The Journal Gazette
Thursday, November 19, 2020 1:00 am

Communities must 'pull together'

Virus taxing state's hospitals, workers

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Three health care workers from around the state talked candidly Wednesday about rationing care, struggling to staff hospitals and holding patients' hands when they die as COVID-19 surges in the state.

They spoke during Gov. Eric Holcomb's weekly briefing as he continues to prod people into taking safety measures against the spread.

“We are no longer the front line of attack for this. We are the last line, and we need help,” said Sarah Paturalski, vice president of nursing and clinical services at Memorial Hospital in South Bend.

“We need our communities to pull together. We want to be here when you need us, but we need help in order to continue to do that.”

That includes more than masking up and washing hands as some hospitals are running out of space to care for all people. About 39% of all ICU beds currently are being used by COVID-19 patients – equal to the number of ICU beds being used for every other ailment combined.

More than 3,000 are currently hospitalized with the virus, and Dr. Eric D. Fish, CEO of Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, said they will run out of available staffers before beds and ventilators. Similarly, IU Health Methodist and University hospitals in Indianapolis reported having more than 660 employees in quarantine.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box recommended canceling large traditional family gatherings and not going Black Friday shopping. “I know it's hard, but Thanksgiving needs to look different this year,” she said.

Box said there will be more than 5,000 empty seats at Thanksgiving tables in Indiana this year because of COVID-19. That includes 4,830 confirmed deaths and 254 probable deaths.

“Let's all make those hard choices to prevent that number from growing, so that Hoosier families are able to celebrate for years to come,” she said.

The state updated its color-coded county maps Wednesday, with 21 counties now shown in red, indicating the highest spread. Most of northeast Indiana is red – LaGrange, Steuben, DeKalb, Allen, Whitley and Wells counties.

Only one county in the state is yellow and none are blue, leaving 72 in orange. Those in orange and red have tighter social gathering limitations, and attendance at school events is restricted.

Overall, the state saw 6,143 new cases and 60 new deaths Wednesday. The state is running a positivity rate for all tests of 12.7%.

Holcomb was asked about ordering a nightly curfew, as Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has done.

“Everything is always on the table, and we discuss options on daily, weekly basis,” he said. But he focused instead on individual counties implementing stricter restrictions – similar to what Allen County did Tuesday.

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, gave an update on a vaccine, saying the state could see doses within 48 hours after the federal government issues an emergency use authorization. Two vaccines are close to that point.

But she said the state won't have enough vaccine to inoculate the general public until late spring or early summer. Health care workers and the most vulnerable will be prioritized.

New Cases

Adams: 56 (1 death)

Allen: 485 (1 death)

DeKalb: 72 

Huntington: 67

Kosciusko: 101

LaGrange: 20

Noble: 60

Steuben: 50

Wabash: 62

Wells: 87 (1 death)

Whitley: 45

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