INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Nursing homes and long-term care facilities were in focus during Wednesday’s daily briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said she was ordering directors of nursing facilities and correctional facilities to report any COVID-19 cases or suspected cases and deaths to the state within 24 hours. That included residents, inmates and employees.
Box said 15% (31) of the state’s 203 COVID-19 deaths have come from nursing and long-term care facilities, which have been a major focus of the state’s efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr. Daniel Rusyniak with the Family and Social Services Administration called those facilities “the perfect storm” for contagion because there are people in a vulnerable population living together in close quarters.
So far, the state has visited 200 of a reported 735 facilities and tested 600 people. Of those, 191 tested positive and 170 of them were in long-term care.
Strike teams in districts around the state send specialists into the facilities to test all suspected cases and provide personal protective gear (PPE). If tests come back positive, experts on the team work with the facility on a plan to contain the infection.
“We will do whatever we can to protect those who live and work in our long-term care facilities,” Rusyniak said.
Box conceded that Indiana has struggled with its COVID-19 testing capacity. Tests are still focused on high-risk groups, she said, adding that the state had received 19 testing machines that could provide results in 15 to 30 minutes and expand capacity.
The state can do about 3,700 tests per day, Box said. The average COVID-19 patient spends 2-4 days in intensive care and 7-10 days total in the hospital.
Wednesday, the Indiana State Department of Health released new coronavirus numbers. Thirty new deaths were reported since Tuesday, bringing the state total to 203. Indiana now has 5,943 total positive cases.
Employing a basketball analogy, Gov. Eric Holcomb reminded Hoosiers that Indiana was in the “first quarter” of the coronavirus pandemic. Still, he was steadfast in his belief that Indiana would pull through.
“We are prepared as a people to get through this,” Holcomb said. “When you look at how they are over-delivering—our medics, firefighters, police, EMS—from the first point to fully recovered, these folks in community after community are stepping up.”
Holcomb called COVID-19 an “invisible enemy” and reiterated that social distancing is the most effective tool the state has to slow the spread.
“We’ve got to keep our heads down and grind this thing out day after day after day,” Holcomb said. “There is no shortcut.”
He reminded Hoosiers that the anticipated surge in cases was still to come.
“The wave is coming. When you look at the numbers, the numbers don’t lie,” Holcomb said, again going to a basketball analogy. “We’ve got three-and-a-half more quarters to go. We’ve got to dig deep.”
Holcomb spoke on the phone with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin this week and said money for small businesses was coming soon. He said he’d have more details Friday.
“We’re going to need people to be at work as this pent-up appetite to do business again begins to roll out,” he said.
The governor was also asked about essential businesses and construction. Sharon Jackson, deputy general counsel for the governor’s office, said construction was continuing because roads and bridges still needed maintenance.
Jackson said workers were directed to follow social distancing protocols.
“Do it safely. Follow the CDC guidelines. Follow the state health department guidelines. Do your work safely and you can do it,” she said. “Wear masks, wear gloves, stay six feet apart and the like.”
Holcomb said the state had paused projects in which workers couldn’t safely do their jobs.