Indiana’s health commissioner urged Hoosiers on Tuesday to continue to adhere to the state’s stay-at-home order, warning that while Indiana’s coronavirus cases had surged past 2,000 and its deaths climbed to 49 the state remained far from reaching its peak in cases.
Indiana’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, grew by 374, to 2,159, following corrections to the previous day’s total, the Indiana State Department of Health said earlier Tuesday. A week ago, the state had 365 confirmed cases and 12 reported deaths from COVID-19.
Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said that Tuesday’s numbers — including 14 additional deaths that boosted Indiana’s total to 49 — obviously represented “a very big increase.”
But she said that Hoosiers should not to take that as a sign that the cases had peaked, saying that the worst still lies ahead. She urged residents to continue to abide by Gov. Eric Holcomb’s statewide stay-at-home order that took effect March 25, with exceptions for workers in essential businesses or for necessary trips for food and medicine.
“I do not want Hoosiers to see these rising numbers and think that that means the peak has arrived. We have a very long way to go before we reach the peak and I cannot say enough about how important it is for you to continue to stay home,” Box said during a briefing with Holcomb and other state officials.
Box had said Monday that Indiana’s illness peak was still expected in mid- to late-April, but some prediction models put it later, as late as mid-May.
She said during Tuesday's briefing that state officials continue working with health experts and hospitals to get data on how many Indiana residents diagnosed with COVID-19 have recovered — and to also obtain more information on Indiana’s deaths — but that data was not yet available.
Box said that Indiana has not yet modeled projections on how many Hoosiers could die from COVID-19. But she said she's concerned Indiana has a higher percentage of elderly residents than some other states as well as a higher percentage of smokers — two groups at higher risk.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
Box noted that the new confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths reported Tuesday did not occur on the same day, but over a two-week period between March 21 and March 30. She said the state health department only reports additional deaths once there is a confirmed positive test for COVID-19 in each case.
Five of the state's 14 new deaths involved Indianapolis residents and four others were from Lake County. There was one death each reported from Elkhart, Decatur, Hancock, Ripley and Warren counties.
Marion County, the home of Indianapolis, had 170 of the state’s 374 new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday. Indianapolis and the seven counties surrounding it account for 68% of Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths and 63% of its confirmed cases.
Tuesday’s update on the pandemic in Indiana followed Monday’s announcement by state officials that Indiana hospitals have increased the state’s intensive care unit capacity by about one-third in the past few weeks in preparation for an expected surge in coronavirus-related illnesses.
Holcomb on Tuesday signed an executive order directing all restaurants and bars to remain closed to in-person customers through April 6, extending a previous order set to end Tuesday.
During Tuesday's briefing, he praised sewing clubs around the state that he said have enlisted some 4,000 people to sew protective masks for hospital workers. The governor said the people involved in that effort had been on sidelines but were now playing an important role in the state’s response.
“They are in the game,” he said.