Indiana health officials announced at a press conference Friday morning that a Marion County resident has tested positive for COVID-19, the illness created by the novel coronavirus that has spread across the world in recent weeks.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said that in response he has declared a public health emergency so the state can seek federal funding to help control and stop any spread of the coronavirus.
The patient is an adult who recently traveled to Boston and now is in isolation. Health officials stressed that there was no ongoing risk to the public.
The man returned to Indianapolis on Wednesday. He suspected he had been infected and called the Indiana State Department of Health on Thursday night for guidance. He was advised to go to the Community Hospital North emergency room for testing.
Hospital employees were notified in advance, put on infectious disease protective covering and met the patient in the parking lot, said Dr. Ram Yeleti, chief physician executive at Community Health Network.
“He was then placed in appropriate materials, a mask and other infectious-disease precautions,” Yeleti said. “He was taken back to an isolation room through a different side entrance, not in contact with any other individuals.”
The patient was placed in a room with “negative airflow,” where the testing was done, Yeleti said.
No caregivers or patients are believed to have been affected.
“We were exceedingly cautious on the route we took, and minimal to zero exposure to anybody that did not have protective, infectious disease material,” Yeleti said.
The man’s samples tested positive for COVID-19 at the state department of health’s laboratories, earning the official designation of “presumed positive.” Samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation.
The man’s symptoms were mild, including a low-grade temperature and slight cough, according to health officials. They said he still is in mainly healthy condition. He will remain in isolation for 14 days and won’t be released until he tests negative for the disease over two consecutive days.
His location has not been disclosed, but he is not at Community North, according to officials from the health care system who attended Friday’s press conference.
Health officials said because of privacy laws, they would not release additional information about the patient.
Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said the state needs federal help to bring in additional epidemiologists and resources for the department’s call center, which is being overwhelmed with inquiries.
She said the state also needs more masks and help with lab testing follow-up.
Indianapolis city officials said they were assisting with the situation to ensure that any close contacts of the patient are identified and monitored and that all infection control protocols are being followed.
The CDC will work to identify and notify travelers who were on the man’s flight from Boston and were in close contact with him.
“This morning’s swift response from our state and local health experts was the result of preparation and collaboration,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a media release. “I want to thank Governor Eric Holcomb for the leadership shown in today’s public health emergency declaration, and Indianapolis remains committed to assisting our federal, state, and Marion County partners as we monitor this situation.”
There are more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with 80 percent concentrated in China. The virus is believed to have originated in the Wuhan province. More than 3,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died in China so far.
A running tally from Johns Hopkins reported on late Friday morning that there were 236 confirmed cases in the United States and 14 deaths—most in the state of Washington.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said Friday morning that individuals should refrain from shaking hands and hugging. The best defense against the virus is to frequently wash hands with soap and water—or use alcohol-based sanitizers—and to disinfect commonly used surfaces.
State officials also released a set of guidelines for avoiding infection.