(INDIANAPOLIS) – Governor Holcomb is ordering hospitals to put standards in place to determine when they need to put off non-emergency procedures to handle the growing flood of COVID-19 patients.
COVID hospitalizations are six times what they were at the pandemic’s low point just two months ago. Intensive care admissions have gone up ninefold in that time. At the start of the pandemic last year, when hospitalizations were even higher, Holcomb ordered hospitals to postpone anything that wasn’t urgent. He’s not taking that step this time, but he says hospitals need “evidence-based criteria” on when capacity and staffing levels will make it necessary.
IU Health already announced last week it’s postponing half of all non-emergency procedures.
Holcomb’s also instructing hospitals to notify the Indiana Department of Health when they have to divert patients to other facilities because they’re out of room. He says the department needs to be able to monitor hospitals’ capacity accurately.
The new rules are included in the latest extension of an earlier executive order allowing temporary licensing of health care workers and medical students to help with staffing shortages. Holcomb extended the order for just two days on Monday, to allow more time to consult with health care providers on the new provisions.
The order also incorporates new guidance to schools from the health department, creating an exception to quarantine requirements for close contacts of infected students or staff. The health department says if everyone in the school wears a mask the entire school day, quarantine isn’t required.
But Holcomb and the health department are reminding schools they need to do contact tracing if students or staff get sick, and anyone who shows symptoms must be sent home. Health commissioner Kristina Box said last week says some school districts have begun slacking off those requirements.
And Holcomb’s reemphasizing the most effective way to help hospitals deal with their capacity and staffing crunch is to get vaccinated. 95-percent of hospitalized patients during the two-month surge have been unvaccinated.
“I hate it that people have to learn that cold hard fact through death, and hospitalization, and negative impact to ones they love,” Holcomb said. “The answer is the vaccine, and the further we stray away from that, the longer (emerging from the pandemic) will take.”