State not detailing ICU capacity as virus cases grow

By TOM DAVIES and RICK CALLAHAN
The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana health officials declined Wednesday to provide details on hospital capacity around the state as its number of confirmed coronavirus-related illnesses continued to grow quickly and two more deaths were reported. The new deaths in Hancock and Howard counties were the first ones in each county, giving Indiana 14 total deaths as a statewide stay-at-home order took effect Wednesday aimed at slowing spread of the virus. A roundup of what's happening statewide:

Hospital preparedness

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, cited confidentiality arrangements with hospitals for not releasing details about intensive care unit capacity and equipment availability around the state. She said she’s seeing “positive movements” in availability of ICU beds and ventilators.

“Because everybody is stepping up to the plate and trying to pretty much double their ICU capacity, I’m seeing those numbers increase as we go along,” Box said.

In contrast, Illinois officials have provided updates such as the number of occupied hospital beds and ventilators in use around the state and projections on what medical services will be needed if the virus outbreak isn’t contained.

Box said the state health department received several truckloads of medical worker protection items such as masks, face shields and gowns this week and was distributing it to hospitals and county health officials.

When asked whether the state had a two-week supply of such items available, Box replied: “We are better off than that, I can guarantee you. I’ve got many hospitals and local health departments that haven’t even yet asked for their allotment.”

Inefection spreads

Indiana’s number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped by 115 to reach a total of 477, the Indiana State Department of Health said.

Marion County, home of Indianapolis, had most of the state's new coronavirus cases — 67 — bringing its total to 226 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Central Indiana accounts for the majority of the state's confirmed coronavirus illnesses. Among suburban Indianapolis counties, Hamilton had 30 cases; Johnson had 24, and Hendricks had 15 cases.

Northern Indiana's St. Joseph and Lake counties had 19 cases each. No other Indiana counties had 10 or more confirmed cases.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Stay-at-home order

Gov. Eric Holcomb's order issued Monday for Indiana residents to remain at home for two weeks began early Wednesday. The order has exceptions for workers in essential industries or for necessary trips for food and medicine, to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Holcomb's order continues through April 6, but he said it could be extended.

Indiana's order mirrors similar ones in adjacent Illinois, Michigan and Ohio, and directs Hoosiers to stay at home unless their job is an essential function, such as a health care provider, grocery store clerk, police, fire and other first responders, or those working in garbage collection, public transit and key state services.

Financial uncertainty

Indiana had nearly 54,000 people file for unemployment benefits last week — a 23-fold increase from the week before — as factories, restaurants, hotels and other businesses began to close. Those now-unemployed people alone represent a 50% jump in the state’s jobless total in January.

More than 10,000 Indianapolis residents submitted unemployment claims last week, according to the state Department of Workforce Development. At least 11 other counties had more than 1,000 people submit claims.

Holcomb has encouraged anyone losing their job to quickly apply online for unemployment benefits. On Wednesday, he touted that Indiana had a record number of people employed before the pandemic’s impact hit and said he confident the state’s economy will bounce back.

“Our fundamentals were sound going into this,” Holcomb said. “This is a virus that we’re dealing with, this is not our economy that is pulling us back or dragging us down.”




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