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Indiana county rejects health grant amid COVID-19 complaints

Health officials are frustrated after a northern Indiana county council rejected a $3 million federal grant following vocal opposition from residents tying it to a litany of COVID-19 complaints.

Posted: Sep 19, 2021 7:50 AM

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) — Health officials are frustrated after a northern Indiana county council rejected a $3 million federal grant following vocal opposition from residents tying it to a litany of COVID-19 complaints.

The Elkhart County health department had sought the grant to hire staff members to provide education on chronic diseases to Black, Hispanic and Amish residents over a three-year period. The county council’s 6-0 vote on Sept. 11 against accepting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant, however, had some health leaders saying the council was swayed by what they view as false information and conspiracy theories.

Dr. Dan Nafziger, Goshen Health’s chief medical officer, said the county doesn’t have enough healthcare workers to meet the community needs.

“It is incredibly disappointing to see this effort prevented because people distrust the federal government or connect what they don’t like about the pandemic with this grant,” Nafzinger said. “On a daily basis we have patients filling beds in our hospitals because they didn’t understand how to keep themselves healthy.”

County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait said the department sought the grant after a community needs assessment showed that chronic disease and mental health were concerns in the three target communities. Wait said the department wanted to find health workers who live in those communities and can provide outreach.

More than 20 people spoke against the grant program during the council meeting, with some expressed distrust of the government and health experts and raising fears that the money would lead to forced vaccination.

“I have to believe this grant has a lot to do with COVID,” said Alison Gingerich of Goshen. “We are tired of being educated on COVID. We have had two years of education on COVID. Two years of contract tracing with COVID. Any more education stands for threat, coercion, bullying and virtue signaling.”

Elkhart County, which is just east of South Bend, saw severe COVID-19 outbreaks earlier in the year and was under a county health department-issued mask mandate for months until county commissioners refused in May to extend it under a new Republican-backed state law that required elected officials to approve such requirements.

County Council member Adam Bujalski said he objected to a grant requirement that the local health department assist the federal government in quarantining and COVID isolation.

“That one sentence is my no,” Bujalski said. “I refuse to say that whatever the federal government tells me I have to do I have to do. I will never say that.”

Former Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman, who’s now on the city school board, said he didn’t understand why the council was swayed by the grant opponents.

“Never have I seen something like this before, ever. And I never thought I ever would. It’s craziness,” Kauffman said. “What news do these people read, for God’s sakes? ... They want to believe these conspiracy theories.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 994079

Reported Deaths: 16225
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1340942097
Lake657221150
Allen57000791
Hamilton45877460
St. Joseph43856606
Elkhart35467502
Vanderburgh31922473
Tippecanoe27644256
Johnson24778440
Hendricks23603353
Porter22676362
Madison18488404
Clark18336248
Vigo17227300
Monroe15089197
LaPorte14957249
Delaware14916255
Howard14547286
Kosciusko12115147
Hancock11562175
Bartholomew11413179
Warrick11205188
Floyd10966214
Wayne10812247
Grant9850216
Morgan9346176
Boone8793115
Dubois8194129
Dearborn813092
Henry8098149
Noble7911105
Marshall7767134
Cass7451119
Lawrence7368168
Shelby7085114
Jackson689887
Gibson6468113
Harrison639691
Huntington628799
Knox6262105
DeKalb621796
Montgomery6166109
Miami584894
Putnam572177
Clinton564571
Whitley556355
Steuben548772
Wabash5229101
Jasper517675
Jefferson504095
Ripley491684
Adams471373
Daviess4586112
Scott432968
Greene420496
Wells418087
Clay417060
White413461
Decatur4104101
Fayette401286
Jennings382060
Posey373643
Washington351048
LaGrange350978
Randolph339399
Spencer335842
Fountain331058
Sullivan326352
Starke309968
Owen309369
Fulton303166
Orange289762
Jay277144
Perry263552
Franklin261642
Carroll257632
Rush256732
Vermillion253554
Parke229126
Pike227143
Tipton224959
Blackford187040
Pulaski180354
Crawford157522
Newton155148
Benton150117
Brown142747
Martin137119
Switzerland133411
Warren119916
Union106315
Ohio83912
Unassigned0531

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