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(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Hospitals, Under Manpower Strain, Beg Hoosiers to #MaskUp

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana’s hospitals are pleading with Hoosiers to take proper COVID precautions to relieve the pressure on their caseloads.

Hospitals have been setting records for coronavirus patients almost daily for two weeks — about
three-thousand Hoosiers are now hospitalized with COVID-19, more than 800 of them in intensive
care. State health commissioner Kristina Box says five of the department’s 10 regions are down to
less than one-fifth of their ICU capacity. 22-percent of ICU beds are open statewide.

But Box and hospital administrators say adding beds is relatively easy — the increasing problem is
having enough doctors and nurses to staff them. Hospitals have manpower shortages because some
staffers have become infected themselves, while others are in quarantine because of close contact
with people who have tested positive. Administrators say those who are coming to work or
emotionally and physically exhausted from the eight-month drumbeat of new patients.

Beacon Health System vice president Sarah Paturalski says Beacon’s seven hospitals in northern
Indiana are averaging a death every day. She says that’s particularly draining for the providers who
watch one patient after another slip away.

Eric Fish, CEO of Seymour’s Schneck Medical System, says Schneck has periodically had to
send patients elsewhere, including the last two days. Paturalski and IU Methodist Hospital chief
medical officer Mark Luetkemeyer say they’ve begun delaying routine or elective medical procedures like colonoscopies to make sure they have enough staff for seriously ill patients.

All three, along with Box and Governor Eric Holcomb, are urging Hoosiers still rebelling at taking
precautions to think about those caregivers. Holcomb says people need to stop “pretending that
masks and physically distancing and washing your hands don’t work.”

Box says coronavirus numbers will continue rising for the next several weeks. Holcomb says
people’s willingness to observe precautions, including putting off big Thanksgiving gatherings, will be
the key factor across the Midwest in weathering the next few months until a vaccine becomes
available.

Holcomb and First Lady Janet Holcomb are quarantining after “several” members of their security
detail contracted the virus. The governor says the plainclothes state troopers are a constant close
presence and have become “like family” — he says it’s upsetting that they’re not only ill, but in some
cases have developed symptoms.

The Holcombs will be tested for the virus later this week, after enough time has passed since
contact with the officers for the virus to show up. Box says the health department has identiified
about 20 contacts of the troopers and advised them to quarantine.

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