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(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

Indiana Hospitals Coping With COVID Surge, but Warn Strain Could Increase

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Indiana hospitals are handling a surge in coronavirus patients so far — but they’re warning that could change.

More than 1,600 Hoosiers are hospitalized with COVID. Indiana hasn’t seen numbers that high since April. Indiana Hospital Association president Brian Tabor says hospitals are better able to handle the flood of patients now than they were then. They’re now confident of their supply of ventilators, and while the pipeline for masks and other protective equipment isn’t perfect, Tabor says it’s vastly improved from where it was in the spring.

But Tabor says capacity issues involve not just equipment and beds, but staff. He says hospital staffs are feeling the strain of dealing with the pandemic for nearly eight months, and that strain is multiplied when doctors or nurses need to quarantine because of contact with someone who tests positive. He’s pleading with Hoosiers to keep health-care workers in mind and help them manage the increasing load, by masking up, washing their hands, and social distancing.

Some states are already confronting a hospital crunch. North Dakota has just 28 open intensive care beds in the entire state, and was down to 16 a few days ago. Utah hospitals predict they’ll have to start triaging ICU space in the next week or two.

In contrast, Indiana still has 700 ICU beds, and can add more than a thousand in a pinch. But Tabor says hospitals are approaching staff shortages in the South Bend and Evansville areas. The 12-county Indiana State Department of Health district for southwest Indiana set a record October 15 with 182 patients hospitalized with COVID, then matched it five days later. The district was down to 155 on Sunday.

And the seven-county district which includes South Bend and Elkhart, after peaking at 136 COVID patients on May 3, fell below 100 three days later and didn’t return to that level until the end of September. The region has now been above the May high-water mark for 15 straight days, and reached its highest level yet, 210 patients, on Sunday.

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