Experts weigh in on possibility of tighter COVID-19 restrictions in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS — As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, Hoosiers are hearing more about other countries and states imposing tighter restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

In recent days, officials in England, Germany, Belgium, France and Greece announced additional lockdown measures. State and local officials in states like Illinois, Idaho, Colorado, Massachusetts and Texas have also announced tighter restrictions on businesses, schools and social gatherings.

Thomas Duszynski, Director of Epidemiology Education at IUPUI, believes the fall surge of cases is the result of “COVID fatigue,” as many communities have taken steps to reopen.

“We believe a lot of this has to do with people letting their guard down,” Duszynski said. “That they’re gathering in these small clusters, whether it be in bars or restaurants or weddings.”

“We’re all kind of tired of this pandemic and tired of being socially isolated, but now is definitely not the time to let our guard down,” he continued.

If COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to increase, and in the absence of a vaccine, Duszynski says he could see Indiana officials imposing tighter restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

“I think that’s a real possibility,” he said. “And I think that as those numbers keep creeping up, and if hospitalizations start reaching capacity, that’s really the only thing I think that’s going to work to slow this down.”

For his part, 30-year-old Charles Fields, of Bedford, is urging Hoosiers to take precautions in order to avoid what he went through back in April.

“I was on a ventilator for 18 days, and I actually had to be put on ECMO because my lungs were not recovering due to COVID,” Fields said. “It’s not really scary until I woke up and realized that. But what hurt the most was knowing that my friends and family had to go through that day by day.”

Dr. Shaun Grannis, Vice President of Data and Analytics at Indianapolis-based Regenstrief, points out that policy makers must also consider the state’s capacity and ability to treat and manage patients who test positive for the virus. While there is an upward trend in cases and positivity rates, Grannis points out that 6% of statewide ventilators are being used for COVID-19 patients right now, and 77% of statewide ventilators are available for use. Grannis also says COVID-19 patients are occupying 24% of Indiana’s hospital beds, and 31% of Indiana hospital beds are empty as of today.

“One of the things that we need to do is track the resources that we have available to know how to manage this,” Grannis said.

Grannis also points out that back in April, 20% of COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, while only 8% of COVID-19 patients were hospitalized in October. Also in April, Grannis says 28% of hospitalized COVID patients were seen in the emergency department. That number was down to 15% in October.

“So again, we’re seeing evidence that we know how to better treat this illness,” Grannis said.

Neither Duszynski nor Grannis are predicting whether state officials will impose any new restrictions. However, they both agree the rising case numbers should remind Hoosiers to take precautions against the virus.  

“We are still in a pandemic, we still nee to be vigilant,” Grannis said. “To wear our masks, to social distance, to follow good hygiene and stay home when you’re ill.”

“We don’t have a vaccine, we’ve got a treatment for those that are hospitalized, but not for the general public,” Duszynski said. “So the only tools we have are keep socially distant, wear a mask and good hand hygiene.”

“Live your life, but there is a pandemic going on right now,” Fields said. “And people need to really take it seriously.”

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