As hospital admissions from COVID-19 across Indiana hit their highest level this week since May, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday implored Hoosiers to continue to wear masks, practice social distancing and take other steps to keep the virus from spreading.
“I just plead with everyone to do your part,” Holcomb said in an unscheduled livestream appearance with Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana’s state health commissioner.
The two reviewed Indiana’s performance in infections, hospitalizations and deaths, but did not take any questions. Earlier in the afternoon, Box and Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer of the state health department, reviewed similar data and took questions from reporters.
On Wednesday, Indiana’s death toll from the pandemic hit 3,500. The number of people in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities crossed the 2,000 mark, with 53 new and confirmed deaths in the last week, for a new total of 2,046.
The number of people in Indiana hospitals with COVID-19 has climbed in recent weeks, and hit 1,138 on Oct. 5, the highest since May 28. The seven-day average for COVID-19 hospitalizations is at its highest since June 4. Hospitals have reported they are girding for a second surge of patients, although they don’t know how severe it will be.
It’s a critical moment for Indiana. The virus is continuing to spread, even as Holcomb last month moved the state to Stage 5 of the Back on Track recovery plan. Stage 5 essentially lifts all restrictions, except for some social distancing requirements and regulatory conditions for larger crowds.
“We are in Stage 5,” Box said. “But we still need to wear masks and practice social distancing so we can stay in Stage 5. I cannot emphasize that enough.”
She added that it will be months before a vaccine is widely available. In the meantime, the state is continuing to administer up to 20,000 tests a day and is overseeing a contact tracing program through all 92 counties.
Holcomb and Box said that with colder weather on the way, more people will be gathering inside, often in crowded spaces, giving the virus more potential to spread.
“It doesn’t matter what community you’re in, or how small or large an event,” Holcomb said. “It could be a funeral, a wedding, a football game. … We just see the odds of this virus spreading when you let your guard down.”