Coronavirus spread confirmed in more areas of Indiana

Cases of the coronavirus have now been found in all of Indiana’s largest population centers as health officials said Friday tests had confirmed cases in the Evansville and Terre Haute areas.

Posted: Mar 20, 2020 4:34 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2020 7:14 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Cases of the coronavirus have now been found in all of Indiana’s largest population centers as health officials said Friday tests had confirmed cases in the Evansville and Terre Haute areas.

Cities and counties across the state have issued emergency orders calling on residents to limit travel to only essential trips and taken steps such as closing off playground areas.

Those come as the 23 new COVID-19 illnesses reported Friday by the Indiana State Department of Health raised the statewide total to 79, including two people who died.

But Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would need to see more signs of widespread spread of the virus before taking action such as governors in New York state and California in ordering nearly all residents to stay in their homes.

“The more people who practice social distancing, the less likely we get to the point to where we have to mandate sheltering in place,” Holcomb said.

The state’s health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, said several of the people infected in Indiana remain seriously ill, but that she couldn’t provide details.

More virus testing is coming for Indiana as Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis was processing 200 tests on Friday and perhaps several hundred more over the weekend, Box said.

Indiana University Health, which has 17 hospitals around the state, announced it is now running coronavirus tests at its pathology laboratory, although priority is still going to seriously ill patients and health care workers who might have been exposed to the virus. The health system can run about 500 tests a day and plans to ramp up to as many as 2,500 tests a day, said Joe Meyer, senior vice president of system operations.

Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said the confirmation of a case in Vanderburgh County should strengthen the community’s resolve.

“This certainly affirms everything that our health care professionals in the community have been saying for several weeks,” Winnecke said. “This should re-enforce the importance of social distancing. It should re-enforce the need for those who are most medically vulnerable to take action and self-isolate.”

Several cities and counties have adopted local restrictions after the governor in recent days ordered all schools remain closed until at least May 1, urged no public gatherings of more than 50 people and called on restaurants to stop in-person dining in favor of only drive-thru and carryout business.

Officials in Howard County, which includes Kokomo, approved an emergency ordinance effective Friday evening recommending only essential travel, such as to and from work, to medical care, for groceries, medication and other essential goods and services.

“People should be staying home,” county Commissioner Paul Wyman said. “Unless you absolutely have to be on the roads, you have to stay home.”

Business closures continued Friday as Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, which has more than 4,000 workers, announced it has closed all 80 of its stores to shoppers until further notice. The group said it would continue accepting drive-up donations at its stores.

Holcomb said during a news conference announcing a monthlong delay of Indiana’s primary election until June 2 that state officials are continuously reviewing what additional actions are needed.

“My plea and my hope is that we all understand the gravity of what is surrounding us on a 24-hour, minute-by-minute basis,” Holcomb said. “The more people who are practicing what we’re preaching, the faster we’ll get through this.”

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