As Indiana slowly reopens, Holcomb and state health commissioner urge caution


INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb believes the numbers are going in the right direction but isn’t ready to fully reopen the state just yet.

During his Wednesday briefing, the governor said the state would continue to take a data-driven approach to loosening restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic. Most counties are in Stage 3 of the Back on Track Indiana plan.

Holcomb’s biggest concern is from individuals who are asymptomatic and unaware that they could spread COVID-19 to others, including vulnerable populations.

“We’re trying to get through this as safe and swift as possible,” Holcomb said. “We’re a state that has done, dare I say, a pretty good job of balancing things.”

He noted that some states took less restrictive approaches while others instituted more restrictive measures and believe Indiana struck a good balance.

Holcomb said the state was still working out guidance for restarting school. Officials have several factors to consider, including safety and giving parents advance notice.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box went over the latest numbers, noting that the Indiana State Department of Health reported 370 new cases of COVID-19 between April 10-May 26 and 21 new deaths between April 14-May 26, bringing the statewide totals to 32,437 and 1,871, respectively.

Box said state ICU capacity and ventilators were holding steady.

Like Holcomb, she cautioned that the state wasn’t ready to reopen yet. She said Hoosiers still need to observe social distancing and wear masks in public. She doesn’t want to see a spike in cases because people think the pandemic is over.

“These are not business-as-usual times, the threat from COVID-19 is still very real,” she said.

Box said testing for the next phase of the IU Fairbanks study would begin next week. She urged anyone who’s asked to get tested as part of the project to participate.

Some areas of the state, including Marion, Lake and Cass Counties, are on a delayed schedule. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Wednesday that the city would move into Stage 3 on June 1.

Dr. Jennifer Sullivan with the Family and Social Services Administration said the state has seen an uptick in the number of calls regarding mental health. Telehealth–remote appointments–has helped immensely.

But Sullivan said Hoosiers are clearly struggling. April 2020 saw the high naloxone dispensation ever, she said. Call volume to hotlines is “daunting” and many of the stories are “heartbreaking,” Sullivan said.

Dr. Ukamaka M. Oruche, associate professor, IU School of Nursing, discussed the impact of the pandemic on children. She said parents should encourage healthy habits and talk to kids to help reassure them.

She suggested maintaining a routine so they know what to expect and designating a “safe space” where they can seek refuge when needed.

Resources for help include Be Well Indiana and Treatment Connection.

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