State health boss sees stats that could indicate virus surge

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Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said Tuesday that 13% of the approximately three thousand COVID-19 tests examined by the Indiana State Department of Health laboratory have come back positive for the coronavirus.

Dr. Box said she is also monitoring emergency medical services statistics that would indicate Indiana hospitals may be on the verge of receiving the first serious surge of coronavirus patients.

“We really don’t feel like we’re seeing a surge of patients right now,” said Dr. Box during a press briefing hosted by Governor Eric Holcomb at the Statehouse. “We’ve seen a decline in admissions. We’ve seen a little uptick in EMS of those who have respiratory influenza-like illness just in the last day or so. I can’t say in our hospitals we have a huge surge but we’re certainly preparing for that.”

Dr. Box said she expects Indiana will receive more essential medical equipment to battle the anticipated COVID-19 virus surge from the strategic national stockpile.

“We have been able to receive a percentage of what Indiana is allocated based on our population from the strategic national stockpile and I believe we will be receiving more in the next 24-48 hours. Our hope is that we’re also going to be able to receive some supplies through FEMA.

“We do have access to other ventilators that are in elective surgery centers that are sitting empty now that we postponed elective surgery, so we’re accounting for all of that as we plan for our surge.

“We can see that that need for ICU beds and ventilators and all those other things increases oftentimes by about two times that individual cities have.

“The Department of Correction is making gowns and masks and several other manufacturing companies are stepping up to help us out,” she added, referring to the announcement from General Motors that it will dedicate its Kokomo plant to the construction of ventilators though a timetable for the complicated manufacture of the sensitive medical equipment is uncertain.

“Also we’re working to increase the workforce and removing all barriers to retired health care providers returning to work in some capacity,” said Dr. Box. “Personnel and equipment are obviously needed to address this crisis and we’re considering all options and gathering lists of support that when needed will be able to be used.”

Dr. Box also said that ISDH surveyors and advanced practicing registered nurses are entering residence, long term care and correctional facilities to test residents for the coronavirus.

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