Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box observe social distancing at Tuesday's COVID-19 press conference.
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box observe social distancing at Tuesday's COVID-19 press conference.
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - With the state’s capital city poised to join the ranks of American cities under siege from the coronavirus, as supplies from the federal government are coming in at just a fraction of our needs, the Holcomb administration acknowledged Tuesday afternoon it is relying on “homegrown” solutions.

That includes state prison inmates making personal protective gear for medical workers and a GM plant in Kokomo preparing to produce ventilators.

“We are going to do everything to throw back COVID-19 that we have,” Gov. Holcomb said at a Tuesday afternoon Statehouse press conference. “I will tell you this, the numbers don't lie and if they don't put the fear of God in you to act, and act now and fight back, I don't know what would. We're going to continue to lose people and we know what the timeline has been when you look at the coastal states. If you look out at the two-week increments ... now was the time to act, yesterday.”

Of the 107 new cases reported, 51 were in Indianapolis. “When we look at Marion County with 161 cases now and we start to look at cities across the United States that were a couple weeks ahead of us, we can see that need for ICU beds and ventilators by about two times the amount that individual cities have, we really felt the strong need to decrease the spread from one individual to another,” Dr. Kristina Box, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, said Tuesday as Gov. Eric Holcomb looked on.

Read between the lines and it is becoming clear the Missing in Action element is the federal government. It came as Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the federal government's Coronavirus Task Force and his hometown of Columbus is experiencing a spike in the pandemic, tweeted, "As our Coronavirus response continues to be locally executed, state managed, and federally supported, President @realDonaldTrump has forged a seamless partnership with our Nation’s Governors."

"We know personal protective equipment is still a concern and we've requested the rest of Indiana's share from the strategic national stockpile,” Dr. Box said. “We're also hoping to receive FEMA supplies. To supplement, industries from all over the state have donated PPE to local hospitals and their health departments. Department of Corrections is making gowns and masks and several manufacturing companies are stepping up to help us out. I was very happy to hear GM of Kokomo is partnering with VinTech Life System to ramp up production of ventilators soon.”

Asked if she was confident the state will get the equipment it needs from the federal government, Dr. Box said, “We have been able to receive a percentage of what Indiana is allocated based on our population from the Strategic National Stockpile. I believe we'll be receiving more in the next 24 to 48 hours. Our hope is we'll see additional supplies from FEMA. But Indiana is pretty homegrown and we're figuring out some ways around this ourselves and making sure we are conserving our supplies as much as possible.”

While the World Health Organization and epidemiologists from around the globe say that widespread testing is the key to defeating COVID-19 and reopening commerce, Hoosier leaders seem to be saying that's not going to happen. Of 6.85 million Hoosiers, only 3,000 people have been tested.

"I want to emphasize we're still in the early parts of this outbreak. We will continue to see more cases,” Dr. Box said. "Every state is having to adapt daily as the situation changes. That includes how we investigate cases. Across the country states are finding the traditional approach to investigating cases and tracking every single contact of every person who tests positive is not sustainable. As the cases of COVID-19 cases continues to grow, health officials cannot trace every single individual.

"We will continue to test the highest risk settings like health care facilities, long-term care facilities, jails and Department of Corrections," Dr. Box said. "So I am asking everyone to take personal responsibility for ourselves and our communities."

Asked about the mixed signals the Trump administration continues to send, with President Trump suggesting that he may reopen commerce as early as next Monday saying the "cure cannot be worse than the diseases," Gov. Holcomb said, "I'm hopeful, too, we can get back to normal. We set a two-week timeline and I'm going to stick to that timeline. I'm going to be focused solely on steps Indiana can take over next 14 days. We're going to learn from the coastal states. Look at the numbers in Marion County. Look how they are multiplying. One person affects two or two and a half. So that's why we have to isolate to slow the process and flatten that curve, or we'll find ourselves like Italy or New York."