INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state officials on Wednesday announced that they will deploy the Indiana National Guard to all long-term care facilities in the state to assist staff as cases of COVID-19 continue to surge across Indiana.
Starting Nov. 1, members of the Indiana National Guard will be stationed at long-term care facilities to help screen employees, perform data entry, assist with testing and infection control protocols, among other tasks, Holcomb said during a news briefing on Wednesday.
The National Guard will initially be deployed to facilities that have reported at least one case of COVID-19 so far during the pandemic, and later expand to cover all facilities in the state, Holcomb said.
As of Oct. 14, there had been 9,427 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at long-term care facilities in Indiana over the course of the pandemic, including at least 280 cases and 40 deaths at seven facilities in Bartholomew County, according to state figures.
A total of 2,205 of the 3,790 deaths reported in Indiana, or 58%, have been in long-term care facilities.
“The state will be sending the Indiana National Guard to all long-term care facilities to assist with testing and reporting to allow existing facility staff to focus on patient care,” said Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer at the Indiana State Department of Health, during a news briefing on Wednesday.
State officials also said they plan to complete infection-control inspections at all long-term care facilities in the state by the end of the week and send the facilities a total of 2 million N95 masks, 680,000 gowns and 400,000 face shields, Weaver said.
Additionally, Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana state health commissioner, briefly joined the news briefing remotely and said she was doing “great” after being diagnosed with COVID-19 last week.
Box said she had developed some symptoms since then, including fatigue, cough and a runny nose, but the illness was still mild.
The announcement to deploy the National Guard and shore up personal protective equipment at long-term care facilities came as COVID-19 transmission accelerates in more and more counties across the state and hospitalizations continue climbing to their highest levels since the spring.
A total of 1,484 people in Indiana were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infections as of Tuesday — up from 759 on Sept. 21 and the highest since May 5, according to state figures.
“We must take action because we have twice as many Hoosiers hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to late June and early July,” Weaver said.
Four weeks ago, 58 of Indiana’s 92 counties were blue, 32 were yellow and two were orange, according to WIBC.
Currently, only eight counties remain blue, while 44 are yellow, 36 are orange and four are red.