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.

Confirmed Cases: 164581

Reported Deaths: 4143
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion26055792
Lake14436358
St. Joseph9606168
Elkhart9271138
Allen8647231
Hamilton6400115
Vanderburgh617162
Tippecanoe396715
Porter347550
Hendricks3418134
Monroe335638
Johnson3286130
Delaware311575
Clark306263
Vigo275340
Madison250896
LaPorte239261
Cass229724
Warrick205065
Kosciusko201127
Floyd187468
Howard169466
Bartholomew147958
Marshall147428
Dubois146426
Wayne142031
Grant133539
Henry133030
Boone129150
Hancock124744
Noble122935
Jackson121018
Dearborn103128
Morgan100340
Lawrence96838
Gibson94412
Clinton92416
Daviess92334
Shelby90632
LaGrange82815
Knox81810
Harrison81024
Posey7767
Putnam77616
Fayette76719
DeKalb76011
Jasper6885
Miami6715
Steuben6608
Montgomery63122
White62316
Greene57838
Adams5607
Scott55413
Decatur52839
Ripley4838
Whitley4836
Clay4617
Sullivan45714
Wells45611
Huntington4455
Starke4438
Wabash4439
Orange42425
Spencer4176
Randolph39210
Jennings38713
Washington3873
Franklin38325
Fulton3785
Perry36914
Jefferson3655
Pike35718
Carroll34313
Jay3386
Fountain3293
Tipton28423
Vermillion2721
Parke2564
Rush2464
Blackford2394
Newton23711
Owen2151
Martin2050
Pulaski1783
Crawford1631
Brown1473
Ohio1337
Union1140
Benton1130
Switzerland980
Warren911
Unassigned0236

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