Holcomb declares public health emergency, announces first Indiana coronavirus case

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — On Friday, Governor Eric Holcomb announced the first presumptive case of the coronavirus in Indiana. State and local health officials explained the patient is an adult male who lives in Marion County. 

Governor Holcomb has now declared a public health emergency to ensure the state is in the best position to get federal funding to respond. 

Indiana State Health Commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, said the patient traveled to Boston and had contact with people at an event where positive coronavirus cases had been identified. He arrived back in Indiana on Wednesday. 

Community Health Network explains the patient called the State Department of Health late Thursday night because he was concerned he might have the coronavirus.

He was instructed to go to Community North Hospital. Once he arrived, Community Health Network said he stayed in the parking lot so caregivers could dress him in the appropriate infectious disease precaution material. 

He was taken to an isolation room through a different entrance. 

“He was placed in a room that has negative airflow and the appropriate test was done. When it was completed, he was transported back to the self-quarantine where he was previously located,” said Dr. Ram Yeleti, Chief Physician Executive of Community Health Network. 

Dr. Yeleti explained no other patients or caregivers were exposed. 

The man is no longer at the hospital. He is currently in self-isolation. Dr. Box said there is no ongoing risk to the public. As of Friday, he was listed in stable condition. 

Dr. Box with the Indiana State Department of Health said this is a mild case and there is nothing that indicates the man needed to be hospitalized. 

State health officials said the patient developed mild symptoms, including a sore throat and mild cough. 

“The patient and the hospital did everything possible to limit risk of exposure to other individuals,” she said. “The risk of additional exposure and community transmission was decreased, and we’re taking every precaution to prevent new infections related to this patient.”

The Marion County Public Health Department is now leading the investigation of this case. They are trying to figure out what flight he was on, where he was staying and who he had contact with.

Indiana was able to start its own testing of the coronavirus on Saturday. 

As of Friday, 12 people had been tested for the coronavirus and the State Department of Health was monitoring about 35 people. They are all quarantined and none of them are sick. 

Dr. Box said the COVID-19 situation is changing rapidly and they do expect to see other cases in the future. 

“I encourage Hoosiers to continue to educate themselves about COVID-19, and take steps to protect themselves from this and other respiratory illnesses — by covering their coughs, washing their hands thoroughly,” she said. 

They also encourage you to use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% or higher alcohol content. 

For the past month, the Marion County Public Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health said they have been preparing for the potential spread of the coronavirus in our community. 

“We’ve been meeting with all the hospital healthcare systems, communicating with them at least once a week, since late January,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department. 

If you do start feeling symptoms, health officials want you to call ahead first. They do not want people to contaminate anyone in a waiting room area. 

You can call your primary care provider, local network, Marion County Public Health Department or State Department of Health. 

Some of the symptoms doctors say you should look out for include a fever, cough or shortness of breath. 

Community Health Network said all hospitals have disaster plans that were activated during the Ebola outbreak in 2014. 

All hospitals have isolation rooms. Dr. Yeleti with Community Health Network said they may reach capacity at some point so they are trying to stay several steps ahead of the game.

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