Indiana surpasses 150,000 total cases of COVID-19

by Noah Crenshaw | Editor-In-Chief

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 12:05 p.m. on Oct. 21, 2020 with the latest numbers reported on the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The state of Indiana has now passed the threshold of 150,000 cases of COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, following an update to the Indiana State Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. The milestone comes following a week of developments in pandemic’s impact on the state.

On Oct. 21, the state reported 1,766 new cases of COVID-19 and 15 new deaths from the virus, according to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard, bringing the total number of cases to 152,396 and the total number of deaths to 3,790. On two separate days last week, the state broke its own records by surpassing 2,000 reported cases in a single day, according to The Indianapolis Star. On Oct. 16, Indiana reported 2,328 new cases and on Oct. 17, Indiana reported 2,521, according to IndyStar.

As of Oct. 21, 23,518 new tests have been administered, according to the dashboard. There have been a total of 2,574,800 tests administered so far, according to the dashboard.

The increase in cases and deaths comes a week after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb extended Indiana’s mask mandate until Nov. 14 and after the city of Chicago and the state of Ohio issued travel orders requiring quarantines for travelers from Indiana.

Positivity rate, hospitalizations increase

During his weekly COVID-19 press conference on Oct. 14, Holcomb said that the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate has increased from less than 4% to 5.3% in less than a month. As of Oct. 21, the seven-day positivity rate is at 6.9%, according to the dashboard.

ISDH Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver said during the press conference that 1,357 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Oct. 15. This is the highest number of hospitalizations since May, she said. 

Since the press conference, the number has increased and as of Oct. 20, 1,484 people are hospitalized due to COVID-19, according to the dashboard. 

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks to the media.
Contributed Photo by Eric Holcomb via Flickr Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks to the media during a press conference about the COVID-19 pandemic on March 24, 2020.

Holcomb ties increases to private, close-contact events

Holcomb said that Indiana State Health Commissioner Kris Box and her team are very concerned about close contact events, such as funerals and weddings and the receptions or parties that may come after. At these events, people let their guard down, are more trusting and assume the odds are not going against them, he said.

“Those events are the very events that turn out to be big contributors to our positive cases and illnesses,” Holcomb said. “It’s these events that have nothing to do with a 500-capacity limit. Tracing is proving that. We are proving that you can go to a Colts game or a soccer game or school, or go shopping, and you can do it safely.”

Holcomb said that the numbers in fact show how many people are wearing masks and social distancing and aren’t letting their guard down, even at smaller, medium and larger events where safety protocols are not put into place, practiced, or reinforced.

While Holcomb said that the increase in cases was significant, he said that he did not believe shutting down the state again would ultimately benefit Indiana. Holcomb said other states that have capacity limits of 10 people at some events or venues are still dealing with rising numbers.

“The shutting down approach is missing the point,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb said that the behavior and actions of Hoosiers are what need to be addressed to help solve the issue of increasing cases, not a blanket response. While some people are following the recommended preventive methods, too many Indiana residents are ignoring science and not wearing masks, he said. 

“Those decisions can directly or indirectly, even not intentionally, cost lives,” Holcomb said. “More than 3,609 to be exact as of today [Oct. 14], and those decisions, or lack … good decisions, are affecting our quality of life, both short-term and long-term.”

Chicago, Ohio add Indiana to quarantine lists

Travelers to Chicago from Indiana will now have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Chicago, according to an updated emergency travel order that went into effect on Oct. 16. The updated order also added three other states to the city’s list of areas from which people must quarantine when arriving in Chicago.

The order to quarantine applies to people coming from Indiana for non-work purposes and to Chicago residents returning from Indiana, unless they are essential workers, according to the order. Exceptions to the order include travel for medical care and parental shared custody, according to the order. 

Even if the time in Indiana is less than 24 hours, people still will need to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Chicago, unless they are deemed essential workers or students who commute for school, according to the order. People who are just traveling through Indiana on their way to Chicago and not coming from a state already on the travel order, do not need to quarantine if they were in Indiana for less than 24 hours, according to the order.

Travelers from Indiana to Ohio also are being asked to quarantine for 14 days, according to a COVID-19 travel advisory issued by the Ohio Department of Health on Oct. 14. People coming to Ohio from any state reporting positive testing rates of 15% or higher for COVID-19 must self-quarantine, according to the order. As of Oct. 14, according to the ODH website, this includes Indiana.

Box tests positive, Holcomb tests negative

During the Oct. 14 press conference, Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19, after spending time with her grandson and daughter, who also tested positive. Box said that she, her daughter and her grandson got tested after two workers at her grandson’s daycare were positive for the virus. 

Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box speaks to the media.
Contributed Photo by Eric Holcomb via Flickr Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box speaks to the media as Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb stands off to the left during a press conference about the COVID-19 pandemic on March 24, 2020.

Holcomb tested negative for COVID-19, according to an Oct. 15 press release from his office, after being tested out of an abundance of caution following Box’s positive test on Oct. 14. Several members of his office, several members of ISDH and Weaver also were tested out of an abundance of caution, according to the press release.

According to Box and Weaver, Holcomb and the staff members did not meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for close contact as they were socially distanced and wore masks during their interactions with Box. Both Box and Weaver advised Holcomb that he could resume his normal schedule with vigilance about social distancing and wearing a mask, according to the press release.

“Janet [Holcomb] and I are wishing Dr. Box and her family a speedy recovery,” Holcomb said in the release. “The coronavirus does not discriminate, and this further highlights the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.”

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