‘Fear of another spike’: Holcomb, officials concerned over Indiana’s COVID-19 trends

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INDIANAPOLIS — Governor Holcomb opened Wednesday’s press conference discussing school funding by announcing his recommendation that the State Board of Education “move the counting day back to December” to ensure schools get 100% funding even if they’re starting online-only.

The governor was joined by other state officials, including State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box and Chief Medical Officer for the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) Dr. Daniel Rusyniak.

On Wednesday, Indiana reported 671 new COVID-19 cases and 15 additional deaths, bringing the statewide totals to 76,522 and 2,878 respectively.

Dr. Box shared her concerns that Indiana’s hospitalization numbers continued to trend upwards and positivity rates continue to climb. 

“These steps we take in the coming days and weeks are going to be critical to reversing these trends, especially as we get close to our Labor Day Weekend,” Box said. “We have seen all of these metrics increase significantly a couple of weeks after July 4th when many people gathered and didn’t practice social distancing. My fear is that we will see another spike after Labor Day if people continue to ignore our guidance.

Dr. Box again stressed the importance of following guidelines provided by health officials to stem the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“If we want to change the narrative, we all have to do our part. So please, keep wearing your mask. Stay home if you’re sick. Don’t send your kids to school if they have symptoms or are waiting for test results.”

Hoosiers cooperating with contact tracers is of utmost importance Dr. Box added.

“Please, if you get a call or a text from a contact tracer regarding yourself or your child, answer the call,” she said. “Tell them if you were at a wedding, or a party, or even a school athletic practice. Let them know who else was in close proximity. This information helps us protect other people from COVID in our schools, and throughout our communities.”

She also announced that the State Department of Health is working on a dashboard for the ISDH website of COVID-19 school case data. Dr. Box said the health department will need access to the most up-to-date rosters for all schools from the Department of Education – data that still needs to be put together. 

Dr. Dan Rusyniak announced the long-term care facility data dashboard was released Wednesday as part of the state’s COVID-19 website. Dr. Rusyniak said the data will lag by one week. 

“If a staff member works at 3 facilities, it will be counted for each facility but only once in the aggregate data,” he said. Dr. Rusyniak added that the long-term dashboard will update weekly, on Wednesdays.

AARP Indiana State Director Sarah Waddle issued the following statement about the long-term care facility dashboard announcement:

“It has taken some time to arrive at this point, but we’re pleased that Hoosiers finally have access to this data. Transparency has never been more critical, and this dashboard can be an important tool for both Hoosier families deciding on care for their loved ones, and for local leaders deciding on the deployment of critical resources like PPE and testing.

“As we have seen since the state began releasing the preliminary numbers last month, there are more COVID-19 related deaths linked to long-term care facilities than previously reported. While these increases can be attributed to including earlier data from more facilities, the fact remains that long-term care residents and staff now make up more than 60 percent of COVID-19 related deaths in Indiana. By releasing the facility-level data, we’re finally getting an accurate picture of what has been happening in facilities during this health crisis.

“We will continue to monitor the numbers closely and work with the state to keep older Hoosiers safe.”

During last week’s update, Holcomb said the state’s moratorium on evictions, foreclosures and utility disconnects will be allowed to expire on Friday, Aug. 14.

A settlement facilitation program is being developed and specifics will come “in the next few weeks,” according to Holcomb’s general counsel Joseph Heerens.

Gov. Holcomb said last week Indiana is adding $15 million to the existing $25 million rental assistance program for a total of $40 million.

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