Indiana health officials brace for continued COVID-19 surge, while hospitals scramble for staff

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Indiana continue to shatter records by the day, the state’s top health official said Wednesday she doesn’t expect the ongoing surge to slow soon, and pleaded with Hoosiers to wear masks and avoid crowds.

“I can’t predict how much higher it will go, but I can tell you we’re on an exponential growth curve right now and we do not expect it to turn around quickly,” Dr. Kris Box, state health commissioner, said during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly press briefing. “In the next several weeks, we will continue to see cases climb, individuals hospitalized, and unfortunately, more deaths.”

Despite the wave of new cases, Holcomb said the state will not make adjustments to the restrictions announced last week, when he signed an executive order requiring all Indiana businesses to display signs alerting employees and customers that masks are required. He also rolled back capacity limitations for social gatherings and events, depending on the level of infection in each county.

“I know I sound like a skipping record, but there’s a cause and effect to all of this,” Holcomb said. “As we see community spread occur and rise, that leads to [COVID-19] cases rising, that leads to hospital admissions rising, and with that, beds are filled.”

Meanwhile, some other states have added new restrictions in recent days. Ohio established a curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., effective Thursday, that runs for three weeks. Michigan has closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports, which includes the high school and college football playoffs. New York ordered all businesses with a state liquor license and gyms to close by 10 p.m.

Box said the situation is Indiana is so dire that contact tracers–workers who call people who test positive and determine who they have been in contact with—have become “overloaded” trying to keep up with the growing case load. The state has recently hired an additional 600 contact tracers, bringing the total to about 1,500, Box said.

The Indiana Department of Health on Wednesday said hospitalizations due to COVID-19 jumped to an all-time high of 3,040 on Tuesday, up from 2,951 on Monday and 2,768 on Sunday. Hospitalizations were at 2,001 less than two weeks ago and have more than tripled since Oct. 3.

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana’s chief medical officer, said the state is continuing preparations to accept delivery of vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna if they are approved by federal regulators, but the initial shipments will be limited and dedicated to health care workers, emergency responders and senior citizens.

“We don’t expect to have enough vaccines to vaccinate the general public until late spring or even summer,” Weaver said.

Several Indiana health care administrators joined the press briefing to say their workers and capacities were stretching thin, with the rising tide of cases. Hospitals and nursing homes are searching high and low for doctors, nurses, therapists and support staff to relieve overworked teams, but it is difficult to find people, as all the health systems are looking at the same time.

Dr. Eric Fish, president and CEO of Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, said his 85-bed hospital has been at or near capacity and has been turning away ambulances and transfer patients. The medical and nursing staff are exhausted, he said.

Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital is now caring for about 80 patients with COVID-19, more than double the number on Nov. 1, and almost half are in the intensive care unit, said Dr. Mark Leutkemeyer.

In the meantime, 686 employees of IU Health are in quarantine, after becoming infected or exposed to someone who tested positive. “Every person in quarantine maybe means one less patient we’re able to care for,” Leutkemeyer said.

Like others during the press conference, he asked Hoosiers to wear masks, practice six feet of social distancing, wash hands frequently and avoid crowds.

“We know we’re up for a challenge in the next few weeks and months, and we’re readying ourselves to as prepared as possible,” he added. “But we need your help, because we can’t keep this up for a long period of time.”

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11 thoughts on “Indiana health officials brace for continued COVID-19 surge, while hospitals scramble for staff

  1. WHAT IS GOING TO TAKE TO CONVINCE THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION THAT THE “PLAN” IS NOT WORKING. THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM IS OVERWHELMED, AND THE RESOURCES ARE SLOWING FADING AWAY. ARE WE THAT BACKWARD REGARDING HEALTHCARE, THAT WE JUST LET THE TRAIN GO OVER THE CLIFF? THERE NEEDS TO BE A SERIOUS AND AGGRESSIVE PLAN WITH REAL CONSEQUENCES IF THE THERE IS NO COMPLIANCE!!!! I HAVE NO CLUE WHY THE COMMUNITY HAS NOT DEMANDED MORE.

    THE FOLLOWING MAY SOUND MONOTONOUS, BUT IT HAS TO BE SAID TILL REAL CHANGE HAPPENS:

