State health officials say there is a growing number of COVID cases in the southwestern part of Indiana and it is putting a strain on hospital facilities and staffing.

Governor Eric Holcomb resumed his weekly media updates and announced a rise in coronavirus cases has happened statewide.

“Stage 5 is not the stage where the checkered flag comes out,” said Holcomb. “In less than one month, our positivity rate has gone up from below 4% to above 5%. This is not the time to abandon what we are doing. The race won’t be over until the data tells us so.”

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana Department of Health, said Stage 5 is the new normal for Indiana.

But that normal appears to be fraught with issues in southern Indiana.

“In Vanderburgh District 10 the numbers are up,” said Weaver. “Our investigations have shown the people in the area do not believe COVID is a thing. Others are experiencing COVID fatigue.”

The lack of people taking personal safe guards now is creating real consequences.

“Hospital’s in the district are reporting a shortage of critical ICU beds and staff shortages,” said Weaver. “This pandemic is not over.”

Daviess Community Hospital is part of that region, but hospital officials say they are not seeing the dire results as much as some of the larger hospitals in Evansville.

DCH has a 5-bed intensive care unit and a 7-bed respiratory care unit that can handle COVID cases.

“Our numbers fluctuate, but at no time do I recall when all of those beds were full,” said Director of Outreach Services Angie Steiner. “We are caring for patients now and we do have the capacity for more.”

In regard to staffing Steiner says DCH is fully trained and fully prepared.

“Our staffing numbers have been pretty consistent through all of this,” said Steiner. “Many of our staff members have been here for years. There are some working in some of our units that may have been uncomfortable in dealing with COVID cases. We have also made a number of new hires. So our staffing has been steady.”

According to the State Department of Health website, southwestern Indiana has been a trouble spot for the past several weeks. Even when other parts of the state were trending down in COVID cases, those in southwestern Indiana were remaining stubbornly high.

Under the state’s color-coded system Posey, Vanderburg, Gibson, Warrick, Dubois and Pike County have been in the “orange” category, which means the virus is spreading. Pike County just went from a “red” designation to “orange.”

Daviess County is listed in the “yellow” which means there is a moderate spread of the virus. The latest numbers from the Daviess County Health Department have 27 new COVID-19 cases over a six-day period. That brings the total to 767. There was also one additional death during that time. Since last spring the coronavirus is now being blamed on 31 deaths in Daviess County.

While DCH may not be experiencing the issues with beds and staffing that larger hospitals are having officials say DCH and other smaller hospitals in the region may be contributing to those issues.

“When we get a patient with COVID who is suffering from multiple health issues we often go ahead and transfer them to a larger facility,” said Steiner. “With a number of smaller hospitals sending them critical patients that may be impacting the numbers in the two hospitals in Evansville.”

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