Cases edge up here as more stay home


By Mitchell Kirk and Jessica Karins | Daily Reporter

HANCOCK COUNTY — Things were much quieter across Hancock County on Wednesday, the first day of statewide measures greatly restricting contact among Hoosiers in an effort to slow COVID-19’s spread.

The latest numbers showed that positive cases continue to climb throughout Indiana, including a doubling in the number of cases in Hancock County from the day before. In anticipation of the potential for cases to surge across the state in the coming weeks, the county’s hospital is preparing its personnel and facilities.

Shopping centers in Greenfield were largely vacant on Wednesday at the start of a new executive order from Gov. Eric Holcomb. Non-essential businesses — a category that excludes, among others, grocery stores, pharmacies, and laundromats — have been ordered to close for two weeks. Local retail outlets largely joined gyms, dine-in restaurants and bars in shutting down Wednesday, with some exceptions: Greenfield’s Sherwin Williams location, for example, was open and delivering products to customers in their cars.

Larry Harnish, owner of Maduro on Main cigar shop in Fortville, initially closed his store over the weekend before reopening Monday and Tuesday to give customers a chance to come in before the executive order took effect.

Harnish said he followed the example of other cigar stores in central Indiana by closing, but that the executive order’s definition of “essential” could have been clearer.

“Liquor stores are essential but cigar shops aren’t? It’s a little confusing,” Harnish said.

Still, Harnish said, he understood the necessity of taking major steps to address the spread of the virus. He said he hoped everyone would heed the governor’s orders to stay home, and that the lockdown will be short enough that it has minimal impact on his business.

“It’ll be a big party when we open back up,” he said.

Lauren Andrews, an esthetician at Indy Beauty Room in McCordsville, stopped taking appointments out of concern about COVID-19. She and two others rent the space.

“We just opened in July, so we’re just trying to get things off the ground. This really couldn’t have come at a worse time,” Andrews said. “No appointments means no money, but I still have to pay rent on that building.”

Andrews, who has three children, said she likely does not qualify for unemployment since she is self-employed. She is hopeful relief will come in the form of emergency cash assistance from the federal government.

The Senate was attempting to pass a $2 trillion economic rescue passage Wednesday that directed aid to workers, businesses and health care systems. The bill ran into snags when some Democratic senators said it did not go far enough, while some Republicans said it would incentivize businesses to lay off more workers.

“If they don’t issue those checks, it’s going to be really bad,” Andrews said.

The Indiana State Department of Health reported Wednesday morning a total of eight positive COVID-19 cases in Hancock County residents as of 11:59 p.m. March 24, an increase of four.

Crystal Baker, office manager and preparedness coordinator for the Hancock County Health Department, told the Daily Reporter in an email Wednesday that the four additional patients are either isolated at home or hospitalized and that the figure also includes Hancock County’s first COVID-19 fatality announced Tuesday. Baker could not be reached for further comment by press time Wednesday.

Before Wednesday, Baker said Hancock County’s first four COVID-19 positive residents were all isolating at home and that none were elderly. Older adults and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. The Hancock County resident who died from COVID-19 was over the age of 60 and had underlying health conditions, according to the county health department.

Craig Felty, vice president, chief nursing officer and chief operating officer of Hancock Regional Hospital, said the hospital continues to prepare for what could be a large influx of patients over the next three to five weeks.

“The projections look like sometime in the middle of April to the end of April will probably be the worst for Indiana, so we’re working to ensure we have adequate inpatient capacity,” he said.

Felty added the hospital is retrofitting its nursing units into a COVID-19 unit that will be ready by the end of the week. The hospital is also bringing in employees of some of its other organizations, including those that provide home health and hospice care, and providing them with extra training to ensure they’re comfortable taking care of hospitalized patients.

Hancock Regional Hospital’s 24/7 COVID-19 hotline, 317-325-2683, continues fielding calls and the hospital’s new coronavirus triage clinic in Brandywine Plaza continues seeing about 25 to 30 patients a day, Felty said.

“We’re anticipating that to start ramping up as we start seeing more cases in Hancock County,” he added.

Felty said the hospital has yet to have any confirmed COVID-19 patients, but that test results for several are pending.

“All in all, we just want to continue to stress to our community of how important it is for them to heed the warning and to social-distance themselves,” he said. “Really the best thing to do is stay home.”

When people have to go out, for grocery shopping, for instance, they should keep at least 6 feet away from others, Felty said. He added they should also wash their hands frequently, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer and cough and sneeze into their sleeves.

“We will get through this, and we will get through this because of the generosity and because of the will of the people of Hancock County,” he said.

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Indiana COVID-19 data as of 11:59 p.m. March 24

Total positive cases: 477

Total deaths: 14

Total tested: 3,356

Total positive cases in Hancock County: 8

Source: Indiana State Department of Health

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COVID-19 cases in the U.S. recorded as of March 25

Total cases: 54,453

Total deaths: 737

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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People who are at higher risk from severe illness

Some people may be at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. This includes:

  • Older adults
  • People who have serious underlying medical conditions like:
    • Heart disease
    • Diabetes
    • Lung disease

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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Stop the spread of germs

Help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases like COVID-19

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces
  • Stay home when you are sick, except to get medical care
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention