Coronavirus Increases Among Amish: Two Responses

From the Wooster Daily Record:

MILLERSBURG — Coronavirus cases in Holmes County have spiked in recent weeks after the county spent months in the single digits.

The Ohio Department of Health reported on Friday that 84 cases had been detected in the county, up from 15 cases a month ago. The county has reported three deaths and five hospitalizations from COVID-19.

The uptick in Holmes County began in early May just as the pandemic was cresting in Wayne County and statewide.

Twenty-four new cases were reported for the week ending June 7, and 18 for the week ending May 31. While these numbers may appear low, accounting for the county’s small population, Holmes’ new case rate rivals the state’s peak at slightly over 50 new weekly cases per 100,000 people.

This graphic, via the Daily Record, shows the increase in Holmes County (blue line). The other two lines are Wayne County and the state of Ohio. Note that this chart tracks cases per 100,000 people (Holmes County’s total population is about 45,000):

However, this increase was not a surprise, and the situation is under control, according to the county health commissioner:

Michael Derr, health commissioner for the Holmes County General Health District, said a late wave of cases in rural areas was expected as the pandemic ebbed in cities.

“We knew as they were going down, we were going to start going up,” he said.

However, Derr said, the pandemic is under control in Holmes, emphasizing the low number of deaths and hospitalizations.

The commissioner attributes the rise to both an increase in testing and the reopening of the economy.

A different response in Indiana

Areas of the country’s two other largest Amish communities have also seen COVID case increases (LaGrange County, IN and Lancaster County).

LaGrange County, quite similar as far as size and Amish population to Holmes County, has seen a larger increase. Dr. Tony Pechin is the county’s Health Officer:

Pechin said he’s watched with disappointment as LaGrange County sets new records almost every day for the number of new confirmed coronavirus infections in the county. This past week alone, that number nearly doubled, jumping from 139 confirmed cases on June 5 to 235 cases on Friday, and many of those new cases are popping up inside LaGrange’s Amish community.

“We’ve had a significant increase in cases after the governor eased restrictions. I’m concerned that there are more cases out there than are being tested. I think a lot of folks are already sick and won’t get tested, especially within the Amish community,” he said.

That’s a bigger one-week jump than in Holmes County (96 new cases vs. 24; the time frames used in each place overlap, but don’t perfectly match).

Of course, without information on the number of tests performed in each place, this information is not too useful for comparative purposes.

But it is interesting to see the quite different responses by these two health officials to similar phenomena. One health official is frustrated by a “cultural problem”, exacerbated by “health illiteracy” (Pechin in LaGrange County).

The other (Derr in Holmes County) seems to view and frame it differently: “If you’re looking for gold and you know where to look for it, you’re going to find more of it. The fact that we have testing, and we’re able to test means we’re going to find more of it.”

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    18 Comments

    1. Geo

      Science Vs. politics

      Rather than being less informed than the English about mainstream medicine, I think the Amish are just more skeptical of it, not unlike their skepticism of English life style in general. I’m curious how well the Amish took precautions in their communities.
      Precautions like social distancing and wearing a face mask against inhaling other people’s spit and to protect others from inhaling yours is basic science and simple logic. Unfortunately certain politicians made wearing of face masks and other precautions into a matter of partisan politics.

      1. Michelle

        This is about health ,not politics

        Please stop bringing politics into this. It’s not about masks, policticians etc. it is about illness death and keeping this monster at bay! Unfortunately Amish do not scrub hands with hot water at every needed event. They do not listen to the eve news or Panic. Social distancing Encouraging but not mandating face mask when out and meticulous washing of hands has dramatically slowed this down. Erik please moderate comments that bring in US Politics . This is not the place for this. I love the simplicity and down home content of this site. I escape from the divide of our Country.

        1. Geo

          Encoraging

          Encouraging but not mandating. Yes that should work.

        2. Michelle, I’m really glad you like the content and atmosphere here. I appreciate that sentiment.

          Since some of the posts we do are about how the Amish fit in current events, sometimes they are going to have a political backdrop to them.

          Unfortunately, this health event has become very politicized, so comments touching on the political aspects of it are to be expected.

          I believe in an open forum so I rarely block non-vulgar comments, but yes I do occasionally keep non-related political comments off posts which have nothing to do with politics.

          The good news is that 80-90% of posts here are on topics that are pretty safely non-political (even indirectly), so I hope you’ll continue to enjoy those.

          1. Mimi

            Of course they don't wear masks.

            I am not surprised the Amish do not wear masks. Why would they? It is a very worldly decree that any true Christian should question given the worldwide scope of power mandating it and what the bible says about that. The bible says My days are numbered. “A man’s days are numbered. You know the number of his months. He cannot live longer than the time You have set. So now look away from him that he may rest, until he has lived the time set for him like a man paid to work” Job 14:5-7 That being so, only God, not CDC or anyone politcally connected can save me if it is my time, nor can a doctor with all their assumed authority predict my death. There has never been a time with all the diseases in the World where one Power forced by law that a man woman or child could not breath freely and it is an evil mandate which violates the function of the body which is made to breath fresh air and the right of every people to live as they were meant by God Almighty to live. If all including those with Cystic Fibrosis, COPD and asthma are not given exemptions them clearly, this is NOT about the health of the people, but the power satan comands against them and against the Creator that made them.

