Originally published July 15 in TheStatehouseFile.com
“We’ve got to be as vigilant today, if not more so, than we were back in March,” Holcomb said in the virtual press conference. “COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, so it’s really up to us to take responsibility for our own actions and the way that we conduct ourselves.”
Holcomb and Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box pointed to new data that shows the number of COVID-19 cases rising at a rate comparable to the early weeks of the pandemic. In the last week alone, Box said, health officials have recorded some 4,300 new cases of the virus, and localized hotspots continue in areas across the state.
Box reported 700 new cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Wednesday, totaling at 53,370 confirmed cases. There has been a total of 2,592 Hoosiers that have died from the virus, 10 more than the previous day.
Hoosiers are also seeing a longer turnaround on test results, Box said, primarily due to logistical challenges that have made it difficult for testing sites to receive the supplies they need. But with 11 new state testing sites being added around the state this week, and with those sites sending tests to Indiana labs, Hoosiers should see results quicker — in about three to five days, Box said.
“There are external factors that are beyond our control, and we have become skilled at adapting to them,” Box said.
The positivity rate continues to increase in the state as well. The rate went up from 6.3% the week ending July 4 to 7.1% the week ending July 11.
Box said Hoosiers should expect to see another surge of COVID-19 cases in the fall, when flu season, which could pose a further threat to Indiana’s healthcare system in handling the pandemic.
“This will increase the need for testing and supplies in all states, not just Indiana,” Box said. “So the work that we do now to keep our communities safe and ensure that our healthcare system has ample capacity, we’ll put up a position for the expected surge.”
The governor’s announcement to postpone Stage 5 of the reopening plan are due to these increases in COVID-19 cases throughout the state.
“We’re living on the edge here, day in and day out,” Holcomb said. “And we’ve got to make sure that we’re remaining calm, head down, and doing what we can control.”
Elkhart County in northern Indiana, however, will remain in Stage 4 and face more restrictions than the rest of the state as it continues to be a hotspot for COVID-19 cases.
Holcomb will also soon update the executive order guiding local communities on Stage 4.5, noting he will add new guidelines regarding gatherings of more than 250 people. Effective July 23, event organizers that want to host a crowd of this size must develop and submit a written plan to their local health department outlining the steps they will take to keep their attendees safe from COVID-19.These plans must address factors such as face coverings, social distancing measures, guest information and more.
The decision to delay Indiana’s reopening efforts comes, too, as most K-12 schools around the state plan to reopen for fall classes in a few weeks. Though there are exceptions — including Washington Township Schools in Marion County, which announced this week its students will not return to the classroom and instead complete work online — many schools plan to offer families the option of in-person classes.
Indiana leaders also continue to face the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to record unemployment numbers this spring.
Jacob Sipe, executive director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, joined Holcomb and Box during the press briefing Wednesday. Sipe said the state’s program to provide renters with financial aid for rent payments opened up for applications Monday morning. Within 48 hours, more than 11,000 Hoosiers applied for help, Sipe said.
This program is funded by $25 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, and it is open to 91 counties in Indiana. Marion County residents are not eligible because the county funded its own rental assistance program.
Households may receive a maximum of $2,000 over a four-month period. First payments to landlords are expected to be sent by the first week of August, Sipe said.
Hope Shrum is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.