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. Kristina Box, commissioner of the department of health, and Dale Lyles, adjutant general Indiana National Guard.
Box announced that the department of health has been notified at the federal level that the state should expect some doses of the first vaccine by late November and possibly a shipment of the second vaccine in mid-December.
“We do not know how much we will receive yet, but we expect to be limited in the beginning,” Box said.
According to the Indiana State Department of Health’s vaccine plan that was submitted to the Centers for Disease Control, initial doses will go to healthcare providers and other vulnerable populations.
Still, a widely-available vaccine “is still months away,” Box said.
National Guard to deploy to LTC facilities
The Indiana National Guard is set to deploy to the state’s 534 long-term care facilities by mid-November to assist nursing staff with infection control measures, monitoring, COVID-19 prevention checklists, data entry, registration for testing, staff and visitor screenings, and wellness checks.
On Nov. 23, 399 guardsmen will be deployed to 133 of the hardest-hit facilities, and that will increase to 750 guardsmen to 250 facilities on Nov. 9. In mid-November, 1,350 guardsmen will be working in all 534 long-term care facilities.
Further, the state is hiring additional support through the healthcare reserve workforce that was established in the spring to hire about 50 clinical staff.
The state also will provide 2 million N95 masks and other PPE to all facilities and require CMS infection control training for all employees.
More testing being done than ever
At the beginning of the pandemic, testing capacity was measured in the hundreds each today. Today, it’s measured in the tens of thousands. Testing capacity is at the highest it’s ever been, Box said.
There are almost 280 testing centers across the state and 69 community sites ran by local health department, as well as 34 sites ran by OptumServe.
Indiana awarded $30 million to local health departments to open and operate their own testing sites for two years. Since Sept. 1, 59,000 tests have been administered through those health department-operated sites.
Currently, there are 847 state contact traces and 379 contact tracers in local health departments. Around 300 more will be hired to help as positive cases continue to increase.
In the hopes of having more people participate in contact tracing, the interviews are being shorted and the questions are being reworked to shorten the length of time it takes to complete.
“Many states are facing similar challenges as cases increase across the country, but even with these challenges we have come a long way from where we were in April back when the job of contact tracing fell solely on the local health departments,” Box said.
Indiana’s seven-day positivity rate has climbed from 3.9 percent on Sept. 16 to 7.1 percent on Oct. 28, and hospital admissions have increased “significantly.” As of yesterday, there were 1,679 people hospitalized, which Box said was the highest number seen to date, and more than 100 people a day are being admitted for symptoms of COVID-19.
The state health department is talking with counties regularly to identify concerns and see what can be provided to them in the form of help.
“At this point, the hospitals still have the ability to adjust for a surge by working internally to get creative with staffing and externally to transfer patients as needed so that Hoosiers that are ill still can get the care that they need,” said Box.
This month, almost 70 percent of the people hospitalized were ages 60 and older, which has been the highest percentage in the state since the start of the pandemic.