Indiana lifting more virus limits on medical procedures

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Indiana’s governor signed an order Friday largely lifting restrictions on elective medical procedures beginning next week. The restrictions had been imposed to help preserve equipment and protective gear for hospitals treating coronavirus patients.

The state health commissioner also announced that at least 79 people died with coronavirus infection symptoms but were never tested. Those presumed COVID-19-related deaths are in addition to the state’s official total of 741 deaths involving confirmed coronavirus infections.

The new medical procedure order covers providers such as surgery centers and dental, dermatology and veterinary offices, allowing them to resume those procedures as long as they have sufficient protective equipment and have adopted procedures to protect patients and staff members from COVID-19.

Gov. Eric Holcomb had already removed such restrictions on hospitals under an order that took effect Monday extending the statewide stay-at-home measures through May 1. 

Holcomb has talked about easing some of the state’s business and travel restrictions next month.

Michigan’s governor has extended that state’s stay-at-home order through May 15, while the Illinois order now goes until May 30. Both governors have eased some limits on businesses and outdoor activities.

Holcomb said while he is cooperating with nearby governors on what steps to take, Indiana doesn’t have to be in “lockstep” with other states.

“We are looking globally at all of these various sectors. Everyone will not go all at once,” Holcomb said. “I suspect we will begin to continue to open up in a very responsible, safe way.”

Added virus deaths

Indiana’s 79 presumed COVID-19-related deaths are in addition to 35 deaths with confirmed infections that health officials announced Friday.

The presumptive deaths involved determinations by doctors of the person’s infection by use of chest X-rays, scans, information about their symptoms and how their conditions deteriorated, said the state health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box.

Details about when the deaths occurred weren’t immediately released. Box said the presumptive deaths wouldn’t be included in the confirmed death toll.

“These deaths gives us a better sense of the impact of COVID-19,” Box said.

Holcomb has said the easing of restrictions would depend on the state not seeing a surge in coronavirus cases cutting into the capacity of hospitals to care for patients.

The latest state statistics showed 621 COVID-19 patients were in the intensive care units of Indiana hospitals, and that 44% of ICU beds remained available.

Disinfectants discouraged

Holcomb and Box both warned against anyone acting on President Donald Trump’s comment Thursday that perhaps disinfectants could be injected or ingested to fight COVID-19. His words received strong pushback from health officials and even the maker of Lysol.

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, who joined Holcomb’s Friday briefing by video from his hometown of Jasper, suggested Trump was caught up in the “exuberance” of people across the country eager to have business and travel restrictions start being lifted.

“Sometimes when you’re not clear with how you say things, especially when you are at a high level where people watch, it’s best probably not to venture into areas where you may not know a lot about,” Braun said. “Here, I would defer to what the health experts would say.”

Holcomb commented with a smile: “Apply those disinfectants to surfaces, not yourself. They work.”

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