COVID-19 Update | First vaccine doses a week away, as cases, deaths, positivity rates make hospital capacity the story of the day: “We haven’t seen a decrease in patients that we’re hoping to see.”

Eighty-three percent of IU Health system’s intensive care unit (ICU) beds are filled statewide, but not all of them with COVID-19 patients.

That’s according to Brian Shockney, president of IU Health’s south central region, speaking at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders to talk about COVID-19 response.

For IU Health’s south central region, ICU occupancy matches the statewide figure of 83 percent, Shockney said.

Shockney said 67 percent of IU Health’s ICU beds are filled with COVID patients. Of their COVID patients, 25 percent are in ICU beds.

More than 55 percent of COVID patients in Monroe County don’t live in Monroe County, Shockney said.

The first doses of vaccine are expected to arrive in Monroe County in mid-December. Initially, vaccines will go just to frontline health care workers, according to Shockney.

He said the display of a health care worker’s badge will be enough to get the vaccine. About the availability of vaccines for frontline healthcare workers, Shockney said, “There will be plenty of vaccines.”

It will more likely be mid-2021 before vaccines are readily available for the general public, he said, due to the time it takes to manufacture and distribute them.

Responding to a reporter’s question about the possible need for IU Health to add offsite beds, Shockney said in the last week, IU Health has reverted some offices and storage facilities to hospital rooms. Over the past 25 to 50 years, the rooms had been taken over by non-patient-care uses, but had hookups for oxygen and other medical equipment still connected, Shockney said.

Statewide, the total COVID-19 hospital census of all health care providers stands at close to 3,400, according to the Indiana state department of health’s dashboard. That’s about twice the number of the spring peak.

Based on the 14-day incubation period for the virus, the impact of Thanksgiving Day visits has not yet been seen. Shockney said, “We’re waiting to see what the results from the Thanksgiving holiday will be. We’ll know that over the next week or so, as we see cases either increase or stay flat in this next week, that we are preparing for the potential rise in patients.”

The 14-day incubation period factored into an explanation about the difference between isolation and quarantine, given on Friday by Penny Caudill, who’s Monroe County’s health administrator.

Isolation is for people who are either symptomatic, or have tested positive, whether they have symptoms or not. Under either of those two scenarios, Caudill said, you need to isolate away from others for at least 10 days, and until your fever is gone for at least 24 hours, without fever-reducing medicine.

That’s different from quarantine. Caudill said quarantine is for situations when you might get sick, because you know, or have been informed, that you’ve been in close contact with somebody who has tested positive. Under new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, she said, one option is to discontinue quarantine at 10 days, if you have not developed symptoms, or discontinue quarantine at seven days, if you had a negative test at Day 5 of quarantine or after.

Caudill said that contact tracers don’t give out the names of people who tested positive. As she put it, “We’re not going to say that X person at X business tested positive and you are a contact to them. You’re simply going to be told that you’ve been identified as a potential close contact,” Caudill said.

Protection of confidentiality was a factor in Monroe County government’s decision not to announce each time one of its employees test positive for COVID-19. At Friday’s press conference, county commissioner Julie Thomas said, “We made a conscious decision to not report numbers, because some of our departments are very small. And we felt that was a privacy issue.”

Thomas added, “We are following all of the protocols. We worked with the health department, legal, human resources to put together this continuity of operations plan. And we have everything in place to protect the employees and to protect the public.”

At Friday’s press conference, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, described the city’s workforce infections in terms of the cases from March through October, compared to November and the first part of December. In the first eight months of the pandemic, there were 16 cases of COVID diagnosed among the city’s 850 employees. In November alone, the ninth month, the tally was 16 cases, Hamilton said.

Hamilton also described the state wide death toll in per-minute terms. “Every 24 minutes, we lose a Hoosier to COVID,” Hamilton said. The rolling average of deaths due to COVID statewide is around 60.

In Monroe County, 10 deaths have been recorded in the last 13 days, for a total of 55. [Updated on Dec. 5, 2020 at noon: Three additional deaths due to COVID-19 were recorded for Dec. 4, the most for Monroe County on any day except June 13, 2020, when three deaths were also recorded.]

Monroe County’s rolling average positivity rate is increasing, and is starting to close the gap to the statewide average. It now stands at around 8.5 percent, compared to 11.6 statewide. [Updated on Dec. 5, 2020 at noon: The rolling average positivity rate for Monroe County on Dec. 5 is 10 percent.]

Caudill said on Friday, that could be due to the number of tests that have been done in recent days and reasons people are getting tested. Indiana University continues to do mitigation testing, but previously, Caudill said, IU had done an “enormous” amount of testing.

More tests of people who are not likely to be positive puts a bigger number in the denominator for the positivity rate, and causes it to go down. “We’re seeing a reduction in the tests that have been done in the last few days and the last week, and that probably is affecting that to some degree,” Caudill said.

Demand for testing is now picking up, Caudill said. The demand includes those who are sick and their close contacts. “Anytime that we are testing people who are more likely to be infected, that positivity rate is going to go up as well,” Caudill said.

3 thoughts on “COVID-19 Update | First vaccine doses a week away, as cases, deaths, positivity rates make hospital capacity the story of the day: “We haven’t seen a decrease in patients that we’re hoping to see.”

  1. The state’s COVID-19 site (https://coronavirus.in.gov/) shows that the state’s ICU bed usage for COVID-19 patients has doubled in the last 5-6 weeks, but the non-COVID-19 ICU usage percentage has shrunk significantly since the summer. Any insight into why?

    1. Just want to make sure I understand which data you’re talking about. I think it’s this:

      I think your question translates graphically into: Why has the gray band gotten narrower since summer? That’s the question, yeah?

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