Vanderburgh Co. Commissioner concerned over local health transparency


VANDERBURGH COUNTY, Ind. (WEHT) — Evansville city leaders are addressing new concerns of the number of COVID-19 cases in the city and Vanderburgh County.

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke held a news conference Friday morning to address the surge in cases, but one Vanderburgh County Commissioner says more needs to be done. 

“We are not being transparent enough with the public, we don’t have enough information to take action at all,” said Vanderburgh County Commissioner Cheryl Musgrave. “I think the public needs to know this in order to grasp the seriousness of the situation.”

Commissioner Musgrave says there is an information gap about COVID-19 from the medical community. Musgrave cites the number of rooms or percentages of rooms devoted to COVID-19 patients.

Mayor Winnecke cited data from the state health department website. Data provided by the ISDH on October 6 shows many cases locally are coming from retail stores – restaurants – and places of worship.

“We have had discussions with the county health department and (Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina) Box about the regional nature of the numbers today and we realize that while a Mayor in the city of Evansville can’t influence that, those at higher levels can,” Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said. 

The Mayor says starting October 19, an executive order will enforce the amount of people allowed at social gatherings from 500 per the states-Stage Five Plan-down to 125.

“We are not trying to shut people down, we’re trying to say listen to these numbers, these graphs they are dramatic, and here’s one thing you can do to help us,” Mayor Winnecke said. 

But Commissioner Musgrave says she still has concerns.

“We are having groups of 125. You might argue it is slightly better than a group of 500. You have reduced your risk a little bit, but you have not reduced your risk enough, so what should be done? I could not say and neither could the health department – because neither of us have the data we need in order to make sound decisions,” Musgrave said. 

“I will tell you that the information we have seen has been available for months,” Mayor Winnecke told reports when asked about Musgrave’s statement released early Friday.

Musgrave says at the end of the day, the medical community is not being totally transparent.

“Hospitals are not releasing information about specific capacity levels they have,” Musgrave said. “They do say they are reaching capacity but they don’t tell the public what that really means.” 

Deaconess Hospital Statement:

Deaconess is supportive of the recommendations made this morning by Mayor Winnecke and the Vanderburgh County Health Department, which are consistent with suggestions offered by Dr. Box to area officials yesterday.  The rates of infection and hospitalization for COVID-19 are very concerning, and the data available on the ISDH website speaks for itself.  It would be irresponsible not to act now to reduce the rising rate of COVID-19 in our community, particularly as we head into flu season and cooler months where more people will be indoors together.

If our community will comply with reducing large gatherings, while continuing to wear a mask, wash hands frequently and social distance, we believe we will see a shift in the COVID-19 numbers in our region. We also encourage everyone to get a flu shot, to help reduce deaths and overall illness in our community, as well as lower the demand on testing supplies and other resources.

Deaconess continues to report hospitalization numbers daily to the Indiana State Department of Health. Patients in our hospitals are from a 26-county region in three states, including the 12 counties that make up District 10 in Indiana. Deaconess officials will also continue to host and lead the call held each weekday with local healthcare leaders and elected and public health officials. Deaconess initiated this call in March as a key communication tool and forum for COVID-19 related information and concerns to be openly discussed.

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(This story was originally published on October 9, 2020)

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