As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continue to climb in the state, the local resource situation remains fuzzy.
And that, according to Miami County Health Officer Dr. Christi Redmon, should be all the more reason for residents to adhere to the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb earlier this week.
“If we don’t take this seriously, Italy is the example,” she told the Tribune on Thursday.
Italy, according to Associated Press reports, leads the world in COVID-19 deaths where nearly 8,200 people have died, some while waiting for hospital beds.
The country’s health care system has been overwhelmed trying to treat the spike in cases, which, as of Thursday, had reached more than 80,000 according to data tallied by Johns Hopkins University.
That same data on Thursday showed that the U.S., at 75,233 reported cases, is drawing close to Italy’s number and China’s nearly 82,000 cases.
In Indiana, the count on Thursday morning was 645 confirmed cases, up from Wednesday’s count of 477 cases. There have been 17 deaths in the state.
In Miami County, the count remained at one following the report of a case over the weekend.
The real number is likely higher.
For more than a week, Redmon has said residents should act as though the virus is in their community “because it is” and that state and local providers lack an adequate amount of tests to identify cases on a larger scale.
Asked recently about the amount of tests available to them, as well as the number of ventilators, open beds and preparations being done to prepare for a possible surge in cases, a representative from Lutheran Health Network, which operates Dukes Memorial Hospital, declined to provide any detail.
The local hospital is “preparing to respond to the potential surge in patients and we are reviewing our inventory and protocols regularly as CDC guidance is revised,” spokeswoman Kara Stevenson, said in part in an emailed response to the questions. “We’re working in concert with the health department as they work to coordinate the resources across our community and region.”
Testing, she said “is being limited to symptomatic patients” following Indiana Department of Health guidelines.
“The priority is testing for persons with symptoms of COVID-19 infection – fever, cough, or shortness of breath and risk factors of exposure to a confirmed COVID-19 individual or travel from an area with extensive numbers of cases,” Stevenson wrote.
Dukes is not alone in their response.
State health officials have also declined to provide details on Indiana hospitals’ intensive care unit capacity and equipment availability, according to Associated Press reports.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said Wednesday that she’s seeing “positive movements” in availability of ICU beds and ventilators in Indiana, but cited confidentiality arrangements with hospitals for not releasing details, according to the AP.
Redmon said Thursday that, she is not aware of the number of ventilators or tests available at the local hospital, but said that, should a surge come, hospitals and state officials will have a system for dealing with it.
“Hospitals, if they are at capacity … the patients (will be) diverted to another hospital,” she said. “That will be coordinated by the state.”
But Redmon stressed that she thinks the area is still at a point where it can avoid a situation like that. If the governor’s stay-at-home order is not followed, though, a situation like Italy’s could be seen as well.
“I don’t want to scare people to death,” Redmon said. “But in a way, I do.”
Those who do need to venture out to buy supplies need to be doing their best to stand apart from others while waiting in lines and shopping. Others need to simply stay home, particularly the elderly who are at the most risk of dying from the infection, she said.
In a “free country,” Redmon said, it is a matter of people choosing “to do the right thing” and following the guidelines from the state.
“If they are not, it’s not going to work,” she said. “I can’t stress that enough.”