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Franciscan Health to offer COVID-19 testing in Michigan City

MICHIGAN CITY — As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, with more Indiana cases reported daily, Franciscan Health Michigan City will begin offering outpatient testing to help ease community angst.

Later this week, the hospital will begin offering outpatient testing for COVID-19, according to Franciscan Health spokesman Robert Blaszkiewicz.

“To minimize unnecessary exposure, testing will be completed in the patient’s car,” he said. “Patients should not enter the Emergency Department for testing.”

After testing, unless exhibiting acute symptoms that require hospitalization, patients will be sent home to treat their symptoms, he said.

The patient’s physician will notify them with test results within three to four days of their tests.

Testing will be conducted Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. A physician’s order and pre-registration will be required to be tested. Patients should call 219-877-1474 prior to arrival to pre-register.

The testing trailer will be located on the far east side of the hospital’s main parking lot and will be identified with a large banner.

“We are still preparing our site for testing and will notify the public when it is available,” Blaszkiewicz said.

While one person in La Porte County – a 55-year-old La Porte man – has tested positive for COVID-19, Baszkiewicz said Franciscan has not had a positive case yet.

“In response to the Indiana State Department of Health’s report of the first La Porte County resident diagnosed with COVID-19, we can report that to date, Franciscan Health Michigan City has no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the hospital,” he said.

COVID-19 is a viral illness, and treatment is rest, drinking fluids and medication that reduces fever.

You can protect yourself from transmission of the virus by washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with others, staying home if sick, covering coughs and sneezes, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces daily.

Anyone seeking information should not call the Emergency Department, since it takes resources away from treating patients.

For frequently asked questions about coronavirus, you can call the hotline at 219-879-8511 and use prompt #8. This is not a medical screening hotline, but general information only.

Those with general questions about coronavirus can also find resources online, which are updated regularly, including:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov

The Indiana State Department of Health at in.gov/isdh

La Porte County Health Department at laporteco.in .gov/covid-19/

Franciscan Health at franciscanhealth.org/COVID-19


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Coming from around the world to check out Michigan City

MICHIGAN CITY — Trade representatives from eight countries toured Michigan City last week to get a firsthand feel for the community and to gather information.

With foreign direct investment in mind, Select Chicago, the Chicago International Trade Commissioners Association (CITCA) and Economic Development Corporation Michigan City (EDCMC) coordinated the tour.

“We’re excited to have trade representatives from eight countries in Michigan City learning about us firsthand,” said Clarence Hulse, executive director at EDCMC. “Michigan City is a fantastic community. We’re the hub of commerce, and we’re trying to make sure the world knows what’s going on in Michigan City.”

The trade reps who attended Thursday’s tour stopped first at the EDCMC office for a short presentation. Then they embarked on a bus tour down Michigan Boulevard, U.S. 20, Franklin Street and Washington Park to showcase the city’s tourism and manufacturing backgrounds, and the general quality of life.

The group took a brief tour at Marbach and learned about the German manufacturer’s process in setting up shop in Michigan City last year. They also got a look at Sullair, the city’s police and fire services, investment opportunities at the Marquette Mall site, some recently annexed land, industrial and business parks, and the Uptown Arts District.

“The goal is for them to go back and plant that seed with the folks within their countries,” Hulse said, “so they’ll come to Michigan City to visit and also to come and invest in our community, whether by buying a house or bringing a new business to Michigan City.

“So, for me, this is planting the seeds for long-term growth and also developing cultural relationships.”

After the tour, Rocio Rivera, from the economic department at the Mexican Consulate in Chicago, said, “I was very impressed with the city, with the companies that are investing here, with the structure that you have, the real estate development and the local business.”

Yaninne Vega of Business France North America said, “A really nice place to live and do business, Michigan City. I was really surprised about the air compressor hub being here. I didn’t know about it and I will totally explore that.

“A lot of different opportunities … that you have. I already knew about the Crossroads of America being Indiana … but it was good to see it.”

Michigan City was the fifth community visit for Vidmantas Verbickas of the Consulate General of Lithuania in Chicago.

“Every time, I’ve learned something about development; diversification; how counties, cities, councils are coping with economic challenges,” he said, “which are opportunities for investment, for doing business, and in which area businesses are clustering.

“We have, from Lithuania, interest in United States for exports as well as attracting foreign direct investment. And also, we have Lithuanian businesses coming to the United States. So, for me to know where and who I can suggest, it’s a big deal.”

Select Chicago is a nonprofit economic organization that works with 30 different municipalities within about 186 miles of O’Hare Airport to foster economic development in economically-challenged communities, according to organization president Michael Edgar.

“Over the last five years, we’ve built up a really good bench of communities and foreign trade commissioners to create a real dynamic for bringing people here and taking people there,” Edgar said.

Select Chicago and CITCA offer community tours on the second Thursday of each month, allowing trade representatives to get an up-close look at each of Select Chicago’s community partners.

Those who attended last week’s Michigan City tour came from countries including Germany, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Greece, Lithuania and Mexico.

