While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for October 8

Coronavirus

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

Here’s a look:

Indiana surge. The state reported 1,302 new coronavirus cases Wednesday afternoon–the highest number of positive cases since Oct. 2.

The main question: will Indiana have to scale back reopening after moving to Stage 5? State officials did not provide a clear answer Wednesday. Instead, they said they’re learning how to handle different counties that are seeing more positive cases, while deaths and hospitalizations are again becoming grounds for concern.

“Some of the changes you’re seeing this week are a result of outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Another county is dealing with the fall out of more than 30 cases tied to a single event in which people gathered indoors in close proximity without wearing masks,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box.

Box says certain counties are beginning to see an uptick, especially within the last month. Within the uptick, they’re noticing more people under the age of 20 are spreading the virus to those who are most susceptible.

“The concern is as those individuals are out in the communities they go home to their families, they go to family gatherings, weddings, funerals, whatever that is that they tend to infect older age groups,” said Box, who partially attributed the trend to Labor Day weekend.

The largest surges appear to be in the southwest part of the state, where six counties were categorized as “orange” for moderate-to-high spread and one was “red” signifying high spread.

Center stage. Trading barbs through plexiglass shields, Republican Mike Pence and Democrat Kamala Harris turned the only vice presidential debate of 2020 into a dissection of the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with Harris labeling it “the greatest failure of any presidential administration.”

Pence, who leads the president’s coronavirus task force, acknowledged that “our nation’s gone through a very challenging time this year,” yet vigorously defended the administration’s overall response to a pandemic that has killed 210,000 Americans.

The meeting, which was far more civil than last week’s chaotic faceoff between President Donald Trump and Democrat Joe Biden, unfolded against an outbreak of coronavirus now hitting the highest levels of the U.S. government. Trump spent three days at the hospital before returning to the White House on Monday, and more than a dozen White House and Pentagon officials are also infected, forcing even more into quarantine.

With less than four weeks before Election Day, the debate was one of the final opportunities for Trump and Pence to reset a contest that could be slipping away. They’re hoping to move the campaign’s focus away from the virus, but the president’s infection — and his downplaying of the consequences — are making that challenging.

Trump and Biden are scheduled to debate again on Oct. 15, though the status of that meeting is unclear. The president has said he wants to attend, but Biden says it shouldn’t move forward if Trump still has coronavirus.

General tests positive. The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps has tested positive for the coronavirus, days after he and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were in a Pentagon meeting with a Coast Guard leader who was infected with the virus.

The Marine Corps said Wednesday that Gen. Gary L. Thomas, tested positive for COVID-19. He attended a meeting of the Joint Chiefs on Friday, when the commandant was not able to be there. U.S. officials said none of the other top military leaders in the meeting — including Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — have so far tested positive.

Thomas and the others have been in self-quarantine since Tuesday when they found out that Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard who was at the meeting, had tested positive.

Fall break plans. Fall break is right around the corner for school districts across central Indiana. The pandemic has caused some families to alter their vacation plans or cancel their travel altogether.

Kristen Kelley, IU Health’s Nursing Director of Infection Prevention, encouraged families to create a safety plan before taking a trip. This includes checking the Centers for Disease Control’s COVID Data Tracker for information about your destination.

“It shows all of the data from each state,” Kelley said. “Essentially if they’re going up, if they’re going down, so you can scout out in advance how the state that you are going to is doing from a COVID perspective. Obviously if they’re having a lot of COVID spread, you want to take that into account when you’re choosing the activities that you’re going to do in that area.”

Kelley said outdoor, socially distanced activities are always preferred because of the way the virus spreads.

“It loves to spread around a lot of people,” Kelley explained. “So, the more people you’re around, the more likely you’re going to be to come into contact with someone who has COVID. It also loves to spread indoors. So, a lot of the super spreader events that we have seen have been really in indoor areas where many people have been unmasked or have removed their mask.”

Some lower risk activities Kelley suggests includes going to a pumpkin patch or exploring a state park.

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