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What you missed from the governor’s press conference

National Guard being deployed to long-term care facilities

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb held his weekly press conference today to provide updates on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s a rundown of the highlights from the press conference, where Holcomb was joined in person by Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health.

Metrics map

The county metrics map was updated today, as it is every Wednesday, and the number of counties receiving “blue” scores dropped dramatically. This indicates higher positivity rates and community spread across the state.

“Seeing the map shift so dramatically should be a reason that every Hoosiers renews their commitment to stopping COVID in its tracks,” said Weaver.

Today, twice as many Hoosiers were hospitalized with COVID compared to late June and early July. As of yesterday, 1,484 Hoosiers were hospitalized, and hospitals continue to see more than 100 people a day admitted for symptoms of COVID-19, according to Weaver.

This past week has seen the highest numbers recorded since the pandemic began.

The seven-day positivity rate statewide also has climbed from 3.9 percent on Sept. 16 to 6.9 percent on Oct. 14.

Introducing additional efforts in LTC facilities

The state is upping its efforts in long-term care facilities across the state.

This month, the state began conducting infection control surveys in all Indiana long-term care facilities, and those surveys were completed this week. Several themes were identified where these facilities could receive additional support, including staffing needs.

The state again is calling on reserve healthcare workforce to assist in Indiana's long-term care facilities. Just this week, 11 facilities have requested help from the reserve force. The state will hire clinical staff from the reserve workforce to supplement long-term care resources, and this supplemental workforce will be trained on best practices for patient care and infection control, and all long-term care facilities will be visited several times a week.

Applications can be found here https://redcap.isdh.in.gov/surveys/?s=9TDEN3ETC9.

In addition, the Indiana National Guard is being deployed to long-term care facilities to assist with testing, reporting test results, screening employees, and infection control practices. National Guard members will begin in facilities experiencing outbreaks starting Nov. 1 and then expand to all facilities.

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This, said Weaver, will allow long-term care facility staff to devote more time to the care of their patients.

Further, the state will provide 2 million N95 masks to all long-term care facilities for patient-facing staff, along with 400,000 face shields, and 680,000 gowns. This is the largest distribution of PPE to date.

“Our goal, the bottom line is to provide relief to staff, slow spread, and educate and improve all of those known-to-be-working infection control procedures,” Holcomb said.

Indiana also received a first-of-its-kind waiver from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that will help reduce ongoing admissions to facilities by allowing immediate discharges from hospitals to a patient’s home, rather than a long-term care facility, for in-home rehabilitation.

“As people age and develop medical problems they’re often unable to safely take care of themselves at home. For these individuals the choice (is) to find someone who can help them in their home or go to a nursing home,” said Weaver. “So as part of the public health emergency, we want to make sure that everyone who qualifies for home health services can get them quickly.”

In the first week after the waiver went live, 20 Hoosiers were able to return home, rather than go to a long-term care facility.

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 2,205 resident deaths, which account for 58 percent of COVID deaths in Indiana.

Vaccination plan

On Oct. 16, the state submitted its interim vaccination plan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is awaiting feedback.

“We know that a widely-available vaccine though is months away. The latest we’ve heard is that limited supplies might be available by the end of the year. That means distribution in phase one will be focused on the healthcare workforce and those who are greatest risk for complications from COVID,” said Weaver.

No trick-or-treating at the governor’s residence

Trick-or-treating has been canceled at the governor’s residence.

“I’m somewhat disappointed by this. It’s one of the real fun things we get to do and share with the community. I already had my costume planned out. If you watch Netflix, ‘Stranger Things,’ I thought that was an appropriate series this year, has some Indiana connections, and even I had the character picked out that I was going to go as.

“But that will have to be for another day, and there will be another season for ‘Stranger Things’ as well come May next year. And so we’re planning on donating our candy we’ve accumulated for the day to a worthy cause, and hopefully that’ll put a smile on someone’s face,” Holcomb said.