INDIANAPOLIS – Government officials shared more information related to hospitalization rates on Friday, one of the principles used by Gov. Eric Holcomb to justify reopening Indiana.
Using information from the Regenstrief Institute, part of the Indiana Health Information Exchange, the state showed a decline in hospitalizations since April 2, with 167 patients admitted statewide. As of May 5, 99 patients were admitted across the state.
"We have seen our hospitalization rates drop, which is encouraging, (to) 19% of COVID-positive patients ... down from 27% two weeks ago," Kris Box, the state health commissioner said Friday.
One in five Hoosiers tested for the virus received a positive diagnosis, which Box said she expected to decline as the state ramps up testing.
"We are not gambling with people's lives," Holcomb said. "I don't want anyone to gamble with their life. That's why we're putting the information out on a daily basis so that they can make smart decisions."
When announcing the state plan to reopen on May 1, Holcomb cited declining hospitalization rates as justification for reopening most of the state.
Of the 4,389 Hoosiers hospitalized, 70%, or 3,052 patients, have been discharged and another 14% are "likely" still hospitalized. Another 16% of the hospitalized patients have died, according to the data shared by the state.
Less than one in five Hoosiers with COVID-19 have been hospitalized. But roughly 27% of COVID-19 positive Hoosiers, 6,136, have visited an emergency department in the state.
"That's down from 33% who sought emergency room care two weeks ago," Box said.
But 23% of those hospitalized have been admitted to an intensive care unit, or 990 of 4,389 patients. Those 990 patients represent just 4% of total COVID-19 cases, or 22,633 identified positive cases, in this analysis.
The institute's webpage breaks down hospitalization data by county, with many counties seeing less than a dozen hospitalizations. Counties in central Indiana – Marion, Hendricks, Hamilton and Johnson, report significantly more hospitalizations. Scattered counties in the northern half of Indiana, including Allen, Cass, Lake and St. Joseph, also report higher hospital admissions.
The risk of hospitalization appears to increase with age, with men in their 60s being the largest single category across gender and age.
A model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington increased the number of expected coronavirus deaths in Indiana following the reopening announcement by 543%, from 971 additional deaths to 6,247 deaths by Aug 4, as reported by the IndyStar.
Box pushed back against that estimate, saying the modeling didn't account for the state's baseline number of ventilators and ICU bed availability.
"I think the other thing to take into account is that we really are not opening things up for our at-risk population," Box said. "Even as people return to work, individuals over 65, those with chronic medical conditions, those who are immunocompromised who may be at the highest risk (need) to continue to kind of hunker down at home."
Box recommended that those Hoosiers register for testing, even those without symptoms, using the state's new widely expanded testing. To register, visit lhi.care or see all testing sites at coronavirus.in.gov.
"All models say that, as you open things back up, no matter how careful you are, you will have more cases," Box said. "Until we get a vaccine, until we get medication ... we still have to be very careful of our vulnerable populations."
Box also said that the state had received an initial shipment of Remdesivir, a drug which received emergency approval for COVID-19 treatment after showing some success in shortening hospitalization time for patients.