Officials fear COVID spike after state reopens

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INDIANAPOLIS — As of noon today, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) reported 32,708 of 230,749 Hoosiers who have been tested for presence of the COVID-19 virus have come back positive.

That’s about 14% and is a number that has steadily been dropping since April.

Will June be so kind? Experts worry the reopening of Indiana’s economy will result in a positivity rate spike.

“The virus is still out there. We know it’s not gone,” said Shandy Dearth of the Fairbanks School of Public Health. “What we’re seeing with some of these reopening steps is that we’re not taxing the health care system right now and we have better testing capabilities, so we can find some of these hotspots quicker than we were early on.”

The Fairbanks School recently conducted a random public survey which found approximately 40% of the persons who tested positive for coronavirus showed no symptoms.

“We’re definitely sure there were other cases,” said Dearth, “so a lot of these cases have gone untested completely and so that’s why we need better testing capabilities.”

Mayor Joe Hogsett recently relaxed his emergency orders in Marion County to permit limited outdoor dining, which led to a smattering of partial restaurant openings in downtown Indianapolis over the weekend but some crowding on sidewalks where social distancing guidelines were not observed.

“Even though the governor has said some things might open in the coming weeks,” said Dearth, “if the data really jumped up, I would expect the governor’s office and the mayors’ offices to look at those timelines and maybe push back some of those reopenings.”

When Governor Eric Holcomb announced in mid-May that most of Indiana could slowly begin to reopen for business, Johnson County took advantage of the offer despite its top ten ranking for positive coronavirus case counties in Indiana.

At Johnson Memorial Health, President & CEO Dr. David Dunkle has watched his coronavirus admissions data slowly ramp back up in the past couple weeks.

“From COVID status, we’re definitely seeing an uptick in cases,” he said. “I thought we were kind of at the tail end of things. We had only one positive patient for a week and now for the last few days we’re up to four positive patients. We’re also seeing an uptick in ER visits over the last couple weeks as well.”

Johnson County has 1086 positive cases, according to ISDH, and 18% of them are ages 40-49 years old, who it is expected are circulating throughout the reopened county, as opposed to those over 60 who account for 94% of the deaths.

“I think it could be definitely related,” said Dr. Dunkle. “Obviously its hard to say for sure but I think when we start opening things up, people realize, ‘Hey, we’re gonna see an uptick, its just a matter of how big.’”

In Marion County, Mayor Hogsett has tentatively planned for hair salons, personal services and manufacturing to reopen next Monday as long as social distancing and personal protective equipment protocols are followed.

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