so that the first responders may take the proper infection prevention precautions.”

COVID-19 is most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

n Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing

n Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands

n Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands

n Rarely, fecal contamination

Many people who acquire COVID-19 will have mild symptoms, can self-isolate and do not need to be tested. Older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness.

The best ways to protect yourself are to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home when you’re sick, cover your cough or sneeze and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

“This will be a hard and difficult time, and we are each only human,” Mayor Strick said. “But humans are marvelous creatures and we’re going to get through this by continuing to do what is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community. It’s an effort that requires each of us doing our part – thank you for your help in overcoming this.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is debating on whether or not those who are not sick should wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms to protect others from the risk of infection.

Visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 website at https://coronavirus.IN.gov for more information, including frequently asked questions about COVID-19.