    It is beyond belief that anyone in our local and State governments would allow this total disaster to continue unchecked. The State’s plan is too little and too late. The plan must be more aggressive and thorough. It is totally clear that the current administration does not have the internal medical expertise to make a decent plan to balance both health and the economy simultaneously. It appears that there is no group within our State that is willing to seriously confront the current administration to force it to make significant chances. Healthcare professionals, hospital systems, medical societies, etc. have been eerily silent.
    Even though I have written the following many times before, the basics remain the same. The citizens of our State have to get the message again and again and again, etc. (Remember how long it took to get people to wear seat belts!!!!!!!!!!! The same craziness against seat belts is being used to avoid masks. Many of the same mistakes were made during the 1918 pandemic as well. Too bad history seems to be avoided in our schools at all levels.)
    New record numbers every day!!!! How many citizens are we going to let get sick, and how many are going to let die? It really is as simple as that.
    However, let me try to understand the logic of the State response to the surging pandemic: Stage 5 is okay. Our focus, per Dr. Box, is to increase the amount of healthcare staff and healthcare capacity to take care of the increasing number of sick people. Oh by the way, please wear your mask, pretty please!! (I love it when the Health Commissioner, who recently got over COVID-19 episode, has only this to offer to curb the raging pandemic in our State.
    As I have said before our State needs outside expertise (e.g. Dr. Anthony Fauci) to tell us citizens the REAL status of our State’s current plan to mitigate the pandemic of our State. The current “experts” from State outside of government (e.g. IU) have done little more than to create a bunch of numbers that are totally not understood by the common lay person.
    There needs to a ground swell of outrage from the medical community (i.e. hospital, physicians, medical organizations, nursing organization, pharmacists, etc.) to force a change in how our State is handling the pandemic.
    The State has the money to finance, through the Care ACT, to fund a more comprehensive plan to provide all the necessary tools (PPE, testing, contact tracing, etc.) to get the situation under control.
    A responsible government would be able to balance the economy AND public health. Indiana appears not to be able to multitask. A responsible State government would be able to do both. (As a small business owner, I have lost at least 50% of my income for the year. I know the financial consequences of the pandemic. It took months as the beginning to obtain the necessary amount of PPE to keep my employees and customers safe. I have been able to keep the staff intact as well. However, one does not know what the future will bring)
    Hopefully, with the election over for the State, our local leaders will begin to multi-task. Frankly, I do not expect any progress. With the flu season beginning and with more indoor events, we need to expect that things are just going to get worse.
    Everyone for our State should realize that our current situation was avoidable. Letting things get worse by this State’s administration is UNCONSCIONABLE and INDEFENSIBLE.
    Everyone should re-watch the scene from “NETWORK” where Peter Finch gives a speech that still resonates today. Here is the YOUTUBE link:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMVMbmQBug

    1. At what point are we allowed to file attempted assault lawsuits against the politicians who actively deny that the virus is real?
      I get that “business” has to happen, but the Net Present Value of a dead or disabled citizen closes in on ZERO dollars very quickly.
      When the Governor decided last spring to follow whatever Pence told him to do (probably pray it away), he set us all on a path of utter destruction and suffering. That doesn’t make for good business. That goes against “in order to make a more perfect union”. That doesn’t even play nicely with Keynesian economics.

      Unfortunately we should be paying attention to the nut cases (or is it moldy cheesies) in Wisconsin — where there are lawsuits being filed as if individuals are being targeted in the attempt to repress the disease. Ayn Rand got the state and the attitude right — just got the decade wrong (see atlas shrugged).

  2. How come we’re not hearing directly from these “healthcare Professionals” directly about being overwhelmed by the large numbers?

    Do they not want to be implicated in the bolstering of numbers in their cash for COVID schemes?

    How come with all the speculations of fraud in the numbers and the discrepancies and frauds already admitted previously by Dr. Box, that there hasn’t been any investigations and or audits of the statistics as to verify the numbers by accountability of those signing the papers of the cause of death or reported cases?

    Since the numbers are used to affect about every aspect of our daily lives, commerce, and economy, it is imperative to our liberties in our Constitutional Republic to have more astringent checks and balances for the sake and survival of our country.

    Especially since there is political agendas in all the mix of the aforementioned.

    1. If you followed any other news source other than Fox, OAN, Newsmax you would see numerous healthcare professionals on record every day who are overwhelmed and warning and pleading for the public to pay attention and follow all the precautions. Apart from that, maybe most of them are too busy doing their jobs fighting the virus vs our President who has abandoned his job and is only concerned about saving his own skin vs dealing saving the American people from Covid.
      Good question about all the fraud numbers. Why isnt anyone investigating that? Maybe because there is nothing significant to be found? With a million marchers Im sure somebody could uncover the evidence to pull this global scam down. Maybe they are all too busy at the moment trying to create and prove fraud in an election where there is none and trying to overturn the will of the people through crooked accusations and legislative schemes. A totally false and lost cause and one of the most un-American things somebody can do. There is no massive fraud in either case except in the small minds of those who have been told there is by the most unreliable and fake sources.

    2. Darrell, you’re an idiot if you think healthcare workers themselves are boosting numbers of Covid patients/deaths to line their pockets. Please step away from the conspiracy networks you must be getting your news from!

  3. Phil – I work in healthcare and your panic rant is not only uninformed, but an emotionally charged cry for big brother to control every aspect of healthcare which Americans do not want nor need.

    Have a nice holiday! At least the common cold and flu are gone?

  4. IBJ deleted my comment, but let’s the same 2 people post the same rant on every article that fits their agenda. Starting to feel like this is a Gannett subscription.

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