‘We’re on an exponential growth curve’: Indiana health officials respond to virus surge

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS – “In the next several weeks we will continue to see cases climb, individuals hospitalized and unfortunately more deaths,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box at Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing. 

When Dr. Box was asked if Hoosiers should expect hospitalizations and community spread to continue, she replied, “I can tell you that we’re on an exponential growth curve right now, and we do not expect this to turn around quickly.”  

Dr. Box and ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver led Wednesday’s press conference and were joined by other Indiana health professionals.

Dr. Eric Fish of Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, Vice President of Nursing and Clinical Services at Memorial Hospital in South Bend Sarah Paturalski, and Chief Medical Officer IU Health Methodist and University Hospitals in Indianapolis Dr. Mark Luetkemeyer shared stories of how their organizations are responding to the latest surge of hospitalizations.

They explained they are currently executing surge plans and are rationing care. Health officials are using protocols put in place earlier this year, but some facilities are already seeing increased wait times and cancelling some non-critical treatments because of tight resources.

Governor Holcomb joined the briefing by phone as he remains in quarantine. Holcomb and the first lady are isolating after several members of the governor’s security detail tested positive for COVID-19. He’s expected to get tested this week.

Holcomb said the recently-signed executive order is still in effect. Last week, the governor announced new restrictions for Indiana counties based on the state’s color-coded map.

Dr. Box explained, based on the number of cases per 100,000, the entire state of Indiana is in red. She again described how daily hospital admissions are at the highest level and officials are still getting reports of exhausted nurses and doctors from around the state.

Dr. Box also asked Hoosiers to not go to the hospital to get a COVID-19 test, but instead leave the emergency rooms open for people who are coronavirus symptomatic.

The state has seen an increasing number of deaths at long-term care facilities and the National Guard is continuing to be trained, according to Dr. Box. She said the cases are still primarily occurring in older people, but new cases are trending back to the 18-to-30-year-old demographic. 

Dr. Box encouraged college students who are returning home for fall break to quarantine for 14 days at home, wear a mask at home during quarantine, keep small social bubbles, avoid bars and avoid seeing elderly or immunocompromised loved ones until after quarantine.

She asked students to pretend like you have COVID-19, and said staying home is the best way to protect others. Dr. Box also asked Hoosiers to take steps now to reduce the risk of exposing others, and that health officials do not recommend taking long-term care residents out for Thanksgiving dinner.

“There is no single Hoosier in the state that should not follow the mask mandate,” Dr. Box said when asked about the two state representatives who went unmasked on the House floor this week.

“The plea now to the general public is to do those basic simple things that may seem small and very irritating to you, but could make a tremendous difference in the lives of other individuals.”

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