INDIANAPOLIS — As the case count and death toll of COVID-19 continues to increase in Indiana and across the country, implementation of “stay-at-home” orders vary, with Indiana’s enforcement unclear.
The State Department of Health reported five new deaths and 107 new cases of the virus, bringing the totals to 12 deaths and 365 cases.
“We continue to see the number of positive tests go up as testing increases across our state,” Kris Box, the state health commissioner, said at a Tuesday press conference. “(We) continue to support targeted testing rather than testing everyone who is sick. We’re leaving the decision of who should be tested in the hands of our various state clinicians who are on the front line.”
On Monday, with a growing number of cases, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order defining essential businesses and limiting all other Hoosier travel.
Doug Carter, the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, described the order as a “common sense approach,” he said his officers would use their discretion with enforcement.
“I have offered direction to all Indiana State Troopers, all police chiefs, all sheriffs… we are all seeing that our citizens are afraid or confused,” Carter said. “Please know that we will help you along the way.”
Carter said that the order allowed for “tremendous” mobility but didn’t elaborate on enforcement further.
“Ninety-nine percent of Hoosiers out there are compliant,” Holcomb said. “What this did is put everyone on the same page.”
Holcomb said that the state wouldn’t be pulling people over who traveled to and from work and determinations could be made on a case-by-case basis.
“Our intent is not meant to be a hammer, this is meant to be instructional,” Holcomb said. “The quicker we all get on the same page, the quicker we will get through this.”
Carter decried fear mongering online with uncited claims about Indianapolis shortages prompting doctors to restrict ventilator access for those over the age of 60.
“I am disgusted that at this point in time, when we are challenged beyond anything we’ve ever experienced in our lifetimes, that somebody would say such a thing,” Carter said.
Box repeated her warning that Hoosiers should anticipate future cases and a possible “surge” in cases similar to other states and countries.
“We are still in the very early parts of this outbreak,” Box said.
With limited resources, health care workers didn’t have the capacity for “tracing,” or finding and contacting people who may have had contact with an infected person, and Box stressed the need for continued donations of masks, gowns and other personal protective equipment.
Other preventive measures
The press conference also revealed other state efforts to reduce infection rates, especially in Marion County, which has the highest number of reported cases.
A center in Indy, open at an undisclosed location, will provide emergency shelter and care for people experiencing homelessness. Because of the living conditions of people experiencing homelessness, the disease can spread quickly and contribute to the anticipated health care surge.
Homeland Security advised dispatchers asking additional screening questions on emergency calls to verify if anyone in the home had been potentially infected and recommend alternative transportation if emergency services were overwhelmed.
Despite the high numbers of Hoosiers without work and applying for unemployment benefits, Fred Payne, the Commissioner of Workforce Development, encouraged Hoosiers to apply and let the department make the determination.
“Every Hoosier who has worked and who’s out of work due to no reason of their own is eligible to apply for their unemployment insurance benefits,” Payne said. “Even those who have been impacted through a temporary layoff.”
Payne added that employers who laid off employees should reach out to the department to provide certain information to ease the application process for their employees.
Additional information about the Department of Workforce Development’s policies during COVID-19 can be found at https://www.in.gov/dwd/19.htm.
Holcomb said more information related to the economy, and specifically how that applied to gig economy workers, would be available at Wednesday’s press conference.
Businesses and employers, not employees, have the option to call the state with questions about critical industries. The state call center received over 1,000 calls in just a few hours of operation on Tuesday. The line is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1-877-820-0890.