INDIANAPOLIS — It is becoming apparent that Indiana and the U.S. will not duplicate South Korea’s coronavirus response with widespread testing to determine and isolate vectors and victims, which would then reopen society for business and pleasure.

Health experts ranging from the now famous Dr. Tony Fauci to Indiana University’s Prof. Aaron Carroll had been telling us for weeks that testing was the key. Dr. Carroll, writing in The Atlantic with Harvard Unversity’s Dr. Ashish Jha, said, “We can create a third path. We can decide to meet this challenge head-on. It is absolutely within our capacity to do so. We could develop tests that are fast, reliable, and ubiquitous. If we screen everyone, and do so regularly, we can let most people return to a more normal life. We can reopen schools and places where people gather. If we can be assured that the people who congregate aren’t infectious, they can socialize.”

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 3,356 Hoosiers had been tested by midnight Tuesday, while the death toll rose to 14 and the number of cases spiked to 477. 

Now as the U.S. and Indiana populations steeply head up the pandemic curve, Indiana Health Commissioner Kristina Box said Tuesday, “I want to emphasize we’re still in the early parts of this outbreak. We will continue to see more cases. 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 continue 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.”

What this means is there are thousands of us who are asymptomatic, and are essentially vectors. 

At Wednesday’s press briefing, Dr. Box explained, “We are testing more people so you’re seeing the cases going up. Still, our numbers are running 13 and 15% of individuals tested are testing positive.”

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. On Wednesday Gov. Holcomb lauded the dozens of Hoosiers and groups who are stepping up.

“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.”

Read between the lines and it is becoming clear the missing-in-action element is the federal government, which rejected the WHO test and then let weeks go by without a U.S. option. South Korea’s first death coincided with the first American casualty on March 1, and these two nations sharply diverged on how to respond. South Korea tested widely, and is now reopened for business.

“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 on Tuesday. “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.”

By Wednesday, she said that “four or five trucks” from the strategic national stockpile had delivered N95 masks, face shields and gowns for medical personnel. She said that no Indiana hospitals had run out of PPE and said it would be weeks before the state stocks would run out. But this is before the surge of victims hits the state’s medical system.

This pandemic has become the ultimate policy curveball that would challenge any government executive. President Trump is now trying to balance the advice from public health experts, and those advisors watching the economic meltdown and urging the reopening of society, saying many people are being hurt by the shutdown.

Gov. Holcomb is seeking balance.

At a Fox News virtual town hall Tuesday, President Trump said that he wanted to reopen society by Easter, saying the “cure cannot be worse than the diseases.” Asked if he shared that optimism that society could reopen by April 12 (Easter), 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,” Holcomb said. “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.” The problem is that without widespread testing, we won’t know who that vector is.

Asked if the state, with its reserves of more than $2 billion and another $1.2 billion coming from the congressional rescue package, will be poised to spring back, Holcomb said Wednesday, “In February we had a record number of people working in the state; more people working in the state of Indiana than ever before. Oh, what a difference a month makes. It will compound itself over a 60-day period. The good news is, as Sec. (Jim) Schellinger mentioned, we went into this in a strong position. The business community went into this in a strong position. They play things through. Our fundamentals were sound going into this. This is a virus we’re dealing with. This is not our economy pulling us back or dragging us down. So we will bounce back. The pent up capital, when we sail through this ... as a state, it will play to our strengths of certainty, predictability and continuity.”