Indiana state health officials reported a surge in cases and 19 new deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic Friday as the state proceeds with Stage 5 of its reopening plan.
The Indiana State Department of Health added 1,832 new cases to its public dashboard Friday, an all-time daily high since the department began posting cases in the spring.
Cases have been on a steady increase this week, and so have hospitalizations and deaths.
An average of 1,056 people has been hospitalized related to COVID-19 over the last seven days, for example, the highest average since June 2 when much of the state was under a partial shutdown order issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb.
In all, the state has confirmed 131,493 cases of COVID-19 since March 6 and 3,534 deaths since March 13. Indiana’s seven-day positivity rate for all tests, including repeats, is at 5.1%, while the seven-day positivity rate for unique, individual tests is at 9.3%.
On Friday, Gov. Eric Holcomb told reporters he is still comfortable with Stage 5 but noted he doesn’t want to make long-term predictions for what might happen next. He again urged citizens to do what they can control — wear masks and distance when necessary — to help slow the spread.
“We take it day by day and week by week. There are a lot of factors that go into what we do,” Holcomb said. “It’s the balance of lives and our livelihoods.”
Dr. Woody Myers, the Democratic contender for Indiana governor and a former state health commissioner, criticized the move to Stage 5. He argued Friday’s numbers are further reason for the state to pull back on reopening.
“Two weeks after Gov. Holcomb recklessly moved Indiana into Stage 5 and despite public health experts warning the pandemic was rapidly resurging, I am now calling on the Governor to take action to save Hoosier lives,” Myers said in a statement Friday. “Gov. Holcomb’s current plan is clearly moving us in the wrong direction as many of the 1,832 new cases and 19 deaths today were, sadly, preventable.”
Under Stage 5 of Indiana’s “Back on Track” reopening plan, restaurants, bars and similar venues can operate at full capacity. A statewide mask mandate remains in effect for individuals older than age 8 when in indoor spaces and outdoors where social distancing isn’t possible until Oct. 17. Local governments have the authority to choose what to enforce, however, and there is no state penalty for a person who chooses not to follow the mask mandate.
Erica Irish is the 2020 Russell Pulliam student editor for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.