Indiana health leaders warn omicron will push COVID-19 cases higher over next 2 months

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (center), appears at Wednesday's COVID media briefing with Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box (left) and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver. (IBJ photo by John Russell)

Indiana health officials warned Wednesday that cases of COVID-19 are expected to climb over the next two months as the omicron variant sweeps across the state, and they pleaded with Hoosiers to get vaccinated, avoid crowds and wear masks in public.

But they did not issue any new restrictions as the pandemic heads towards its second anniversary, having already claimed the lives of more than 18,000 Hoosiers.

The warnings came shortly before the Indiana State Department of Health issued its latest COVID report, which showed 7,967 new cases of the virus—the highest number of cases in the daily report in more than a year.

“We are once again facing a very bleak situation with this pandemic,” said Dr. Kris Box, Indiana state health commissioner, during a media briefing. “…Our health care workforce is depleted, physically and mentally, as are our public health workers.”

Box said hospitals across the state are nearing or over capacity, with long waits in emergency rooms. The COVID-19 census is at the high level in a year, with 3,058 people hospitalized as of Monday, the highest number since Dec. 22, 2000.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased more than 700% since late June, she said.

Box said she expects to see a “very steep rise” in omicron cases over the next four to eight weeks.

Indiana ranks 43rd among all states for percentage of the population fully vaccinated, 52%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said the best way to increase the vaccination rate was through individual conversations, rather than mandates or lectures from state officials. Church leaders, neighbors and friends are the best ones to convince others to get vaccinated, he said.

“I think it’s critically important we do everything we can to equip trusted, credible thought leaders within someone’s sphere of influence. And that’s how we’ll continue,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb also extended his state order declaring a public health emergency through Feb. 1. That marks more than 20 times that Holcomb has taken such a step, which allows Indiana to remain eligible for federal assistance.

Meanwhile rapid tests for COVID-19 are in short supply, as are treatments, including recently approved pills from Merck and Pfizer, which require a prescription and have just arrived in the state.

Store shelves are empty of at-home COVID-19 rapid tests, and people are lining up an hour early at test sites around the state, including one near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Holcomb said he was asking the Biden administration to send millions of rapid tests to the state immediately.

“We need them now,” Holcomb said. “There is a state shortage and a record demand. We are appealing to get everything we can.”

Box said local health departments, schools, state testing sites, jails and other institutions go through an average of 50,000 rapid tests a week, but Indiana is guaranteed to receive an average of only 11,000 a week from the federal government.

In recent weeks, several large hospital systems have been scrambling to boost capacity to treat more people, by adding beds to conference rooms and hallways. The state has sent Indiana National Guard teams, with medics and clerks, to nearly two dozen hospitals across the state.

Last week, a 23-member U.S. Navy team  arrived at Indiana University Health to help exhausted doctors and nurses care for patients.

“We are throwing every resource we have at this,” Box said.

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9 thoughts on “Indiana health leaders warn omicron will push COVID-19 cases higher over next 2 months

  1. If only the herd had a way to fight back. Like a vaccine they could take that would make hospitalization or death super highly unlikely. Or a simple mask they could have worn that would have slowed the spread of the virus.

    If only that herd wasn’t so brainwashed and followed their leaders right over the cliff of misinformation. And those leaders realized too late what was going to happen, and tried to get their sheeple to get vaccinated, but the herd had a full head of steam and was too proud to admit the error of their ways and nothing was going to stop them from dying an entirely preventable death to own the libs.

    The entire lot of them should go down in history as joint winners of the 2021 Darwin Awards.

  2. IBJ… can you *please* show some civic responsibility and remove this kind of comment, which is infused with dangerous, unfounded, inflammatory disinformation? Facebook removes this kind of nonsense, which is literally killing Americans. Why won’t the IBJ? The comment section should be for commentary, and opposing viewpoints should be welcome. This, on the other hand, is dangerous fiction and should be banned from this site. Lies are not valid opinions. Please be responsible citizens, IBJ, and start policing your comment section.

    1. I agree with Steve D. …. Bernard’s “comments” suggest the killing of a Federal official. “Fauchi” (whose name is really spelled FAUCI…but you really can’t expect Burnard to spel aniting write.

      Seriously, his “opinion” lacks merit and his call for hanging deserves censorship.

    1. Thank you, IBJ! We need more of this kind of action, as violent and misinforming “comments” and social media are an increasingly serious issue in this country.

  3. We have a much bigger problem than the internal political squabbles of our Governor and our Attorney General.
    We have a major public health catastrophe which is raging in our State and our Nation. The problems are complex and solutions remain challenging. If the situation was as clear to the public as during WWII, things like ration cards for the national good would be more likely acceptable. Back them, personal choice at times was sacrificed for the greater good of the nation. In this case,with unfortunately an invisible enemy, personal sacrifices have to be part of the greater good of our city, our State, and our Nation. We need to put back the public in public health.

    Let me briefly review our situation.

    As a reminder to all, we are experiencing a pandemic. In very simple terms this means, we were faced with an infectious agent of unknown origin with unknown ways to detect it, and unknown ways to mitigate it. In this case, mitigations means to at least control its spread. In the beginning, we had no tests for detection, and obviously no ways to treat it. The whole world was starting from scratch. Of course, it did not take long to define the virus and realized that it was in a family of viruses that the world had seen before. Mitigation was then potentially possible based on previous world pandemics of a similar nature, i.e. SARS, MERS. The world even had the experience of EBOLA (different virus) but required more extreme mitigation procedures in a much smaller location. Well, then remember, the US was totally unprepared, i.e. not enough masks, gloves, disposable gowns, ventilators etc. Obviously, no treatments or vaccines. Of course, with all viruses, there was constant mutations. As the world was responding on all fronts, new variants (a collections of mutations in a new strain of the original virus) emerged. In other words, the treatment and mitigation strategies had to keep up with this constantly moving target of the newest and most current variant. (There have been over 50,000+ mutations detected so far of the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.) New variants have emerged and are given names based on the Greek alphabet. Currently, the delta variant has been the most prevalent strain with omicron variant probably going to be the most prevalent soon in all areas of the US. With this constant evolution of the “enemy,” we have to evolve our strategy to combat the new “enemy.” What worked for treatment/mitigation yesterday may not work today. The scientific and healthcare communities fully understands this. New treatments and new strategies are constantly being developed. Unfortunately, the public and our political leaders (especially in Indiana including the Governor, the legislature, the Indiana Department of Heath with politically appointed staff), in general, have not seriously taken these concepts and implemented then in any type of serious or effective public heath approach for the citizens of Indiana. We have no outside expert providing guidance for our State. That is why Indiana is in such a dire situation with very catastrophic consequences to come. Obviously, public health has never been a priority for our State. The new initiative by the Governor for the task force on public health is only glossing over issues that will never be addressed. We have a public health crisis now. Action needs to occur now. It only appears that economics and “personal choice” trump any serious concern for the public at large. In a civilized society, we make scarifies for the common good. With this pandemic, selfishness and greed seems to rule the day