By Nancy Price
Due to the current spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Indiana, Governor Eric J. Holcomb announced March 12 that the state will take additional steps to reduce the rate of infection. As of press time, 39 Hoosiers have been tested presumptively positive for COVID-19, with 11 cases in Marion County and three in Johnson County, according to Joe Stuteville, media relations manager for Franciscan Health Central Indiana. There have been two deaths, one in Marion County and one in Johnson County.
“This is a time when we must do all we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect our most vulnerable populations and reduce their potential to acquire or spread this virus,” said Gov. Holcomb. “While some actions are drastic, now, not later, is the time to act.”
An initiated action is that non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, including an event or gathering of people who are in one room or a single space at the same time, such as cafeterias, churches, stadiums, meeting and conferences, auditoriums and the like. This guidance applies to professional, social, community and similar other gatherings. (Detailed guidance is posted to the Indiana State Department of Health website at in.gov/isdh.)
Following Governor Holcomb’s announcement, Dr. Virginia Caine of the Marion County Health Department joined Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett for a press conference announcing the closure of all Marion County public schools effective Monday, March 16. The closure, coupled with previously planned spring break periods, will allow all Marion County schools to remain closed through April 5.
As well, Franciscan Health will enhance visitor restrictions and screenings effective Monday, March 16 at 7 a.m.
“This is a public health issue and it is our intent to protect the health and safety of our patients, our visitors and our employees,” said Christopher Doehring, MD, vice president of medical affairs for Franciscan Health Central Indiana. “In doing so, we can reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, flu and other seasonal-related maladies.”
Symptoms of COVD-19 are similar to those of the flu and cold, according to Dr. Doehring.
“The most common symptoms are runny nose, sore throat, coughing, fever, difficulty breathing and nausea and vomiting,” he said. “Some recent scientific studies suggest the average incubation period is 5.1 days.
“If a person believes they have symptoms, they should call their family doctor or healthcare provider’s office,” he added. “They will gather information from you and make a determination. If you have serious symptoms such as trouble breathing, please go to the ER. Further, if you have a medical emergency and need to call 911, notify the dispatch personnel that you have, or are being evaluated for coronavirus. If possible, put on a facemask before emergency medical services arrive.”
Infection Control teams at all Franciscan Health and other hospitals have implemented procedures with staff and have the necessary equipment to care for any patient with this illness or any other flu strains, according to Stuteville. “This includes having protective barriers and isolation areas to protect staff and others from airborne exposure to COVID-19.”
Adults as young as 60 are at an elevated risk, in addition to those suffering from serious chronic medial conditions including heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, according to Doehring. “Those with chronic diseases are at the highest risk and should take precautionary steps, such as avoiding crowds and nonessential travel. They should stay close to home and keep a stockpile of food, supplies and important medications. Finally, it’s good to have a backup plan if a caregiver falls ill and unable to provide care,” he said.
Doehring advised that the best way you can protect yourself from becoming infected with the virus is to avoid close contact with those who are sick, wash your hands frequently and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. “Additionally, health experts are recommending safe food practices and avoiding animals and uncooked meat if traveling in affected areas,” he said.
“As COVID-19 is an evolving situation, Franciscan Health continues to work with local and state public health agencies should additional measures need to be taken,” Stuteville said.
To view Franciscan Health’s visitation policy, go to franciscanhealth.org/news-and-events/news/franciscan-health-hospitals-central-indiana-enhance-visitor-restrictions-because-coronavirus.
To read the hospital’s COVID-19 blog site, go to franciscanhealth.org/news-and-events/news/wuhan-coronavirus-what-we-know-about-signs-and-prevention?fbclid=IwAR0p31v2FfyIze94GdKo_ymWg2ymMcML4DWuGQUIU8fzSvJHN9ZOiMA6l2s.