INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic that you may have missed overnight.
Here’s a look:
Marion County update. Indianapolis leaders will provide an update on COVID-19 in Marion County Thursday afternoon.
Mayor Joe Hogsett and Dr. Virginia Caine with the Marion County Public Health Department will discuss the latest data on the coronavirus in Indianapolis and Marion County.
Topics of discussion are expected to include fall break and Halloween plans, according to a news release from the mayor’s office.
Marion County has typically remained a step behind the rest of the state in terms of reopening due to the number of cases and deaths from COVID-19.
Start of a surge? Indiana remains in Stage 5 of its reopening plan, but health officials are concerned the state is seeing the start of a surge.
It comes as Indiana sees an increase in COVID-19 cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations. Chief Physician Executive Dr. Ram Yeleti at Community Health Network says hospitals are starting to see more patients.
“Several of our hospitals late last week were at full capacity. We had no ICU beds available,” said Yeleti.
Yeleti said his network has more COVID-19 patients now than they have had in the last three months and there are also more patients in the ICU. He said ICU beds are filling up with COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients.
As of Wednesday, 50 percent of ICU beds in use statewide are for non-COVID-19 patients. Hospitals do feel more prepared to handle these cases but health officials are concerned about what may happen once more people are forced inside when the temperature gets cooler.
It’s been nearly three weeks since the state began the final stage of its reopening plan. In Stage 5, size limitations are removed for social gatherings and meetings. Organizers of events that will have more than 500 people are required to submit a written plan to their local health department.
On September 16, before Stage 5, the state’s 7-day positivity rate was 3.9 percent. The state’s county metrics map on its COVID-19 dashboard was largely showing counties in blue, meaning there was low community spread in those areas.
On October 7, the state’s 7-day positivity rate jumped to 5.3 percent. Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, said these rates do not account for the large increase of cases Indiana has seen over the last few days, so it’s possible the rate could change again in the coming days.
Weaver noted a number of counties have seen an increase in COVID-19 activity. Last week, 39 counties were highlighted in blue, 8 counties were in orange and one was in red.
This week, Indiana has 24 counties in blue, 21 in orange and one in red.
Awaiting test results. Gov. Eric Holcomb and other staff members are awaiting results of coronavirus tests to see if they’ve contracted COVID-19.
During Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing, the governor revealed that State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box had tested positive for the coronavirus.
Box is in quarantine, but the governor and his staff will be tested for the coronavirus as a precaution.
Holcomb said he expected to get the results Thursday afternoon. Until then, he plans to quarantine.
Mask mandate extended. As Indiana faces more COVID-19 cases, Holcomb extended the state’s mask mandate through at least Nov. 14.
The order originally went into effect in July and was set to expire in just a few days. Holcomb said the state would remain in Stage 5 of the “Back on Track” reopening plan. He said we’re at a level of COVID-19 spread we’ve not seen since the spring.
“In less than a month, our positivity rate has moved to under 4% to where it sits today 5.3%,” he said.
He noted record daily case numbers and hospitalizations are also concerning. Three weeks ago, Holcomb rolled back most of the state’s restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes. Events with more than 500 people must submit a safety plan to health officials.
Since then, Indiana has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, reporting multiple days with more than 1,500 new daily cases. Hospitalizations are at levels not seen since the end of May, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
Holcomb said Stage 5 is not an excuse for indifference. He said while most Hoosiers are following the guidelines, that’s not the case for everyone.
“We all see Hoosiers with a disregard for the health of fellow citizens,” he said.