Experts warn to not end social distancing too early

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Data collected by the Indiana State Department of Health and statistics noted by a national tracking model have led to predictions that are at odds over when the coronavirus peak will hit the state.

Either way, experts say now is not the time to relax Indiana’s stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines.

At noon Monday, ISDH reported seven COVID-19 deaths recorded across Indiana during the previous 24 hours, the lowest daily fatality tally since March 31, bringing the total number of state deaths to 350.

Marion County reported no deaths during that 24-hour period.

For the third day in a row, Marion County and the state both reported slumping numbers of new positive cases identified, though State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box cautioned against reading too much into that data, warning that the Easter weekend may have slowed the statistical flow from local health authorities to ISDH.

Dr. Box said she expects to see a resurgence in statistics late this week, and Marion County’s surge for coronavirus patients to not hit until the end of April, with the state peak to follow two weeks later. She also voiced her support for continued social distancing.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicated that Indiana will hit its patient peak this week.

Governor Eric Holcomb was recently asked if he expected Hoosiers to celebrate Mother’s Day May 10 at home instead of at their favorite restaurant.

“This virus does not care about holidays,” said the governor. “It does not care about what day it is on the calendar. We’ll be driven by the guidance of physicians and scientists, and we’ll let the facts speak for themselves.”

Dr. Kara Cecil, assistant professor of public health at the University of Indianapolis, said the fact that speaks loudest during the coronavirus fight in Indiana is the role that social distancing has played in holding back the pandemic’s potential impact.

“Social distancing has absolutely been the key in mitigating our impact of coronavirus in this country,” she said. “So social distancing isn’t always fun, and it isn’t easy, and there are always costs to it, but it is the way we can stop the spread of this. We have limited options for therapeutics, and we have no vaccine, so our only option is to stop the spread.”

Dr. Cecil likened the need to continue with a commitment to social distancing to completing an antibiotics prescription through the end of an illness or finishing the mini marathon even though the highlight for many runners is the lap around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, long before the finish line on the IUPUI campus.

“If the track is the halfway point on completing that mini marathon, there is no medal for stopping after you run the track, right?” she said. “The medal, the banana, the cheering fans, your family there waiting for you, they’re back where you started, and you can’t stop halfway through or you didn’t do the mini.”

Dr. Cecil said other countries that delayed implementing social distancing guidelines have fared worse during this pandemic, and the lessons from the 1918 Spanish Influenza outbreak prove that lifting restrictions too early can reignite a dying infection rate.

“The longer people engage in the social distancing as directed, we will see less and less loss of life,” she said. “Those cities who prematurely relented on social distancing interventions, they fared worse, and more people died in those places as compared to others.”

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