While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for October 20

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic that you may have missed overnight.

Here’s a look:

Indiana surge. The Indiana State Department of Health reported 1,589 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the lowest number reported since last Wednesday.

On Saturday, the state reported a major increase with over 2,500 cases–the most cases Indiana has reported in a day since the start of the pandemic.

“We expect this trend to continue for a while. We don’t see any sign of cases flattening or going down,” said Regenstrief Institute Director of Public Health Informatics Dr. Brian Dixon.

There are many factors when it comes to tracking the trend of COVID-19 in Indiana, including the rising number of hospitalizations and who is becoming infected. This summer, it was a lot of those under the age of 20 being infected, but now there’s been an increase in people over 40 catching the virus.

“That concerns us because those are the individuals who are more likely to have underlying health conditions that send them to the hospital,” said Dixon.

While the rising number of cases and hospitalizations are alarming, we asked Dixon what other statistics are important when it comes to tracking where we stand.

“One is the overall percentage of tests that are performed each day that come back as positive. And I would say anything over 5% is still alarming,” explained Dixon.

Currently, the state reports a 6.5% positivity rate. Then you have the number of unique individuals testing positive, which is now at 11.8%. This shows the new cases being detected and does not include multiple tests from the same person.

Dixon cautioned that Hoosiers can’t let their guard down as people flock inside during cold weather and pandemic fatigue continues.

Stimulus talks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi reported some progress in advance of a Tuesday deadline for reaching a pre-election deal with President Donald Trump on a new coronavirus relief package, but the same core problems bedeviling the effort remain in place despite optimistic talk from the president and his team.

Pelosi negotiated for nearly an hour Monday with Trump’s top emissary, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and her office said they are continuing to narrow their differences.

“Finally, they have come to the table and we’re going to try to get something done,” Pelosi said on MSNBC Monday evening. She said the two sides would take stock on Tuesday, which she has staked out as the deadline if a deal is to be reached before the election.

“Let’s make a judgment. We may not like this, we may not like that but let’s see on balance if we can go forward,” Pelosi said.

But with time nearly up for Congress and the White House to deliver aid to Americans before the election, the question remains: If not now, when?

It’s a key consideration for Trump, who has talked up the prospect of another package as he asks voters for a second term, and for Democrats hopeful that their nominee, Joe Biden, is on the cusp of winning the White House in November.

“Nancy Pelosi at this moment does not want to do anything that’s going to affect the election,” Trump said during a campaign swing in Arizona.

The dynamic has created a tricky position for Pelosi, whose tough approach to the talks amid durable GOP opposition to a potential deal of almost $2 trillion has left all sides staring at the very real potential of the negotiations failing. Pelosi is angling for the best deal she can get — maybe that’s now, maybe it’s later. It’s a risk she’s willing to take.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, meanwhile, is pushing ahead with votes this week on GOP measures that stand little chance of advancing.

Trump has upped his offer to $1.8 trillion or more and insisted Monday that “the Republicans will come along” if a deal is reached. His chief of staff and communications director took to Fox News to offer optimistic takes. But Republicans have spent months talking about a smaller aid package and the top GOP vote-counter, Sen. John Thune, said Monday that “it would be hard” to find the necessary Republican support for passage of any agreement in that range.

Nursing home concerns. A new report by the American Health Care Association shows nursing homes could see a third spike of new COVID-19 cases because of community spread among the general population.

The report showed new COVID cases in nursing homes had declined significantly from 10,125 cases the week of July 26 —when the country experienced a growing number of cases in the Sun Belt states— but saw an uptick in new cases in the final week of September. The report also showed COVID-related deaths in nursing homes had declined significantly. However, industry leaders remain concerned about the recent uptick in new COVID cases in facilities.

Over in Boone County, one long-term care center has seen three additional deaths and 24 new COVID-19 cases in the past few weeks, according to the county health department.

“They have had strike teams out, and they are doing everything they can to make sure they are containing ,” said Boone County Health Administrator Lisa Younts.

On September 10, the statewide seven-day moving average for cases involving long-term residents was 24. On September 30, it jumped to 63 cases.

“We were anticipating this, and with more community spread, we have been seeing it has been increasing steadily,” said Younts.

Last week, the Indiana Health Care Association said the total number of new cases in long-term care facilities represents only 4% of total new COVID-19 cases in Indiana over the last 30 days, according to data available on the COVID-19 dashboard.

More than 50% of COVID-19 deaths in Indiana are linked to the state’s long-term care facilities.

Big Ten football returns. Big Ten Football is back this weekend, and for students and fans, it couldn’t come soon enough.

“I think it will be a lot livelier once football comes back for sure,” said Purdue Junior Stephan Spano.

Indiana University hosts Penn State while Purdue welcomes Iowa to West Lafayette. There will be no fans in the stands, which leaves students to flood local bars or coordinate small gatherings with friends.

“I feel like a lot of people are going to [watch] in their homes, or in their dorms together,” said Isaac Wegner, a junior at Purdue University.

Local restaurants have been aching for the chance to have their local Big Ten teams on television on Saturdays. The football crowd often mimics the type of revenue they make during the busy evening hours.

“It’s going to turn us from being half-full to completely full Saturday afternoons,” said Jacob Miller, assistant general manager at The Tap in West Lafeyette.

Purdue will be without head coach Jeff Brohm, who is recovering from COVID-19.

Purdue and IU kick off their games at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

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