COVID-19 coronavirus Outbreak

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via AP)

Officials at Union Hospital in Terre Haute confirmed Thursday its first positive test for COVID-19, or coronavirus.

Announced via news release just after 5:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon, Union Health officials received notice of its first patient to test positive for COVID-19 at Union Hospital.

Amanda Scott, communication specialist with Union Health, said those that provided aid to the person have been notified.

Union Health did not respond to requests for additional information Thursday evening.

The Vigo County Health Department, Joint Information Center and Indiana State Department of Health have also been notified, according to protocol and in order to allow proper tracking of COVID-19 cases, the hospital said.

“Union Health System has been closely monitoring the wave of coronavirus heading toward our community for the past several weeks. Union has been using this time to prepare for the inevitable first positive case in our health system, which occurred today,” said Jackie Holder, medical director of Union Medical Group.

“We want to reassure the public that we are ready to answer your questions and direct you to the care that you need, when you need it.”

Indiana accounted for 56 positive cases as of Thursday afternoon, of which the Vigo case was not counted as it came in after close of business. Officials have noted the number of cases will likely rise in the coming weeks as more tests become available.

“As we increase the number of tests analyzed each day, no one should be caught off guard that the number of positive cases will increase,” said Dr. Kris Box, state health commissioner at a news conference with the governor Thursday.

“This will help us know where community spread is occurring in Indiana and help us mobilize resources in affected areas.”

The first case in the state was discovered March 6 in Marion County, and has since spread to at least 22 other counties, according to information from the Indiana State Department of Health.

Nationwide, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged more than 10,400 positive, or presumed positive, cases of COVID-19. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands all have reported cases.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the latest numbers available from the CDC attribute 150 deaths to the virus, two of which happened in Indiana.

Union Health said it will continue to prepare and follow known best practices due to the risks of COVID-19 and its fluid nature. It will also continue to educate the public as new information becomes available.

“I would encourage our employees and community not to panic,” says John Bolinger, vice president and chief medical officer of Union Health.

“Keep in mind that the experience with this virus, thus far, has shown that 81% of the cases of COVID-19 have been classified as mild illness with complete recovery expected. Only 5% of these cases have been classified as critical illness. Up-to-date reports have indicated no deaths were reported in the non-critical cases.”

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb on Thursday continued taking steps to prevent continued spread of the virus. Chief among those measures was his announcement suspending education in Indiana's public K-12 schools through May 1.

He also used his executive power to suspend income tax payments until mid July, called on officials to interpret the state's unemployment laws in the broadest possible way when considering benefits and outlawed eviction proceedings or foreclosure actions statewide.

“Every day we learn more about how to tackle this monster," Holcomb said. "We are being thoughtful about how to approach every action we are taking in this national public health emergency and putting Hoosiers’ health and safety first."

Reporter Alex Modesitt can be reached at 812-231-4232 or at alex.modesitt@tribstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @TribStarAlex.

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