Doctors cautiously optimistic as COVID-19 hospitalizations decline in Indiana


INDIANAPOLIS — On Monday, Indiana reported its lowest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations since the end of September, something healthcare workers say is bringing a feeling of relief to hospitals.

According to data from the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), fewer than 900 Hoosiers with confirmed or suspected coronavirus are currently in the hospital. That number breaks down to 585 Hoosiers with confirmed COVID-19 and 288 with suspected COVID-19.

Dr. Louis Profeta, an emergency physician at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital, said during the last five or six shifts he’s worked, he has not seen many cases of COVID-19.

“It’s been refreshing, that’s for certain,” said Profeta. “I mean, we’re still seeing complications related to COVID-19 and making some diagnoses.

“The numbers are plummeting. We’re hardly seeing any of them on the board right now.”

At IU Health Methodist Hospital, the number of inpatients with COVID-19 are also down significantly.

“The morale is up considerably,” said Dr. Warren Gavin, a hospitalist at IU Health Methodist. “We see that the inpatient numbers are decreasing, and we can feel that.

“It’s actually been quite a relief for us.”

“Things are really lightening up,” said Dr. Graham Carlos, chief of medicine at Eskenazi Health. “We have less patients in the hospital, and like much of the rest of the state, we’re seeing our test positivity rate drop.”

At the same time, Dr. Carlos said the hospital’s overall patient load is still significant as they work to see patients who had delayed procedures or visits due to the pandemic.

“We remain really busy,” he said. “It’s great that we’re not seeing the acute, critically ill COVID patients, but we still have a lot on our plate.”

IU Health COVID-19 hospitalizations

A spokesperson for IU Health said on Dec. 14, the healthcare system peaked to its highest number of COVID-related hospitalizations.

At its peak for the entire healthcare system, there were 486 Hoosiers hospitalized across IU Health’s 16 hospitals statewide.

On Dec. 21, IU Health Methodist and University Hospitals reported its highest number of COVID-related hospitalizations, with a total of 196.

Right now, IU Health reports a total of 144 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 across its 16 hospitals, including 58 at IU Health Methodist and University Hospitals.

“The more days of reprieve that you get and the more normalcy you feel in the hospital, the more confident you get that, hey, maybe there won’t be another spike,” said Dr. Gavin.

Eskenazi Health COVID-19 hospitalizations

A spokesperson for Eskenazi Health said the hospital currently has five total COVID-19 inpatients.

Eskenazi saw its highest number of COVID-related hospitalizations in the spring. At the peak, a hospital spokesperson said there were approximately 100 COVID-19 inpatients.

“If you had asked me in December where I thought we’d be here on February 23rd, I never thought we’d be doing this well in terms of our hospital numbers,” said Dr. Carlos.

Franciscan Health COVID-19 hospitalizations

According to a spokesperson for Franciscan Health, there are currently 20 patients occupying hospital beds for COVID-19 cases.

At the hospital’s peak, which a spokesperson said was during the first few weeks of 2021, there was about 125 inpatients with COVID-19.

FOX59 also reached out to a spokesperson with Ascension St. Vincent Hospital and Community Health Network to learn more about their COVID-19 hospitalization rates.

What does this mean for the future?

Doctors say they are remaining “cautiously optimistic” as the number of Hoosiers hospitalized due to COVID-19 continues to decline.

“We remain on the lookout for these new variants and what that might mean for our immunity, for those folks who have had COVID in the past,” Dr. Carlos explained. “Will they remain immune against the new variants?

“The best we can tell is about 10% of Hoosiers have been infected with the coronavirus, that would mean about 90% haven’t,” Dr. Carlos said. “So we still have a possibility of this virus, like it did a year ago, rapidly spreading around our communities and creating a lot of trouble.”

“In the back of our minds we worry about another spike because we don’t know what to expect, but there is a lot of hope, and the confidence is rising,” said Dr. Gavin.

Dr. Profeta posed the rhetorical questions: “Are these people gonna have permanent disability? Permanent recurrent issues related to COVID-19?”

He answered: “We don’t know. Time is gonna tell.”

“A lot of us are hopeful that we don’t spike, that this is a continued decline and this is a continued movement back towards normal,” said Dr. Gavin.

Healthcare experts say just because vaccines are becoming more widespread and the numbers are trending in the right direction, does not mean people should let their guard down.

“A common myth is that if you receive the vaccine you can’t get the coronavirus, you can’t spread the coronavirus. That’s not true,” Dr. Carlos explained. “The vaccine primes our immune system so that if we do become exposed and infected with the coronavirus, we will shut it down quickly. We won’t get very sick with it.”

“That means you can still potentially transmit the virus from one person to another. It means that you could still potentially test positive. The purpose of vaccines is to prevent death and severe disease.

“We’re still imploring everybody to avoid large gatherings, wear masks, be very safe, careful and cautious,” Dr. Carlos said. “Just because things are doing well now doesn’t mean that that guarantees safety into the coming months.”

“We only have about a year experience with this novel virus even being in the human population, so we still have to exercise caution until we know – especially when things start to warm up and people start to congregate again – you know, where we’re headed,” said Dr. Profeta.

“I’ll tell ya, I tend to trend more toward being optimistic. So I think that’s a good thing we’re seeing right now,” he shared.

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