Indiana health chief warns coronavirus cases will increase

Posted at 10:15 PM, Mar 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-24 22:20:27-04

Editor’s note: With our coronavirus coverage, our goal is not to alarm you but to equip you with the information you need. We will try to keep things in context and focus on helping you make decisions. See a list of resources and frequently asked questions at the end of this story.

INDIANAPOLIS — Top Indiana officials warned Tuesday that the state’s rapid jump in coronavirus illnesses is just the beginning and that obeying a new stay-at-home order is necessary, even as President Donald Trump suggested restrictions around the country could be relaxed in little more than two weeks.

The order from Gov. Eric Holcomb takes effect Wednesday. Indiana saw its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grow to 365 on Tuesday — more than 12 times what state health officials reported a week earlier. Indiana’s coronavirus-related deaths have gone from two to 12 during that time.

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said the state’s hospitals had not yet experienced a surge of patients but that they were seeking additional sources of protective equipment for health care workers along with monitoring intensive care unit bed and ventilator capacity at major hospitals for the coming weeks.

“We’re still in the very early parts of this outbreak,” Box said. “We will continue to see more cases.”

Holcomb urged all residents to take seriously the stay-at-home order that runs at least through April 6. Meanwhile, Trump said Tuesday he hoped to have “the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter” on April 12.

Holcomb said bluntly that any non-essential business “shouldn’t be” open in Indiana.

“We’re trying to be as clear and blunt and serious about this as we can,” he said. “... We’re asking for citizens’ buy-in over the next two weeks.”

Five more coronavirus-related deaths were reported on Tuesday in Indiana, giving the state a total of 12, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Central Indiana has the most confirmed illnesses, with 62% in Indianapolis and its seven adjourning counties.

Holcomb’s order directs residents 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. It mirrors similar orders in adjacent Illinois, Michigan and Ohio and comes as New York’s governor warned Tuesday that its hospitals could soon be overwhelmed.

State police Superintendent Doug Carter said he had given guidance to all police agencies across Indiana to show discretion on enforcing the order.

Find more coronavirus/COVID-19 hotlines and resources below:


  • Department of Health COVID-19 hotline: 833-4-ASK-ODH
  • See ODH’s COVID-19 resources here.


  • State COVID-19 hotline: 1-800-722-5725
  • See the Cabinet for Health and Family Services coronavirus resource site here.


  • SDH Epidemiology Resource Center: (317) 233-7125 or (317) 233-1325 after hours, or e-mail
  • See more information for coronavirus in Indiana here.

What is coronavirus, COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are "a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus, such as COVID-19, is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China and has now been detected in 37 locations across the globe, including in the U.S., according to the CDC.

The CDC reports the initial patients in China have some link to a large seafood and live animal market, indicative of animal-to-person spread. A growing number of patients, however, did not report exposure to animal markets, indicating the disease is spreading person-to-person.

What are the symptoms? How does it spread?

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death, according to the CDC. Symptoms can include fever, cough, shortness of breath.

The CDC said symptoms could appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. It is similar to the incubation period for MERS.

Spread of the virus is thought to be mainly from person-to-person. Spread is between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Spread occurs via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

According to the CDC, it could be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, the CDC said.

The disease is most contagious when people are the sickest and showing the most symptoms.