While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for August 13

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Parties and gatherings contributing to Indiana spike. State health officials are warning Hoosiers that parties and gatherings may be leading to spikes in coronavirus cases.

“We have seen all these metrics increase significantly a couple of weeks after July 4, when many people gathered and didn’t practice social distancing,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.

Indiana hit a low of 595 people hospitalized for COVID-19 at the end of June, but as of August 10, that number was back up to 964. Dr. Box says the Indiana State Department of Health has been able to trace an alarming number of those cases back to graduation parties, weddings, or holiday celebrations.

“I’m not surprised by that at all,” remarks Thomas Duszynski, director of epidemiology at Indiana University’s Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health, “Anytime we have a gathering of people that aren’t physically distancing, aren’t wearing masks, this disease is still out there, and transmission can happen easily.”

Duszynski says the demographic for positive cases has shifted since the pandemic began from people between 30 and 60 to those in their teens and 20s.

Utility shutoff moratorium coming to an end. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission declined to extend Indiana’s utility shutoff moratorium past Aug. 14.

While the commission didn’t extend the moratorium, it did enforce other requirements. Some energy companies, like Duke Energy, are voluntarily extending the moratorium.

“The moratorium technically ends this Friday August 14, we are going a month beyond that,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Angeline Protegere. “That said though, we urge customers to contact us and begin setting up a payment plan.”

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission is requiring payment plans for a minimum of six months and suspending any additional fees through October 12.

“Customers may start getting notices from us that they are behind on their bills and that they could face disconnection. We ask them not even to wait for that notice though,” said Protegere.

Indiana’s numbers trending in wrong direction. State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina 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.”

Most Americans putting vacations on hold. For many Americans, fear of contracting COVID-19 is outweighing the desire to take that annual planned vacation, one study shows.

But just how many Americans changed or outright canceled their vacation plans due to the virus?

A recent study by IPX 1031, a Fidelity National Financial company, surveyed 2,000 people who have either taken a vacation this year or are planning to do so. 

Over one quarter of respondents said they’ve already taken a vacation since COVID-19 and 20% have plans to take one.

Some respondents plan to put their travel plans on hold (37%) or have opted for a “staycation” at home (15%).

The IPX 1031 report finds that 40% of the respondents outright canceled a vacation and 23% postponed their vacation.

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