According to USAFacts, a non-profit civic initiative, the confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Elkhart County have been declining since cases last peaked in the middle of June. Most recent numbers indicate there are currently 5,702 known cases.

Speaking about the healthcare experience in Goshen, Dr. Dan Nafziger, an infectious disease specialist and Goshen Hospital Chief Medical Officer joined Dr. Rose Gillin, a Goshen Family Medicine Specialist, President Rebecca Stoltzfus, and senior nursing student Katja Norton in convocation on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

The reason for decline, Nafziger expressed, has to do with a combination of procedures put in place from different forms of leadership and community response.

“[When] we saw the decline in cases, I think it occurred, in part, timed with our community mask mandate that in part was related to employers taking the virus more seriously and people in the community responding to our surge by modifying their behavior,” Nafziger said.

The preparation for the COVID-19 outbreak began at the Goshen Hospital back in February.

“Really it was a whole health system, planning effort from senior leadership down to people on the frontline taking care of patients,” Nafziger said. “But it's very different taking care of 29 patients in the hospital with this disease than those early days of just having two or three folks in the hospital.”

The preparations the hospital went through for COVID-19 treatment and care were unlike anything Nafziger has seen in his professional career.

“As an organization, I would say that this is probably the greatest challenge that we have had to face, I’m guessing, in the last 100 years,” Nafziger said.

“If you were around during that part of the summer, you would have found that the roads were significantly emptier, people were less likely to be out shopping and socializing. Some of those things have returned to normal, but we have stuck with the mask mandate. I think that has made a significant difference in transmission.”

As some things return to the ways things were, other things have not.

“In terms of how normal or not normal things are, I would say we are not yet at a new normal as a health hospital or health system,” Nafziger said.

For Gillin, things slowed down at the beginning of the pandemic. She has since made the switch to doing telehealth. 

“Things got really, really slow there for a while, and then I started getting a lot of phone calls with a lot of stress, confusion, frustration — people trying to understand what to do in this process,’ Gillin said. 

Ways to help out the community, Gillin suggested, are to volunteer at the Center for Healing and Hope or to donate blood. Nafziger pointed out that for those who have already had COVID-19, donating plasma is also a great option. 

As an added bonus, something to look forward to, according to Nafziger, is “when the vaccine is available that each and every Goshen College nursing student will be given an opportunity to vaccinate folks in our community.”