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ATTICA – Wednesday afternoon, the Fountain and Warren County Health Department confirmed three deaths this week related to coronavirus across the two-county area bordering Tippecanoe County to the west and south.

In Fountain County, the case involved an adult man over the age of 60 who died Wednesday in a regional hospital after being hospitalized for a short time as a coronavirus patient, according to the Fountain and Warren Health Department.

That death had not been recorded in the Indiana State Health Department’s official count, as of Wednesday morning. 

More: Coronavirus: Tippecanoe cases up to 18, deaths reported in Warren Co.; statewide cases up 18%

In Warren County, the two deaths were reported by the counties’ health department Tuesday. The first death was a man older than 60, who died Monday after being hospitalized in a regional hospital.

The second man in Warren County was over 60, had been diagnosed by a doctor and died at home on Monday.

By Wednesday, one of those coronavirus-related deaths in Warren County was part of the state’s numbers.

As of Wednesday, the state listed Warren County with two cases and Fountain County with one case. It wasn’t immediately clear whether those cases involved the men who died.

Although the two counties border Tippecanoe County, they are significantly smaller in population and feature a more rural setting and economy. The most recent census data ranked Warren County as the third-smallest population in the state, with 8,400 people. Fountain County was ranked 78th out of the 92 counties, with a population just over 16,400, according to census data.

Sean Sharma, the health officer for Fountain and Warren Health Department, said he believes that his counties, as well as other rural counties in the area, could see a peak of coronavirus cases and deaths later than other, more populated areas, such as Lafayette and Indianapolis.

“It will get here, it will be pervasive in our communities and when that happens, our goal is to help preserve the health care infrastructure as much as we can,” Sharma said. “We have to spread out how quickly people contract the disease so people who need hospital care can get it.”

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington predicted that the U.S. could see a peak in coronavirus daily deaths April 16, and Indiana could expect that same peak April 18.  

Rural areas have the benefits of a more natural practice of social distancing due to lower population density so the places people go tend to be less crowded. However, along with that lower population, Sharma said the local hospitals and health care systems have less surge capacity than bigger cities.

“It’s complicated here,” Sharma said. “Our peak (in cases) is most dependent on how people respond to recommendations by the government and local health departments. The better job we do at following those, the more distance we can have.”

Sharma said the reason there is sometimes a discrepancy in reported cases or deaths between local health departments and the state health department is usually due to a delay between the two agencies. Positive cases are reported to the state from labs, on a lab-by-lab basis.

Currently, the Fountain and Warren Health Department is facilitating testing, but not performing any testing of their own. On the website’s homepage, people can request testing or read instructions for home care if they’re sick, but the case isn’t serious enough to be tested.

Instead of administering their own coronavirus in-person tests, Sharma said his local health department is receiving reports daily from the state and from local area hospitals.

As of Wednesday, 65 Hoosiers had died of coronavirus, according to the state’s statistics. Of those, 21 — or nearly a third — were in Marion County, home to Indianapolis and Indiana’s most populous county.

Emily DeLetter is a news reporter for the Journal & Courier. Contact her at (765) 201-8515 or via email at edeletter@jconline.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EmilyDeLetter.

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