by Kathy Tretter
The hand-writing is on the wall. COVID-19 is not going away any time soon.
According to Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Stage 5, initiated in September, has “been viewed by some as a return to pre-COVID times … too many have said ‘I’ll ride it out, so be it.’”
The result? The seven day positivity rate is up a full 6 percent to 10.3 percent from the inception of Stage 5. The number of hospitalized patients statewide as of last Wednesday was at 2,544 — an all time high.
“Front line medical personnel are exhausted and overwhelmed and need us all to do our part,” Gov. Holcomb explained during his weekly press briefing. “We individually must do all we can to protect our hospital workers, not just for COVID but for cancer patients and heart patients.”
Because the beds are filling up as the numbers increase, Gov. Holcomb added,
No more Stage 5.
He recognizes that everyone is over COVID but with the holiday season on the horizon, residents must be more diligent than ever.
Governor Holcomb spoke of “the light at the end of the tunnel,” noting the announcement earlier in the week from Eli Lilly, the Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant. Lilly’s neutralizing antibody bamlanivimab received FDA emergency use authorization for the treatment of recently diagnosed, mild to moderate COVID-19 in high-risk patients. The U.S. government will allocate 300,000 doses of bamlanivimab to high-risk patients, with no out-of-pocket costs for the medication.
Last Tuesday, two patients received the treatment at Clark Memorial Health in Jeffersonville to good results.
There is more light at the end of the tunnel in the form of a Pfizer vaccine that has been deemed 90% effective in trials. No serious safety concerns were observed. According to Dr. Lyndsey Weaver with the Indiana Department of Health, the vaccine will be reviewed by two bodies and may be available as early as this week. While the state is still devising a plan for who distribution, health care workers will top the list.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box reiterated, “Our cases have doubled every week for four weeks now. This is why we have to turn the tide — now.” She said that not only our cases increasing significantly but daily deaths are on the rise. Of the nine counties in the red zone, some of the spread has come in congregate settings but most is community spread. “We are hearing that employees are told to come to work when they are supposed to be quarantining and parents are not getting their children tested.”
Dr. Box noted that in Indiana and across the nation, “Experts expect the surge to continue for a number of weeks.”
Referring to the coded map that puts the counties with the lowest number of cases per 100,000 population in blue and the highest in red, with yellow worse than blue and orange worse than yellow but lower than red, Gov. Holcomb said in September, when he moved the state to Stage 5, the majority of counties registered blue. Last Wednesday there was not one county in blue, only five were yellow with most orange but nine red. “Like most states we’re in the midst of the second surge,” he said. “Patience is required for all Hoosiers.”
But with patience comes persistence, which means everyone needs to take the steps necessary to reduce the spread.
Those steps, which have been repeated ad nauseum, include wearing face masks (as required), maintaining special distancing and frequent hand washing.
To help with enforcement and protective measures, the state has set aside $20 million in grants for Hoosier communities and local governments. Governor Holcomb encouraged cities, towns and counties to apply as soon as possible.
He recognized that the upcoming holiday season will be an especially difficult time, but said that should provide additional incentive for following the protocols.
“Back in February and March we didn’t know a lot about how COVID-19 was transmitted. We’re in a different time now. We’ve asked a lot of you and we’re going to ask you to do more as COVID is taking a greater toll.”
When it came time for the Q and A, one reporter asked if the new restrictions apply to churches. Dr. Box said churches are exempt, however, the state sees a spike following church every Sunday. “Singing and praising make it worse,” she explained and urged anyone who might be high risk to stay home.