Indiana officials outline response to state's virus hotspots

Indiana health officials confirmed 28 more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, and the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases of the respiratory disease has doubled in three weeks.

Posted: Oct 15, 2020 3:22 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana health officials confirmed 28 more COVID-19 deaths on Thursday, and the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases of the respiratory disease has doubled in three weeks.

The Health Department’s daily update showed Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed COVID-19 infections reached 1,653 as of Wednesday. That number, up from 825 new cases on Sept. 24, is the highest level the state has seen during the pandemic.

While Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday he would extend his statewide mask order for another month, he decided against reinstating tougher restrictions at the statewide level.

Instead, Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, outlined “very clear guidance and expectations” regarding actions that should occur within each county based on its rating in the state’s color-coded rating system for coronavirus risks, though none of the recommendations come with guaranteed restrictions or specific enforcement mechanisms.

State metrics released Wednesday indicate an increase in counties moving into the orange rating – up to 21 from eight last week. Weaver said state health officials will convene local officials in these counties to discuss necessary restrictions and ways of monitoring social distancing requirements.

For counties in red — indicating the most severe level of COVID-19 spread — Weaver said state health officials could take such actions as limiting the size of social gatherings and restricting capacity inside businesses. No guidance was provided, however, for changes to in-person classes or the need for school closures.

Western Indiana’s Fountain County, the only currently rated red, has traced many COVID-19 cases in its recent surge back to group gatherings and poor compliance with safety protocols, including wearing masks, said Dr. Sean Sharma, health officer for the Fountain and Warren County Health Department.

To help curb the spread, the local health department is now recommending schools temporarily move classes online and cancel extracurricular activities. There are no enforceable restrictions yet, but Sharma said that could be a next step if the rate of virus spread doesn’t improve.

Still, Holcomb’s Democratic challenger in the November election, Dr. Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner, said that Weaver’s outlined recommendations “are good ideas,” but lack “teeth” — such as fines for residents who refuse to wear masks in public.

“What we need to do is go back towards where we were earlier, in order to minimize the spread of the virus,” Myers said during a news briefing Thursday. “If we see positive results, great. If we don’t, we continue down that pathway until we get what we need.”

Although Holcomb took decisive action earlier in the pandemic, including a partial shutdown of the state’s economy and forced school closures, he said a “blanket response” won’t help address current spikes.

“Every one of these cases is a extremely localized occurrence. Every single one of them,” Holcomb said during a news conference Wednesday. “For us to continue to balance our lives and our livelihoods ... We don’t get to say we’ll shut everything down to zero, pull our kids out of school and figure out a way later to care for all those in need.”

Holcomb said the state is now offering to help individual counties seeing spikes access medical resources and complete contact tracing, and to educate local communities about personal responsibility in response to the virus.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1118335

Reported Deaths: 17712
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1455892240
Lake724831254
Allen67063882
Hamilton51060487
St. Joseph49820649
Elkhart40268546
Vanderburgh34714497
Tippecanoe30808276
Johnson27696467
Hendricks26313385
Porter25657386
Madison21131455
Clark20238279
Vigo19059309
LaPorte17192261
Howard16770314
Delaware16761303
Monroe16628220
Kosciusko14293167
Hancock13113186
Bartholomew12983190
Warrick12210190
Wayne12090269
Floyd12011226
Grant11998245
Morgan10409192
Boone9869124
Noble9316122
Henry9177169
Marshall9152147
Dearborn8970100
Dubois8835140
Shelby8281130
Cass8167128
Lawrence8057185
DeKalb7817109
Jackson770793
Huntington7661115
Gibson7102118
Montgomery7101123
Harrison6954100
Knox6915116
Steuben669089
Whitley659660
Miami6595113
Putnam645085
Clinton627179
Wabash6221111
Jasper613192
Jefferson5856105
Ripley557294
Adams542281
Daviess5076117
Scott491580
Wells4836105
White478469
Greene4701101
Clay464662
Decatur4611110
Fayette452496
Jennings452067
LaGrange427491
Posey410044
Randolph3944107
Washington390956
Fountain375964
Fulton364874
Spencer362247
Starke355574
Owen353577
Sullivan348555
Orange331372
Jay331050
Rush309533
Carroll296239
Franklin292744
Perry290553
Vermillion283658
Tipton251167
Parke250130
Pike248644
Blackford222144
Pulaski210359
Newton182452
Brown177550
Crawford169129
Benton168417
Martin152120
Switzerland147612
Warren135816
Union122616
Ohio92413
Unassigned0595

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