The Crusader Newspaper Group

How many in Gary have been tested for COVID-19? The mayor’s office doesn’t know.

City has no data as diagnosed cases rise to 285 while death toll climbs to 8

By Erick Johnson

The number of COVID-19 cases dramatically rose in Gary to 285 on Tuesday, April 21 while the death toll has risen to 8, according to the latest data released by Mayor Jerome Prince.

The rise comes as the number of people tested for the virus remains uncertain, the Crusader has learned.

The mayor’s office provides daily updates on COVID-19 statistics but the last time information was released on the number of those tested in Gary was on April 16.

On that day, Prince said 202 have been tested for the virus, a low number for a city that is rising in the number of infections. Since then, the mayor’s office has not released any data that shows the number of people tested in Gary.

On Tuesday, April, 21, the mayor’s press secretary Michael Gonzalez said there was not any data immediately available. He also said the 202 figure that was released on April 16 was an error, that was actually the number of those who tested positive for the virus. He did not have any data that showed how many people were tested.

In that same April 16 press release from the mayor’s office, Indiana and the counties of Lake and Porter listed the number of people tested as well as the number of those who tested positive.

After the print edition went to press, the Crusader reached out to Gonzalez for its digital story, asking for the official count on how many residents were tested.

Gonzalez emailed this statement:

“There are several agencies that are testing. I do not know how many Gary residents have been tested. We will continue to provide accurate information on the number of positive tests and the number of COVID-19 related deaths among Gary residents. That is all the information about Gary residents we have available to us.”

The press release also listed the number of those who died in the state and Lake and Porter counties. Gary was the only government entity that did not list the number of people who actually tested for the virus even as the death toll and COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Seeking answers, the Crusader contacted Gonzalez, who said he would have to pull together information from Methodist Hospital and other medical facilities to show how many people in Gary were tested for the virus. Before he could further explain, Gonzalez had to end the call to get to an important call. Several minutes later, he called back and ended the call again to get to another call. He never called the Crusader back after the second call.

State health officials have been testing residents at St. Timothy Church at 1600 W. 25th Ave., but no information on how many have been tested is available to the media or the public. Dr. Ronald Walker, Gary’s Health Commissioner, recently said in one news report that 800 people in Gary people have been tested, but no official confirmation of this figure can be found on the city, county or state websites.

CORONAVIRUS TESTING IS underway at Saint Timothy Church in Gary. (Photo by Keith Chambers)

Testing is widely viewed as a critical step in stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Governors and leaders in many predominately Black cities across the country have stepped up testing in underserved communities where access to adequate health care has historically been a problem. Gary is one of them. Nearly 80 percent of Gary’s 75,282 residents are Black, according to the U.S. Census.

There is concern of a disparity in testing and providing equal attention when it comes to Gary compared to other Indiana cities.

Blacks across the country are highest at risk of dying from COVID-19 because of underlying medical conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

On Friday, April 17, the mayor’s office reported 225 cases among Gary residents. On Tuesday, April 22, Gonzalez reported 485 positive Gary COVID-19 cases. He later emailed the Crusader to say that information was incorrect. He said the new number was actually 285.

In Lake County, 5,639 have been tested for the virus and 1,182 have tested positive. About 49 people

in Lake County have died from COVID-19. In Porter County, 1,279 have been tested for the virus, 180 remain infected and three have died.

Statewide, as of April 21, 67,264 people in Indiana have been tested for the virus, bringing the total number positive cases to 12,097.

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