INDIANAPOLIS—Site-specific data on illnesses and deaths at long-term care facilities will not be released by the state, despite a quarter of the state's COVID-19 fatalities occurred in these facilities.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said that while families with loved ones in nursing homes should be getting that information directly from the facilities, the state will only be releasing aggregate data to the public.
"At this point, that is the extent to which we want to report data," Box said when pressed on the issue by multiple reporters during Gov. Eric Holcomb's daily virtual press briefing.
As of Tuesday, Box said there have been a total of 1,568 positive cases of COVID-19 in 199 facilities across the state, with 162 deaths in 74 facilities.
She said families should be notified by nursing homes and facilities of COVID-19 outbreaks per new requirements from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which regulates the homes.
One reporter said families are frustrated that they cannot get the information, or even have someone at the facility answer the phone. Box said if families are not being notified by the facilities as they should be, they should notify the State Department of Health which can then investigate specific facilities.
Indiana reported an additional 431 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, bringing the state's total to 12,097. Box said the number of new reported cases is low because of a technology error that left out many positive tests to be included with the data.
The state reported 61 new deaths, bringing he statewide total at 630. Box said Tuesday's number was higher than new deaths reported in the past due to the dates they occurred. Deaths included in Tuesday's report dated as far back at April 7, with the majority occurring since April 17.
As the state prepares to reopen the economy, Holcomb said he will continue to let daily data influence his decisions regarding lifting restrictions in the state.
Holcomb said the state's economic relief and recovery team is meeting or calling daily to discuss how the state can effectively reopen restaurants, theaters, malls and other businesses.
Cris Johnston, director of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, said the team is trying to blend health officials' recommendations with the needs of industries in the state.
"We're going to have a merger of both of those disciplines in order to have a concerted effort with the roll-out when the word comes that it's time to do that," he said.
Holcomb said he still doesn't know if restrictions will be lifted statewide or regionally. He said he will continue to watch the data from all regions of the state, and will decide depending on what restrictions are being lifted and how each region is doing.
One issue: Watching what surrounding states are doing. Holcomb said he shares the concerns of mayors whose cities border other states that if restrictions are lifted here, those areas will see an influx of people crossing the border and potentially increasing the risk of spreading the virus.
That issue is being discussed with state officials in surrounding states, Holcomb said. "While we're not dependent on them, we want to be sure that when we do make a move, that it's the right move in that region," he said.
Holcomb said he shares the frustrations of Hoosiers who want to see more businesses open — including hair salons and joked that he'd considered going to a dog groomer to get his hair cut. Those businesses, unlike barbers, are open.
Victoria Ratliff is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.