A lot can change in 14 days; ask any Franklin County resident how different their life is today compared to 14 days ago.

Answers will probably include some of the following: COVID-19 is here, school is canceled, businesses are closed if deemed non-essential and COVID-19 has already claimed four lives in the community.

Franklin County had its first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 on March 15, nine days after the state declared its first case. Two weeks and two days later, March 3, there are 35 positive cases of COVID-19 in Franklin County according to the Indiana State Department of Health’s (ISDH) website and daily tracker that is updated daily at 10 a.m.

As total COVID-19 cases rose from one to 35 quickly, media outlets started to address Franklin County as a “hot spot”for COVID-19. However, ISDH stated it “has not used any language regarding hotspots and has not identified any area of the state as such.”

Franklin County Sheriff’s deputy Jason Lovins had a similar response when asked about Franklin County being a hot spot.

“The term ‘hot spot’ is something being used by the media,”Lovins said. “Neither the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) nor the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identified Franklin County as a ‘hot spot.’”

Still, notably, Franklin County has the second-highest percentage of COVID-19 cases based on residents with confirmed cases per capita coming in at 0.152 percent of the total population. Decatur County came in first at 0.183 percent. Marion County came in third highest at 0.107 percent. The state average is currently at 0.032 percent.

With delayed testing, it is difficult to pinpoint exact dates of when people began to initially fall ill in Franklin County, making it hard to understand how COVID-19 went from one to 35 seemingly so fast.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 was in the community prior to any state or local declaration,”Lovins said. “which is why we urge everyone to stay at home to help prevent any further spreading of the virus.”

What seems like a lack of answers and delayed information has left community members concerned about the general safety of the residents in Franklin County and the need for more information.

Lovins reiterated the importance of focusing on doing what is known to make a difference against COVID-19, social distancing and washing hands correctly, regardless of delays in the information.

“The health department receives updates from the various hospitals and laboratories on a regular basis,”Lovins explained. “Though not always daily. Once we receive the updated information, we disseminate a press release to the news media outlets, as well as posting it on the Sheriff’s Department and Health Department’s Facebook pages.”

According to Lovins, there are no testing sights in Franklin County, which can also delay result turnaround time.

“Tests on individuals are being conducted at the various medical facilities,”Lovins said. “Since our citizens have to go out of county and sometimes out of state for a hospital, it takes quite a long time to receive those results.

“When those facilities contact our health department, we coordinate a release to notify the public. Our health department has been very proactive in releasing information to the public.”

Lovins acknowledged that regardless of his knowledge of the health department’s accuracy in reporting information, he recognizes people still seem to be confused.

“I think what’s confusing people, and drawing unfair criticism to the health department, is that I continue to put the media releases on our (FCSD’) letterhead,”Lovins explained. “As I am handling media relations for the county task force (if you want to call it that), the information being released will read word-for-word no matter whose letterhead is used.”

Lovins also reiterated that local officials were doing everything possible to keep the community safe. The Sheriff’s department keeps the Brookville, Batesville, Laurel and Oldenburg police departments and the Mt. Carmel Town Marshal updated with the latest information and several county officials continue to meet daily, sometimes more than once, to go over the latest news.

“The Sheriff’s department, EMA, the health department, the county health director, commissioner Linkel, our local public health coordinator, and someone from the auditor’s office meet and come up with a game plan, if there is one to be had, to try and help,”Lovins said. “Unfortunately, there is only so much that can be done. The commissioners have declared a level orange travel advisory in conjunction with the governor’s ‘stay-at-Home’order, to encourage citizens to only travel as necessary to and from work, to and from necessary medical appointments, to and from picking up medications, to and from the grocery or picking up food, etc. They have closed the courthouse and government center to the public. However, they are allowing the offices to remain open via telephone or electronic messaging so people can still conduct necessary business. Sheriff Peter Cates has closed the security center to the public, including a temporary stop to inmate visitation.”

Cates also assigned Lovins to the Emergency Operations Center at the EMA office to coordinate the release of public information.

In a previous press release from the Sheriff’s department, it stated the increase in confirmed cases was expected and is expected to continue to rise “as the results of tests conducted last week to week and a half get reported to the health department.”

Although the amount rising is disturbing, it was expected according to the release.

With the information provided at the state and local levels, here is what is known so far.

*Franklin County has 35 positive cases of COVID-19.

*Franklin County has one case where the patient recovered and is out of quarantine.

*Franklin County has four deaths related to COVID-19.

Citizens are urged to stay at home as much as possible. Follow the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and Franklin County Health Department on Facebook for the latest updates.