State health commissioner does not provide expected COVID-19 death toll in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - The Indiana State Department of Health released significantly higher numbers of positive COVID-19 cases Tuesday.

373 cases of coronavirus in one day brings the state's total to 2,159 cases. Sadly, 49 people have died.

"It's a very sad reality that our number of cases and number of deaths are going to continue to increase," said Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner. "I don't want to minimize a single one of those losses. They are all someone's spouse, grandparent, parent, child or friend."

Box addressed questions about how many people will die during the governor's news conference.

"We have not modeled that number here in the state of Indiana," Box said. "Some concerns that I have is Indiana does have a higher percentage of more elderly people than some places, and also we do have a higher percentage of smokers, which has been concerning."

The most recent numbers from the ISDH report one in five Indiana adults smoke. Doctors like Phillip Forys, a pulmonary and critical care fellow at Indiana Health University Hospital, share concerns about smoking and age too.

"Whether it's your immune system quieting down as you age, whether it's your lung tissue overall getting damaged just from living life, getting exposed to air pollution, possibly smoking cigarettes, we are unsure," Forys said. 

Forys feels it is too early to project the number of deaths.

"We do know smoking in general makes every health condition worse," Forys said. "So, you should quit smoking. Now is always the best time to quit smoking."

Furthermore, doctors urge you to continue social distancing and isolating.

Tuesday, Dr.Box said about 15% of tests are coming back positive for COVID-19. Of those, she reported the expectation is that 20% of those individuals will become ill enough to possibly need to be admitted to the hospital.

"Then it’s 5% of that 20% that become very critically ill and need ICU and intubation," Box said.

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