State officials say four guiding principles holding strong


State officials today expressed confidence in their four guiding principles to reopening Indiana’s economy, saying recent data indicates all four are holding strong.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said daily hospitalization rates among COVID-19 patients dropped from 170 patients on April 1 to 71 patients on May 12.

“The number of COVID patients and people under investigation peaked about 30 days ago,” Box said during a virtual press briefing. “As we’ve said, we do expect to see more cases as people start to get out more. So we will be monitoring this data closely as we look at more parts of the state to reopen.”

The state also aims to retain the capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. In the last two weeks, ICU bed availability has hovered just above 40 percent and ventilator availability just above 80 percent. In addition, the state has opened 50 additional testing sites and expanded its contact-tracing efforts during the same time.

Box said the state has “worked diligently to ensure our health care system retains the capacity to treat this surge of patients. When this pandemic first started, our concern was we would not have enough beds or ventilators for people who need them. And many of the models that we saw from other states indicated we would outstrip our capacity during the surge. We were able to flatten that surge and keep the surge manageable, to date.”

But Box did express concern that recent preliminary data released from the Fairbanks study, which aims, in phases, to produce scientific estimates of coronavirus transmission in Indiana from random-sample testing, meant Indiana was far from achieving “herd immunity.”

Critics also say the sizable gap between the number of positive COVID-19 patients identified by the Indiana State Health Dept. and the study’s estimated number of positive cases in the state – as much as 11 times more – means the state lacks adequate testing results and/or capacity. Without more testing, critics say, the state will not be able to perform adequate contact tracing, thus limiting the spread of the disease to households, rather than the community.

According to the study’s findings from its first wave of testing, which concluded May 1, 2.8 percent of Hoosiers are estimated to have the new coronavirus or have previously had it, meaning the majority of Indiana residents are still susceptible to the disease as the state begins to allow larger social gatherings.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb assured Hoosiers that if needed the state would consider reinstating restrictions if data begins to indicate the state couldn’t preserve positive trends for its four guiding principles.

In addition, state officials reported initial unemployment claims have fallen for the sixth-consecutive week. During the week ending May 9, 30,691 initial claims were filed, down from 42,290 the week prior and 139,174 during the week ending March 21, the peak of initial claims filed in Indiana.