Local health professionals respond to U.S. Surgeon General naming Indy as potential COVID-19 hotspot

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — When U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams named Indianapolis alongside some other major American cities as the next COVID-19 virus hotspots, it got a lot of attention in Central Indiana.

“We must now focus on flattening the curve AND raising the bar in emerging hotspots like New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, LA, Miami, and Indianapolis. We have the playbook, but we must all increasingly run the plays faster and better as #COVID19 spreads the field,” read a tweet from Dr. Adams Sunday.

Dr. David Dunkle, President & CEO of Johnson Memorial Health, has known Dr. Adams since they attended IU Medical School two decades ago.

“Honestly, I think he was taking the opportunity to show he hadn’t forgotten about Indianapolis,” said Dr. Dunkle, moments before he was to chair a daily staff COVID-19 briefing at his Franklin hospital. “I’m sure he’s hearing from a lot of people back home that the cases are increasing and, being an anesthesiologist, one of the things that hasn’t been publicized a lot is that we’re having a shortage of some drugs one of which anesthesiologists know well is Propofol which is the drug you need to use when you take care of ventilated patients.”

Dr. Adams served as Indiana’s State Health Commissioner under then-Governor Mike Pence before being named as the nation’s top doctor.

“I think part of him calling out Indianapolis in his tweet was a wakeup for many people in our state who haven’t been taking some of these things seriously,” said Dr. Dunkle.

Governor Eric Holcomb and Dr. Adams’ successor, Dr. Kristina Box, have taken political heat for not leaning on Hoosier friends like Vice President Pence, Dr. Adams and Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, former President of Eli Lilly and Company, when it comes to raising the state’s profile or securing Indiana the medical support it needs from the federal government.

“What good is it to have friends in this administration like our former governor if we’re not asking for what we need from the federal government,” said State Representative Mara Candelaria Reardon a Democrat from Munster.

“The squeaky wheel does unfortunately get the grease and California and New York and even Illinois, the governors there have been advocating tremendously for getting supplies that their hospitals and their doctors need,” said Dr. Woody Myers, former state health commissioner and democratic candidate for governor. “They’re getting the beds on line, getting the ventilators secured, there’s just been much more proactive work in other states that should have been done here.”

Dr. Dunkle said he has enough medical supplies on hand right now, but is anxious about the demands of the anticipated coronavirus patient surge in the weeks ahead.

“I think the government is doing what they can, but for me to sit here and tell you I’m not worried would be a bold-face lie. I’m worried about having access to enough ventilators, about having access to enough drugs, having access to enough supplies because, again, if you look at a trajectory of patients, we’re growing every day.

“We’re on the low end but we have supplies at present but again we’ve had no more than 13 patients at one point in our COVID unit. I worry when we have six or seven people on the ventilator. Will we have the drugs to support them?

“We’ve been one of the suburban hospitals hit hardest at this point but as you look at the numbers growing in Hendricks County and Hancock County every day, I think everyone’s obviously a little worried that they’re going to get hit next.”

During a conference call briefing with reporters, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett indicated he was confident with the level of current preparedness on behalf of Marion County’s top five medical care providers.

“We are not in a crisis mode yet. Now having said that, we don’t know what the numbers will be. I do have reason to believe that throughout the course of this week well into perhaps next week the numbers are going to get higher and the challenges are going to be more profound than they have been or that they are today.

“I know of no instance where a health care provider or a major health care center in Marion County is overrun but we are ever mindful of the possibility that as the number of tests increase and the number of diagnosis are returned, we’re not out of the woods. As a matter of fact, we may be going into it and it will be important to watch these numbers particularly over these next couple of weeks.”

As of ten o’clock this morning, the Indiana State Department of Health listed Marion County with 804 confirmed coronavirus cases.

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