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 - 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, state officials said Monday.
Having such ICU capacity available has been a prime concern as health officials also reported that the state had 1,786 confirmed COVID-19 cases in a seven-fold increase from a week earlier. Indiana’s 35 virus deaths are five times greater in that time.
Indiana hospitals have added about 500 critical care beds to give the state 1,940 as of Monday, said Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the state’s Family and Social Services Administration.
While officials said about 60% of those ICU beds were in use, Sullivan said hospitals continued working to create more ICU capacity by steps such as converting operating and recovery rooms space. The state’s goal is to double the pre-virus intensive care capacity and Indiana’s count of 1,177 ventilators to meet an anticipated COVID-19 case surge in the coming weeks, she said.
Indiana University Health, which has 17 hospitals around the state, is taking steps such as retraining staffers who haven’t worked in critical care positions recently to have enough personnel available, said Dr. Chris Weaver, an emergency physician and a senior vice president for the system.
“That’s a major constraint and a big challenge for us to meet this wave that’s coming our way,” Weaver said.
Health officials reported Monday that three more people had died in Indiana from COVID-19, increasing the state’s virus death toll to 35. Two of the new deaths involved Indianapolis residents, while the other person who died was from Southeastern Indiana’s Franklin County.
The state’s number of confirmed cases grew by 273 to 1,786, the Indiana State Department of Health said. Those don’t reflect all cases in the state because testing has been largely limited to those who are hospitalized and health care workers.
Indianapolis had the most new cases at 135, while Hamilton County in suburban Indianapolis had 20 and northwestern Indiana’s Lake County had 12.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Nearly 86% of Indiana COVID-19 deaths through Sunday have been among people 60 or older, according to the state health department.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said Indiana’s illness peak is still expected in mid- to late-April, but some prediction models show that lasting longer.
“It could be as late as mid-May. We don’t know,” Box said. “That surge could be more of a flattened-type surge and that would be over a longer period of time.”
Gov. Eric Holcomb said he communicated Monday with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, a day after the former Indiana health commissioner included Indianapolis on a list of emerging COVID-19 hotspots he posted on Twitter. Indianapolis and its seven surrounding counties had 63% of the state’s confirmed cases and about half its deaths as of Monday.
Holcomb said he appreciated the attention that federal officials are paying to all states and encouraged all residents to obey the stay-at-home order he issued last week.
“We need everyone to be playing by the rules,” Holcomb said.
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 email@example.com
- 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.