State health officials preach caution amid positive signs of COVID-19 surge
State health officials say there are positive signs that Indiana may be emerging from the surge of COVID-19 cases it’s experienced the last couple months. But they still urge caution, as the health care system continues to be strained.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said the number of cases per day and average positivity rate is starting to come down. But she also said improvement won’t necessarily be steady.
“We may see cases bounce back up and bounce back down," Box said. "If you look at other states, that’s what they see – kind of a sawtooth pattern. That is the nature of this disease.”
Yet even as cases improve, hospital capacity is still stretched to the limit – higher than at any time in 2020 or 2019. Box said that’s in part because people are finally receiving care for non-COVID conditions that had been delayed because of the pandemic.
The state has deployed what are called hospital crisis response teams from the Indiana National Guard to hospitals in need of staffing help. Those teams include both medics and support staff. Medics assist with IVs, blood draws and administering EKGs, COVID-19 tests and vaccinations, while support staff help clean rooms and deliver meals to free up hospital nursing staff.
There are currently Indiana National Guard teams at hospitals in Indianapolis, Evansville, Jeffersonville and northwest Indiana. The teams are deployed seven days at a time, with evaluations for continued deployment each week.
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Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana Department of Health chief medical officer, said the state didn’t see as big a spike in COVID-19 vaccinations as she hoped after it was granted full FDA approval. She said about 5,000 to 6,000 Hoosiers get fully vaccinated each day.
“If we continue at that pace, it could be well over another year before we achieve sufficient levels of immunizations to provide robust protection for the population at large,” Weaver said.
Both Box and Weaver said vaccines are the answer to ending the pandemic.