SOUTHERN INDIANA — As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Southern Indiana and around the state, leaders from local hospitals urge the public to remain diligent about safety precautions to help curb the spread of the virus and the resulting hospitalizations.

A joint statement was issued Wednesday by Baptist Health Floyd President Mike Schroyer and Clark Memorial Health CEO Martin Padgett, as new one-day cases in the state surpassed 6,000 for the third time in a week.

“While the nation awaits a vaccine, the actions and behaviors of people remain the sole determinant of increases or decreases in viral spread,” the statement said. “As viral spread increases, it has a direct impact not only on the health of the population, but the vital resources local healthcare institutions must retain in order to adequately care for patients.

“Baptist Health Floyd and Clark Memorial Health are joining forces to implore the public to do its part to prevent mass outbreaks so that medical providers can preserve these vital resources, such as staff and inpatient capacity, in order to continue responding to the pandemic.”

COVID-19 HOSPITALIZATIONS INCREASE

Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) data released Wednesday showed 3,040 people hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state as of Tuesday — 2,475 confirmed cases and another 656 believed cases but not yet confirmed.

In the ISDH District 9, which includes Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Decatur, Franklin, Jennings, Ripley, Dearborn, Scott, Jefferson, Ohio and Switzerland counties, there were 125 patients hospitalized with the virus as of Tuesday, both confirmed and awaiting results, accounting for 56.9% of the overall ICU beds in the region. Statewide, 39% of the total ICU beds were in use for COVID-19 patients on Tuesday.

The hospital leaders in Clark and Floyd counties say it’s in the hands of each resident to ramp up vigilance against the spread of the virus as inpatient hospitalizations increase at the same time staffing continues to be strained.

“We know people are tired and they’re frustrated,” Schroyer said in the statement. “This has been a marathon of a fight and the race is not over. We realize it in our own workforce — these dedicated physicians, nurses and support staff that have been fighting on the front lines for the last eight months are still there, giving it their all. We’re all feeling the effects.”

Schroyer later said in an email that the staffing concerns continue to be a work in progress and that hospital leaders are working on several different opportunities to ensure appropriate staffing.

Baptist Health Floyd has a total of 35 ICU beds and will “continuously monitor the use of our ICU beds, and how to assure we have the number we need for COVID positive and other patients,” Schroyer said in the email, adding that “we have surge plans in place to assure patients will be cared for.”

Health officials have continued to request that the public maintain social distancing of at least six feet, wash hands often and wear face coverings when in public.

Medical evidence shows that face coverings, when worn properly, greatly reduce the viral load (amount of virus-containing droplets or particles) both emitted and absorbed from person to person.

“We’ve learned much about COVID-19 over the past several months, both as members of the public and as healthcare institutions,” Padgett said in the statement. “We have more reliable and credible information at our fingertips.

“Our organizations have done a tremendous job responding to this pandemic, from acquisition and use of personal protective equipment, implementation of rigorous safety precautions and increased testing capabilities. However, the virus is continuing to spread in our communities and spread rapidly. We all know the safety measures that work to minimize spread, and we need everyone to strictly adhere to them.”

NEW COVID-19 TOTALS CONTINUE TO RISE

As of the end of Tuesday, there had been a total of 268,222 positive cases reported statewide since March, with 6,143 of them new one-day cases. The one-day new cases report is in the top three highest, with the state reaching over 6,000 and over 8,000 in the past week.

In Clark County, there have been 4,440 cases, 70 of them new, with 74 deaths reported. In Floyd County, there have been 2,772 cases, 56 new, with 77 deaths.

The seven-day rolling positivity rate for unique individuals from Nov. 5 to 11 has risen statewide to 23.4%, risen in Clark County to 19.4% and in Floyd, dropped to 19.4%.

On Wednesday, the ISDH included all 92 counties in the red on the color-coded map for the number of cases per week per 100,000 residents; red denotes 200 or more cases per week per 100,000 residents. In the overall map, which uses this metric along with the seven-day positivity rate for all tests, 11 new counties were upgraded to red for a total of 20.

The numbers are reported each Wednesday at noon and include data through the previous Sunday.

Although both in the red for the number of new cases per week per 100,000 residents, Clark and Floyd counties are still in the orange in the overall map. Clark County is listed as having 492 cases per week per 100,000 residents (3 or red category) with a seven-day positivity rate for all tests of 11.87% (2 or orange category) for an overall score of 2.5, orange.

Floyd County is listed as having 481 cases per week per 100,000 residents (3 or red category) with a seven-day positivity rate for all tests of 9.32% (1 or yellow category) for al overall score of 2, orange.

During a news conference last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced restrictions on gathering sizes based on the county’s color, however, hosts seeking to have events larger than that can appeal to their local health officials. The governor also stopped short of issuing widespread restrictions on schools or businesses, allowing the county health officials to make those determinations.

On Tuesday, several Southern Indiana school districts announced plans to go to online learning for the remainder of this semester. Clark and Floyd County health officials this week announced new restrictions on bars and restaurants, limiting restaurant capacity to 75% and requiring bars to close at 10 p.m.

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