Why isn’t Indiana seeing COVID-19 spikes like other states?

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INDIANAPOLIS — Friday saw the highest single-day spike of coronavirus cases in the country, and while 31 states are seeing a rise in cases, Indiana remains steady. The question is why?

“I think Indiana following the staged approach reopening really helped,” explains Shandy Dearth, director of Undergraduate Epidemiology at Indiana University’s School of Public Health. “I think the fact the stages were more spread out helped Indiana’s numbers.”

Dearth looks to states like Florida or Texas that have seen big spikes and believes they may have opened too soon or too quickly. Certain cities in Florida are closing their beaches for Fourth of July weekend because of the mass amounts of people utilizing the coastline.

“I think we saw the large crowds in some of the Florida bars, and some of those things. If you are indoors, the transmission rate really increases,” says Dearth.

Indiana has not seen the type of case numbers northeast states like New York have seen, but those states are now doing well. Dearth credits that to New York’s mandatory mask rules

“I think we really need to focus more on the need for masks, and wearing masks, and possibly mandating mask use,” details Dearth. “I see a couple northern [Indiana] counties have mandated mask use, and I would say that other counties should look at that if it’s not going to happen from the state level.”

While Indiana has a host of large events coming up soon, Dearth believes it’s less about people showing up from out of state as much as it is their health habits, or if they head to large crowds. Vice President Mike Pence recently said that younger Americans are part of a key demographic impacted by these spikes.

“Teenagers and young adults have that built in sense of invincibility,” explains Kimble Richardson, a mental health counselor with Community Health Network. “Part of that is good. You are starting out in life, you can conquer the world, do anything. On the other end, sometimes it keeps us from being safe.”

Richardson believes more people should be wearing masks, but says seeing other people without masks in public can lead to a false sense of safety. Even he has contemplated taking his off when he sees others do the same, but knows he should not. He has advice for how to approach a situation with friends or family who are not practicing safe habits in public.

“It’s probably not the right thing to say, ‘You should be wearing a mask,’ because people get defensive when they hear things like that. You could say, ‘I would appreciate if you put a mask on.’ It’s a consistent message, and we probably need to be reminding our kids daily.”

Richardson advises parents to practice habits at home before children head back to school.

“I think you want to set a good example. If you want your child to wear a mask in public places, you better be wearing a mask too,” says Richardson.

Several states have begun slowing re-open plans, or in some cases back tracking. If that were to happen to Indiana, Dearth would expect a partial reduction in bar limits, not a full shut down.

“The fact that so many states are seeing such increasing numbers, if I had to make a bet on something, I would say that we are going to have an increase in cases,” glooms Dearth.

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