        3. Elam Peachey

          Work Hard and Mind Your Own Business

          There’s a lot of things this great nation could learn from the Amish.
          Work hard, eat healthy and mind your own business.

    2. What one assumes (and interpretation of data seldom without its assumptions) usually says more about the mind of the interpreter than the stacking up of the data itself. To adapt from the great philosophers Simon and Garfunkel, a man sees what he is predisposed to see and disregards the rest.

      As I see it, the closest things to solid reliable data to legitimately work with in all this are the death and hospitalization numbers. Even comparing tested-positive numbers over a period of time (e.g., “increase in new-case rates”) are rarely apples-to-apples valid because of variations in test access and use. With that many variables there is little to base conclusions on — which means anyone choosing to venture further is contaminating his conclusions with speculation.

      1. Jerry

        In my county in South Central PA the DoH reports 58 deaths. It also reports 66 of those 58 happened in nursing homes. You can’t make this stuff up……or can they?

        1. Jerry, I am normally fairly hesitant to make accusations or to draw hasty conclusions…, but if they are reporting 66 out of 58 deaths (which of course is a mathematical impossibility) as attributed to anything, yeah, I think it’s safe to say that someone somewhere is making something up. ha

        2. Annette

          Oh?

          Provide link to source please. Could be typo or misunderstanding.

    3. J.O.B.

      Amish Covid

      In PA, I know plenty of Amish who have gone on vacations.

      Plenty of Amish continue to party. Since the weather has gotten warmer, the late night outdoor parties have picked up.

      Others have continued to work and gather with family like Covid never existed.

    4. CoraVee Caswell

      Lagrange COVID

      Accorcding to what was related on local radio, giving the total cases for each day, Lagrange Co had an increase of 193 cases in one day. That is almost as many as the sum total of cases in the next county east, Steuben. The number of testing has been way low in LaGrange. Late last week a highly respected Dr. in Topeks was admitted to ICU with the virus and several of his staff tested positive, therefore closing his clinic. I have been to his office many times with relatives, and to meet my own ortho there. Usually half the people in the waiting room were Amish.

      The Lagrange Amish seem to have been refusing to wear masks and practice distancing, I waited for someone in the E&S parking lot about 2 months ago. I counted over 200 Amish without masks come and go. The parking lot was full and the store packed. Some English had masks.

      This morning on local WLKI radio, it was announced that it is mandatory now in Lagrange Co to wear masks and practice distancing, both inside and outside stores and public places. We’ll see how that goes.

      I’ve spoken twice with a Swiss Amish bishop from a southern IN county. (200 miles and a world apart from Lagrange Amish.) He is of the opinion That this is just an ordinary flu, and that there are no more deaths than usual from the flu. And that it has been engineered so that Bill Gstes will force everyone to have the vaccine he sells. I simply refused to get into any discussion with him about it.

    5. Take a look

      Has anyone looked around and see how many people other than the Amish are not wearing mask ? I was in Tennessee and 1 percent of people wearing mask, touching things not using hand sanitizer. We would not get takeout food if not wearing mask. I had to go to Michigan a hard hit area went to McDonald’s drive Thur woman working there had no mask on.
      It is just not the Amish.

      1. CoraVee Caswell

        Debra, you are correct

        You are absolutely correct. Although at E&S in Shipshwana, it was about 99% Amish without masks, or maybe 100% that day, Probably 50 or more % English were not masked. Few were as they should have been, according to the local regulations at that time. And I wear a mask as much out of respect as I do for protection, And I am appalled with the contempt shown for other people and for the law shown by those who won’t wear a mask, wash hands, or distance.

        1. Stephanie Berkey

          It’s not contempt to have a different perspective. The longer the shutdown, the more most suffer in other vital ways, some of which is worse than the virus. To me, and many others, maintaining our freedoms and ability to provide for our families is just as important. Most are trying to seek a balance and have different situations to adapt to. That’s not contempt.

    6. amishgirl- Rebecca

      This whole situation is frustrating! We do not need to get into arguments, there are too many different opinions. In the nursing home where I work more residents are suffering from the loneliness and isolation, than the sickness. If given a choice most would choose the risk of infection over not being able to see loved ones. It’s heart-breaking to see their depression.

      1. This is a good consideration Rebecca. It’s something I’ve been concerned about with some in my own family. Phone calls are not nearly equivalent to face-to-face meetings, especially as time goes on and there remains a fog of uncertainty as to when those folks might meet their loved ones in person again. At an advanced age time becomes even more valuable.