INDIANAPOLIS — As Indiana’s coronavirus numbers improve, the state is banking on rapid-response teams to cut off a potential resurgence:
The Indiana State Department of Health already has what Governor Holcomb dubs “health care SEAL teams,” traveling to meat-packing plants, nursing homes, or other locations which have had outbreaks, to do testing and contact tracing. Health commissioner Kristina Box says the state now has access to data it didn’t have before, on hospitalizations and ambulance runs for COVID-like symptoms. She says those act as an early-warning system for new hotspots, allowing the department to confer early with local hospitals, county commissioners, and county health departments on steps they can take to contain the virus.
While several states are setting daily records in the number of new infections, Indiana is one of 18 states where coronavirus cases are declining. Both the number of cases and the number of hospitalizations have dropped by one-third since last month. But Governor Holcomb says the rate of infection among people under 30 has tripled. Younger people are far less likely to die from the virus, but Holcomb notes both they and people without symptoms are carriers.
Box says contact tracing has documented instances of “superspreaders” — people who had no symptoms who infected large numbers of people.
A study by I-U-P-U-I’s Fairbanks School of Public Health estimates 43-percent of Indiana’s coronavirus patients never experienced symptoms.
Holcomb says the state remains on track to lift the last of its pandemic-related restrictions next Saturday, the Fourth of July. But he and Box say they’re concerned about people ignoring advice to wear masks to reduce the spread. Box says she’s even heard about people deliberately seeking out hair salons which don’t enforce mask requirements.
But Holcomb says he’s heard anecdotal tales from the opposite angle, from businesses who have seen repeat business from customers who notice and appreciate measures like masks, required six-foot distancing, and Plexiglas barriers.