According to Jenilee Haynes Peterson, economic development manager at EDCMC, Michigan City is the only community in Indiana to have partnered with Select Chicago, providing a major advantage for local investment opportunities.

At the end of Thursday’s excursion, the group met at Shoreline Brewery & Restaurant with representatives from places like the Northwest Indiana Forum, Northwest Indiana World Trade Alliance, Michigan City Common Council, Visit Michigan City – La Porte, Friendship Botanic Gardens, Sullivan-Palatek Inc. and others.

Mayor Duane Parry joined them for lunch.

“We’re casting our future here; we’re making new friends,” he said. “Michigan City is, as we all know, a diverse community. We have a very impressive industrial heritage, and I have a heavy industrial background.”

But it’s light industry that Parry said he most hopes to attract.

“My philosophy is, Michigan City needs a balanced economy,” he said. “The tourism that we have; the retail that we have; our wonderful businesses, such as the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa. But we need a light industrial base for the people who either do not want to work in the industries I mentioned, or cannot.

“And this is what I hope to introduce our new friends to. Many of them have never been here before; they do not know the history of Northwest Indiana,” Parry said.

“We are a blue-collar area of America. We are the heartland of America. And we embrace the industry that they’ve enjoyed for years. We hope that they will establish themselves here, benefit from our workforce and all the other wonderful things we have here in Northwest Indiana – low cost of living, our labor force and our international port.”


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Second Indiana COVID-19 death reported

MICHIGAN CITY — As cities and counties continue to implement new restrictions to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, a second Indiana person has died from the virus.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday announced a second Hoosier – a Johnson County adult over age 60 who had been hospitalized – has died. No further information about the patient will be released.

ISDH also announced six new positive cases of COVID-19, including two in Northwest Indiana, bringing the number of Hoosiers diagnosed through ISDH, the CDC and private laboratories to 30.

The new cases involved two residents of Lake County, two in Franklin County and Marion County. For updates, visit in.gov/corona virus/.

One of the Lake County cases is a woman from Hobart. Pastor Jeff Spencer of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church on U.S. 6 announced on Facebook that his wife tested positive and he has been placed on two-week quarantine.

Darlene Spencer went to a doctor last week with fever and breathing difficulties, the pastor wrote on Facebook. She was released but her condition started to get worse, Spencer said.

He said her blood oxygen levels were dropping along with a high fever and trouble breathing when she was admitted to a hospital and placed in ICU, where she was isolated and given the COVID-19 test.

Test results came back positive on Monday night, and Darlene Spencer is on a ventilator and sedated in isolation at the hospital.

“I want you to know it can affect you because it has me,” Spencer wrote. “Should you take caution while out in public, most definitely. But the most important thing you can do is pray and ask God to intervene.”

He said he hopes the people they were in contact with do not become sick and if they are feeling symptoms to isolate themselves.

A GoFundMe page has been set up at gofundme.com/f/pastors-jeffs-wife -in-icu-with-corona-virus to help with her medical costs.

Spencer praised the hospital staff, while writing they are being very cautious.

“We were immediately taken to a room in the ER so as not to be around other people, and mask and gowns are being used by the staff around us. They quickly started doing blood work and x rays along with a CT scan and have limited personal contact to a minimum.

“Yes they are still here doing their best to care for people that come in sick despite the possibility of self infection. Continue to pray for my wife but also for all the doctors and nurses that are putting themselves in jeopardy daily.”

With no confirmed cases in Michigan City, where restaurants, bars, schools, churches, government offices and attractions have been closed, Mayor Duane Parry is urging everyone to stay calm.

“Keep calm and look out for one another,” he said.

The mayor on Monday asked local businesses to abide by the restrictions imposed by the governor and announced City Hall facilities, along with non-essential city services, will be temporarily closing.

City employees will continue to report to work and departments will remain open, Parry said. “The City of Michigan City intends to maintain crucial services and functions.

“In this rapidly changing environment, the City is making decisions that we believe to be in the best interest of our citizens. We understand this will undoubtedly cause inconveniences and disruptions to those who use City Hall services and we are committed to working with our residents under these trying conditions by telephone and Email.”

Individuals with “urgent, time-sensitive situations requiring the attention of City Hall staff” should contact the appropriate department to determine if an accommodation can be made.

“These measures are precautionary and are intended to help reduce the risk of spreading the virus locally,” Parry said.

Updates on closures and other information will be posted on emichigancity.com and the “My Michigan City” Facebook page.

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday announced further actions the state is taking to stop the spread of the virus. They include:

Activating the Indiana National Guard to be on duty to assist as needed.

Delaying or canceling non-essential public meetings. For essential meetings, one member must be physically present, but others can participate electronically.

Bars, nightclubs and restaurants should now be closed to dine-in patrons. They may provide take-out and delivery services through the end of March.

Indiana Women, Infants, and Children program will continue to serve clients while protecting staff and their families.

The Indiana State Library is closed to the public. Access to online services will continue.