By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - Indiana unveiled its coronavirus “surge plan” Monday afternoon, with Gov. Eric Holcomb signing several executive orders while health officials said they are doubling the number of Intensive Care Unit beds and ventilators.

“Just as the world turns, coronavirus knows no geography,” Holcomb said during a virtual press conference. “There will be a beginning, a middle and an end.” Clearly, Hoosier leaders believe the beginning surge is at hand and the governor indicated he is likely to extend the stay at home order past the original April 7 date.

Health Commissioner Kristina Box said the “best modeling” suggests Indiana will see its peak will arrive in mid- to late-April. She added that it could be a lower, more prolonged peak, stretching into mid-May.”

Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, who heads the Family Social Services Administration, described how the “upcoming surge is being planned in Indiana.” It began with each hospital updating its disaster plan. Based on modeling, “Indiana’s COVID-19 surge will begin soon and will peak mid-April to mid-May," Sullivan said. "Every hospital has developed a surge plan. We are helping to streamline those plans and communications are at unprecedented levels.”

She said that Indiana’s baseline had 1,432 ICU beds, and “as of today, it has increased to 1,940, which is an increase of 35%.” She put the state’s baseline ventilator capacity at 1,177. “Based on surge models, our goal is to double critical care capacity in response to the surge,” Sullivan said. “Indiana already has hospitals that can turn every bed into critical care beds and we have identified those by region.”

Sullivan said the state has been divided into 10 regions, adding, “Our goal is to have hospitals plan together for a surge plan.”

Gov. Holcomb observed, “It took a month for the United States to record its first 1,000 deaths, and then it took just two days to record the next 1,000. In Indiana we went from one COVID-19 case on March 6 to 1,786 today. Those are the ones we know of. Our first COVID-19 death in Indiana was two weeks ago today and we’re now at 35 Hoosiers who have passed.”

He praised Hoosiers, ranging from truckers who are working overtime to deliver supplies, to the 5,300 retired medical personnel who have volunteered to join the fight. “I want to thank everyone doing your part to help contain this uber-contagious and lethal virus,” Holcomb said. “Just hunkering down is making a huge difference. It’s literally saving lives.”

He announced signing several new executive orders “addressing that sure-to-come surge.” One order removes all regulatory barriers “to prepare for our surge capacity. It further expands and clarifies prohibition on elective surgical procedures in an effort to conserve our PPE. It also provides for the temporary authorization for medical doctors, students, residents, some again who have been retired. It gives authority to the state health commissioner to direct opening hospitals if needed.”

Holcomb continued, “I’ve directed my general counsel to direct another executive order tomorrow for bars and restaurant to remain ‘to-go’ only with a date that aligns with our hunker down Hoosiers policy executive order.”


Finally, Holcomb said, “I’m sending a letter to the president of the United States to request a majority disaster declaration for Indiana to initiate the release of federal funds that will help us see our way through COVID-19 impact on our state.”

The Indiana Hospital Association reacted, saying in a statement, "We are grateful to the Holcomb Administration . . . and their teams for their tireless leadership. The regulatory relief granted by state and federal governments is allowing our member hospitals to react with great speed to meet the challenges of this pandemic."