During the coronavirus pandemic crisis, The La Porte County Herald-Argus has dropped the paywall for virus-related stories. If you appreciate local journalism, please help us continue to keep La Porte County informed by considering a subscription. Learn more here.INDIANAPOLIS — Sixteen more people have died in Indiana from coronavirus-related illnesses, raising the state’s virus death toll to 65 as its confirmed cases surged by more than 400, state health officials said Wednesday.

Indiana has increased its ability to test people for the coronavirus but is still targeting certain patients because of limited supplies, the state health commissioner said.

Indiana’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, grew by 409, to 2,565, the Indiana State Department of Health said Wednesday.

That total includes 11 confirmed cases in La Porte County; 27 in Porter County (county officials report 35); 57 in St. Joseph County; 180 in Lake County; 9 in Jasper County; 1 in Starke County; and 3 in Marshall County.

The department noted that Indiana’s 16 additional deaths reported Wednesday had occurred over multiple days. In Northwest Indiana, there have been 6 deaths in Lake County; and 1 each in St. Joseph and Jasper counties.

Berrien County, Michigan, reports 35 cases and one death.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said when the state reported 14 additional deaths, those deaths had occurred over the previous two weeks. The state health department only reports additional deaths once there is a confirmed positive test for COVID-19 in each case, she said.

Marion County had 159 of the state’s new cases reported Wednesday. Indianapolis and the seven counties surrounding it account for 63 percent of Indiana’s confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 1,117 in Marion County.

Wednesday’s update shows that only nine of Indiana’s 92 counties have no coronavirus cases.

Box had said Indiana’s illness peak was still expected in mid- to late-April, but some prediction models put it later, as late as mid-May.

Test supplies are limited, so pregnant women and certain high-risk individuals such as those with high blood pressure are given top priority for testing, she said.

To date, 14,375 tests have been reported to the Indiana State Department of Health, up from 13,373 on Tuesday, the agency said.

“We have increased testing capacity significantly over several weeks” through Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Co. and other private laboratories, Box said. Lilly performed 458 tests on Tuesday.

The department on Wednesday distributed 3,000 additional testing kits to nine hospitals, Box said.

She said state officials continue working with health experts and hospitals to get data on how many Indiana residents diagnosed with COVID-19 have recovered – and to obtain more information on Indiana’s deaths – but that data was not yet available.

Box said Indiana has not yet modeled projections on how many Hoosiers could die, but she said she’s concerned Indiana has a higher percentage of elderly residents than some other states, as well as a higher percentage of smokers – two groups at higher risk.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett – along with a coalition of statewide business and community partners – also announced a social distancing campaign to help flatten the curve for COVID-19 in Indiana.

The #INthistogether campaign will help Hoosiers understand the importance of social distancing, provide access to helpful tips and information, and galvanize communitywide commitment to flattening the curve, Holcomb said. When done correctly, social distancing reduces the number of hospitalizations and deaths related to the pandemic.

Holcomb launched the campaign at his daily press briefing and through a statewide public service announcement. Hogsett released a public service announcement showing support for the campaign and its importance for residents of Indianapolis, one of the nation’s growing hotspots for cases of the virus.

“Social distancing is the most important and effective tool we have to defeat COVID-19,” the governor said. “If we act now, we can save lives and then reopen our state for business, group activities, sports and the other things we enjoy doing together as Hoosiers.

“But we need every person to take this seriously and do their part. We are truly in this together.”

All Hoosiers are encouraged to show how they are practicing good social distancing, whether at home, at an essential business or going out for essential needs.

The announcement included a community toolkit that allows everyone in the state to show they are #INthistogether. Resources can be found at INthistogethercampaign.com.

“This campaign is sharing a critically important message...,” Hogsett said. “It’s clear that social distancing works. And while restrictions have presented challenges for businesses, families and workers, the health and safety of Hoosiers has to continue being our top priority.

“In order to meaningfully address this public health crisis, we must ensure people understand that their actions impact the wellbeing of their neighbors. We really are in this together.”

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