INDIANAPOLIS—Indiana’s homeless population will now have a place to quarantine as the novel coronavirus outbreak spreads across the state.
Gov. Eric Holcomb held a press conference Tuesday to update Hoosiers on steps being taken to prepare for an expected surge in COVID-19 cases and one of those was an announcement about how to care for people who are homeless amid the pandemic.
Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration, said a location offering quarantine and self-care to Indiana’s homeless population has been secured, but the location will not be disclosed for safety precautions.
She said it will free emergency beds across the state and offer safe recovery accommodations. Funding for the emergency shelter comes from a $5 million grant from the Lilly Foundation.
“From an early time in our response, we therefore knew we needed to do everything we could to avoid such a public health emergency and protect this vulnerable population,” Sullivan said.
Holcomb provided updates and more clarity on the state’s response after an address Monday where he announced he has issued a stay-at-home order for Hoosiers, which will go from March 25 to April 7.
“What we did yesterday was very important,” he said. “But more important than the what is the why. We are going to throw everything back at repelling COVID-19 that we have.”
The number of cases has risen exponentially with every daily report. So far, the state has 365 confirmed cases and 12 people have died, up from seven deaths reported Monday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
“I want to emphasize that these individuals are not numbers. For every single Hoosier that has lost their life, there is a family, friends, a community out there that is grieving their loss,” said Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner.
Box said testing is still being limited to only the most severe patients and who gets tested is up to discretion of clinicians. So far, 2,931 people have been tested and had resulted reported to the health department.
Eli Lilly announced earlier last week that it would begin to analyze and test COVID-19 samples.
Lilly now has drive-through testing open for health care workers at its Indianapolis headquarters and today began expanded Indianapolis first responders such as public safety, fire and ambulance public servants.
“By expanding testing to first-line responders, we hope to help protect the people that we rely on for the safety of us all,” David Ricks, Lilly’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, protective gear for hospital and other health care workers remains in limited supply across the state. Throughout the country health care workers are struggling with short supplies of masks, gloves, gowns and other protective gear.
Box said the state has requested the remainder of the state’s allotted protective gear from the national stockpile and hopes the state will receive supplies from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But the message from both Holcomb and the members of the governor’s leadership team was the same—stay home. Box said that people who aren’t taking the outbreak seriously aren’t considering how their actions could be affecting others.
“I don’t think you should feel invincible, but most importantly when you feel invincible, you’re not really paying attention to the fact that you could be infecting someone else who isn’t,” she said.
Steve Cox, executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said there is a call center open for businesses to ask questions regarding Holcomb’s stay-at-home order.
It was down temporarily Monday due to the unexpected number of calls but will remain in operation from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
Last week, Holcomb announced that the state’s primary election date was rescheduled for June 2, an action that needs to be ratified by the Indiana Election Commission, which will have a public meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday to take action. The meeting will be virtual using Zoom.
Holcomb said the best thing for people to do now is to simply stay home.
“If it doesn’t knock you down, that’s not the point. You may go run into someone that it will knock down and you will pass it on,” Holcomb said. “So it does affect you, it affects us all. That’s the whole point of self-isolation, to flatten that curve so our health care system isn’t overwhelmed.”