Gov. Holcomb and Dr. Kristina Box of the Indiana State Department of Health addressed the coronavirus at a Statehouse presser Monday afternoon, announcing the first death.
Gov. Holcomb and Dr. Kristina Box of the Indiana State Department of Health addressed the coronavirus at a Statehouse presser Monday afternoon, announcing the first death.
By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - The first coronavirus death was announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb Monday afternoon and he strongly reiterated his call for "social distancing." He said, "For those of you who think we are over-reacting, I can assure you we are not," Holcomb said at a Statehouse press conference. "Indiana is under a state of emergency. We will win this war with COVID-19. Make no mistake about it, collectively the actions we are taking today will have a positive impact 30, 60, 90 days later."

Dr. Kristina Box of the Indiana State Department of Health added, "Here in Marion County it is clear we are seeing to community spread." She said cases cannot be "traced to Italy or China" or other U.S. hotspots like Seattle. "We expect to see more cases like this. Avoid gatherings of more than 50 people," the health commissioner said. "Stay home."

As for the lack of testing to understand the true scope of the pandemic, only 139 people had been tested by Monday afternoon. "We understand that access to Hoosiers is a great concern," Dr. Box said. "ISDH received more kits last week and we expect more this week. Unless you become ill enough, not everyone needs to be tested."

Holcomb, who participated in a conference call this morning with President Trump and Vice President Pence and will confer with the Indiana congressional delegation later today, began the news conference by announcing the state's first death in Indianapolis. "It saddens me that we have lost our first Hoosier to the coronavirus. We had hoped, prayed and worked hard so this painful day would never occur. Sadly, we anticipate it will happen again. Social distancing is the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19."

"This is the beginning and this is real," Holcomb said. Earlier Monday he ordered restaurants and bars across the state to close, limited gatherings to 50 people or less, allowing many state employees to work from home, and was working with the 16 school districts which have not closed, noting most of those districts were on spring break this week.

While he didn't speak, Indiana National Guard Brig. Gen. R. Dale Lyles was present and Holcomb said the state had "contingency plans" to deal with a flood of cases that some fear will swamp the medical system. "We will respond to facts on the ground. We want to stay as ahead of the game as we can. Every tool, every resource is on the table. We're trying to slow the curve so it doesn't last as long. We have resources around the state to deal with a surge."

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