By Victoria Ratliff
INDIANAPOLIS- State health officials said Friday that coronavirus cases in Indiana probably won’t peak until mid-to-late April as they noted the daily tally of the disease—nearly 1,000 cases statewide and 17 deaths.
The numbers of people who tested positive jumped by 336 from Thursday to Friday and seven more people died, said Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner. And those are only the cases that have been confirmed by a test and reported to the Indiana State Department of Health.
“I want to send my deepest sympathies to the seven new individuals that we had to post, to their families, to their communities, to their friends for their loss,” Box said.
Three days into Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home executive order which requires Hoosiers whose jobs are not essential to remain home, he said the state is preparing for the surge in COVID-19 cases.
“We don’t see the peak yet, these numbers are compounding,” Holcomb said. “This is like a snowball that’s rolling downhill and getting bigger and bigger and bigger.”
When asked if he plans to extend the stay-at-home order, he said he is making decisions day-by-day and will wait closer to the end date of April 7 to decide.
“We will if need be, but we track it daily and we’re in a two-week period, we’re on day three. We’ll let the umbers drive it,” he said. “When you see the positive cases double, and when you see the deaths double, is sobering every single day, and to know that’s coming tomorrow, that’s the urgency about this all.”
The state health department has begun to report age and gender of those who have tested positive for the virus, along with the daily numbers by county, but has provided no additional information on the Hoosiers who have died.
Neither is the state providing details about the numbers of intensive care unit beds or ventilators available to care for those who are sickest with the virus, also known as COVID-19. Box said she has the numbers and knows where they are through her regular consultations with hospitals and other medical facilities.
Holcomb said the main worry about providing specific numbers—as governors in other states have done—is violating agreements with the hospitals. He said he will work toward sharing information with the public as the state approaches a surge in cases.
“We will look forward to supplying you with regional information that wouldn’t compromise the agreement or contract that we have in place with our hospitals. We’ll do everything we can to be transparent,” Holcomb said.
Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner and the Democratic nominee for governor, said in a statement that there should be more transparency from Box and Holcomb about the number of ICU beds and ventilators the state has and other information on the positive cases in the state, including if they were hospitalized or not.
“There’s zero reason not to make this critical information available right now. Health care professionals need to know, but it should also be available to all Hoosiers,” Myers said.
Nationally, the United State became the country with the most cases of COVID-19 when the number of people infected soared past 100,000. The rising numbers has mayors across the country worried about having enough test kits, protective gear and ventilators to take care of their sick people.
Of those surveyed, 91.5% of the cities said they do not have an adequate supply of face masks for their first responders and medical personnel; 88.2% said they do not have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) other than face masks to protect these workers; and 92.1% said they do not have an adequate supply of test kits.
The Miami Correctional Facility is working to help meet some Hoosier needs by repurposing production lines to produce face masks, gowns and hand sanitizer.
“Production of these items will lessen the strain on the supply chain, leaving more of these products available for Hoosiers,” Holcomb said.
COVID-19 continues to take a toll on all aspects of life across the state as the number of people losing jobs rises.
On Friday, Rep. Terri Austin, D-Anderson, and Rep. Rita Fleming, D-Jeffersonville, authored a letter to Holcomb Friday to urge him to open state exchange and expand eligibility for the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP).
The letter asked Holcomb to temporarily raise the maximum income eligibility for HIP, implement continuous eligibility for one year starting April 1 and expand eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
“Giving more Hoosiers a path to coverage will benefit all aspects of our state’s health care system through this difficult and costly public health emergency,” the letter said.
Holcomb, at the press conference, said he hadn’t yet seen the letter but added, “We’ll make sure that we’re there for Hoosiers who need it the most.”
Victoria Ratliff is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.