Number of medical volunteers more than doubles in one day as COVID-19 surges in Indiana

About 11,000 health care professionals in Indiana who are retired or idled for other reasons say they are willing to help with the surge in COVID-19 cases, state officials said Tuesday—more than double the number of volunteers from just one day earlier.

The increase has happened as word spreads that hospitals, nursing homes and other sites will be in dire need of more professionals to help tend to the growing patient load, said Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana state health commissioner.

The list of volunteer professionals includes doctors, nurses, paramedics, dentists, veterinarians, therapists and midwives. Many of those people will be used to free up health care workers who have experience with more critical care. The figure  does not include medical students and nursing students, who may also be deployed into service under the care of licensed professionals.

On Monday, the state said that 5,300 people had volunteered. “It gives me the encouragement that we will emerge from this crisis stronger as a state,” Box said, announcing the figures at Gov. Eric Holcomb’s daily press conference.

The COVID-19 surge has already begun, Box added, although it likely will be several more weeks before the peak hits.

“Knowing when that peak is will be kind of an after-effect,” she said. “We’re looking at the data and we see numbers continue to go up and up and up. And then we reach a point and eventually one day the numbers go down. We don’t celebrate that too much. We say well, we’ll see what happens in the next day.”

The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 2,159 after the emergence of 373 more cases. The death toll in the state has risen to 49, up from 35 the previous day.

Holcomb said he would have announcement later this week to provide more guidance on when schools might reopen. Earlier this month, he ordered people to stay home until April 7, but people have been looking for clues if that date will be extended.

Holcomb said he will look to numbers and listen to advice from health and safety professionals in making any such decisions.

“What we don’t want to do is be premature about this, just reflexively jumping back after we hit that peak,” he said. “Because you’ve seen around the world where it can slope back up. The numbers I’m looking at (need to go down) in a gradual methodical way.”

Holcomb said he was not actively considering ordering a moratorium on rents and mortgage payments. He has already signed an order that would forestall any evictions. He is also not looking at travel restrictions across state lines, saying some essential workers need to travel to work.

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