Indiana hits record level of new coronavirus infections
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he’s still comfortable lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Indiana after health officials on Friday reported a record-high day of new infections in the state.
The Indiana State Department of Health announced that 1,832 more Hoosiers have tested positive for the coronavirus. That brings the total number of Indiana residents known to have had the coronavirus to 131,493 as the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases of the respiratory disease continues growing at record levels.
Health officials are now urging people to double down on protective measures.
Western Indiana’s Vigo County Health Department issued a warning Friday discouraging large gatherings, noting that the county’s current COVID-19 cases are mostly linked to a recent apple festival and other outdoor events with a large attendance. In Elkhart County, where both of the area’s local hospitals are full, the local health department said on its Facebook page that “a major disturbing increase” in the number of coronavirus cases calls for renewed vigilance around mask-wearing and physical distancing.
The higher infection numbers come two weeks after Holcomb decided to lift most statewide precaution rules while keeping a face mask mandate in place.
Asked Friday during a luncheon in South Bend whether he’s still comfortable with the decision, Holcomb said “I am right now.”
“But I don’t make long-term predictions based on a virus that’s uber infectious and easy to spread. I’m pleading and begging and asking Hoosiers all over the state to do what works,” he continued. “We take it day by day and week by week. There are a lot of factors that go into what we do. It’s the balance of our lives and our livelihoods.”
The governor further encouraged Hoosiers to wear masks and practice physical distancing, emphasizing that those practices “will draw these numbers down.”
Still, Democratic state lawmakers are calling on the governor to do more.
“Indiana is now turning into a perfect example of what not to do to stop the spread of this deadly virus,” Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane said in statement Friday. “Governor, I plead with you to stop this foolish reopening, enforce your mask mandate and get aid to the folks who need it most right now. It’s time to stop playing politics with people’s lives.”
Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta added that “this is not the time” to loosen COVID-19 restrictions. Doing so, he said, sends a false message to Hoosiers “that it is okay to let our guards down.”
“What we’re about to see is a perfect storm for the coronavirus to take over this state,” GiaQuinta said in statement Friday. “I don’t want to see that happen and I urge Gov. Holcomb to take the reins on this growing issue before it’s too late.”
Democratic governor candidate Woody Myers said he wants to see Holcomb return Indiana to an earlier stage of the state’s reopening plan. There should also be new guidance issued for schools, more enforcement on mask-wearing and no-excuse absentee voting on Election Day, he said.
“I am now calling on the governor to take action to save Hoosier lives,” Myers said. “Gov. Holcomb’s current plan is clearly moving us in the wrong direction.”
The state health department also reported 19 new COVID-19 deaths Friday, bringing the Indiana’s death toll to 3,761, including both confirmed and presumed coronavirus infections.
The number of people in Indiana hospitals with COVID-19 also continues to rise. New data indicates 1,187 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 — the most recorded since May 22. Of those, 357 are in intensive care, the highest count since Aug. 4.
While Friday’s numbers reflect new highs in positive cases and hospitalizations in Indiana, more people in the state are being tested for COVID-19 than earlier in the pandemic.