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INDIANAPOLIS — Fourteen more people have died in Indiana from coronavirus-related illnesses, increasing the state’s death toll to 49 as confirmed cases surged past 2,000, state health officials said Tuesday.
And the state health commissioner is urging people to continue to abide by the governor’s stay-at-home order.
Indiana’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, grew by 374, to 2,159, the Indiana State Department of Health said. A week ago, the state had 365 confirmed cases and 12 reported deaths.
Five of the state’s 14 new deaths involved Indianapolis residents and four others were from Lake County. There was one death each reported from Elkhart, Decatur, Hancock, Ripley and Warren counties.
As of Tuesday, there were 8 confirmed cases in La Porte County; 21 in Porter County; 49 in St. Joseph County; 146 in Lake County; 8 in Jasper County; 1 in Starke County; and 3 in Marshall County.
Five deaths have now been reported in Lake County, and one each in Jasper and St. Joseph counties.
Berrien County, Michigan, has 32 positive cases and one death, according to the Berrien County Health Department.
To date, 11,658 tests have been reported to ISDH, up from 9,830 on Sunday.
Marion County, the home of Indianapolis, had 170 of the state’s 374 new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday. Indianapolis and the seven counties surrounding it account for 68 percent of Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths and 63 percent of its confirmed cases.
Tuesday’s update on the pandemic in Indiana followed Monday’s announcement by state officials that Indiana hospitals have increased the state’s intensive care unit capacity by about one-third in the past few weeks in preparation for an expected surge in coronavirus-related illnesses.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said some shuttered health facilities could be reopened for bed space if hospitals and their ICUs become overwhelmed.
That could include the former St. Anthony Hospital on Michigan City’s north side.
“We understand the desire to use our Homer Street campus to accommodate a potential surge in COVID-19 patients,” a statement from Franciscan Health Michigan City said.
“While we are not currently able to equip and staff a second hospital ourselves, we have offered the site to state and federal authorities for their potential use.”
Outpatient COVID-19 testing is now available in the parking lot of the former hospital for those with a physician’s order.
In Indiana, the baseline number of critical care hospital beds is 1,432 and some hospitals have already taken steps to increase that number to 1,940, according to the governor. Overall, the state’s plan is to double the number, if needed, by taking existing noncritical care hospital beds, recovery rooms, operating rooms and outpatient facilities, turning them into critical care beds.
The state’s baseline number of ventilators is 1,177, and hospitals have identified another 750 that can be used for critical care patients, according to Holcomb. The state’s plan is to double that number, if needed, by repurposing ventilators from operating rooms, ambulatory care centers, EMS and the Indiana National Guard.
“The surge plan calls for moving less critical patients to alternate facilities including neighborhood hospitals, medical clinics and state-owned hospitals,” Holcomb said.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said Monday that Indiana’s illness peak was still expected in mid- to late-April, but some prediction models put it as late as mid-May.
And she urged Hoosiers on Tuesday to continue to stay at home, warning that while Indiana’s coronavirus cases and deaths were climbing, the state remains far from reaching its peak in cases.
The 14 additional deaths reported Tuesday represent “a very big increase,” Box said, but the worst is still ahead.
“I do not want Hoosiers to see these rising numbers and think that means the peak has arrived. We have a very long way to go before we reach the peak and I cannot say enough about how important it is for you to continue to stay home,” Box said.
Holcomb has extended the requirement for bars, nightclubs and restaurants to stay closed to dine-in patrons until April 6 at 11:59 p.m. They may continue to provide take-out and delivery services.
Also on Monday, he signed an executive order that eased medical licensing restrictions to allow retired medical professionals and those with an inactive license to practice medicine and join Indiana’s response to the pandemic, along with certain medical students.
“We see a surge coming and we’re calling in the reinforcements, bolstering Indiana’s capacity to provide additional health care services during this emergency,” Holcomb said.
He also ordered health care providers to stop all non-urgent surgeries or procedures.
“All health care providers, whether medical, dental or other, and health care facilities, whether hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, dental facilities, plastic surgery centers, dermatology offices and abortion clinics are directed to cancel or postpone elective and non-urgent surgical or invasive procedures,” Holcomb’s order states.
Veterinarians are also asked to postpone non-urgent surgeries.
The order is an attempt to save protective equipment for those working on the front-lines of the coronavirus, the governor said, though federal judges in at least three states have blocked such orders from limiting abortion access.