We are now one month into the re-opening of our state and have successfully moved into Stage 3 of the “Back on Track” plan from the Governor. Restaurants have partially re-opened, churches are meeting again (with smaller crowds), barbershops and salons are open (with limited waiting areas), malls and shopping centers are open at 75% of capacity, and gyms have welcomed members back. In addition, we have successfully navigated Memorial Day weekend, our first major holiday in America since the pandemic.
During this time we have been watching the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in our county, our region, and the state very carefully. It was quite likely that a “surge” in infections would occur within two to three weeks after major steps of re-opening and I am pleased to say we have not witnessed this. In Hancock County, we are averaging two to four new cases per day. Central Indiana is averaging 150 new cases and the state overall is just under 500. More importantly, the number of deaths has declined as well. These trends in the data give us confidence that the next stage of re-opening on June 14 should be equally uneventful.
While things have stabilized in our area, the number of new cases nationally has fallen much more slowly and seems stubbornly pegged at more than 25,000 per day. Worldwide, the number of new cases each day has actually increased and currently stands at 100,000 new infections per day. At the current rate, the world will reach 10 million COVID-19 cases early next month.
The bottom line is that we should feel very good about the positive steps taken in our state and county and the associated decrease in disease prevalence, while at the same time understanding that the virus is not gone and a resurgence of the disease is a real possibility until a vaccine has been developed and distributed. This is something we should all keep in mind as we make decisions, both personally and professionally, in the months to come. Every decision we make comes with risks and benefits, the balance of those is an individual choice. For example, if planning a gathering, whether it is a work meeting or a family get-together, ask yourself the right questions: does it have to be in-person, if so, can space be set up to provide appropriate distancing, is hand hygiene easily accessible, etc. The more precautions that can be taken, the more the benefits can outweigh the risks and we can enjoy life to the fullest. For help in answering questions like these, the FAQs and toolkits at www.hancockregional.org/coronavirus are exceptionally helpful.
At Hancock Health we are replenishing our supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and are even able to make some of these available to partner organizations over the coming weeks. In addition, we are safely opening our own service lines to meet the needs of patients and are at 75% of our previous volumes in many areas. It is important to note that we have retained heightened levels of sterilization of commonly touched surfaces, screening of all individuals who enter the hospital, and the wearing of masks in all areas of our facilities, all the while ensuring kindness remains at the foundation as we plan to welcome a limited number of visitors back into the hospital very soon.
One indication of the success of our work to ensure safety at Hancock Health is the discovery during antibody testing of more than 900 of our associates and medical staff members that our exposure rate was only 2.05%, fully 25% less than the rate experienced by the general public as noted in a recent Indiana State Department of Health study!
We will remain vigilant in the months and weeks to come, ready to respond quickly to any increase in infections, while ensuring our patients are safe and secure in the knowledge that at Hancock Health we understand it is a “blessing to work in a place where we love people for a living”.