INDIANAPOLIS — Statewide positive COVID-19 cases and deaths have sharply decreased since the early part of January to levels. We haven’t seen in months. This is welcomed news by those in healthcare, fighting this virus every day.
“We are back to normal operations I’d say. 98% of the way there,” said Dr. Mark Luetkemeyer, IU Health Methodist’s chief medical officer.
Hospitals like IU Health Methodist say they are no longer feeling overwhelmed.
“There’s no longer a dedicated unit or two or three that has really majority of patients being COVID,” said Luetkemeyer.
Luetkemeyer says the amount of protective equipment his staff goes through is significantly less now. They’re also able to take care of patients with other health issues, instead of diverting them elsewhere.
After a year of battling this deadly virus, he said, “that amount of death can take a toll on anybody. Particular if you’ve been doing this for now with the two big waves and then throughout the summer.”
He attributes the decrease in hospitalizations and death to the vaccine rollout, more widespread mask-wearing and social distancing and, “in the middle of winter, when people aren’t traveling as much, they may be getting together in small groups, but we really didn’t see the large group gatherings that we would’ve seen in other times of the year.”
But he warns, “this is not over, we are just in a low of COVID patients. So we still got to keep your guard up because there’s still a significant potential for next wave that comes in.”
Luetkemeyer says if new variants infect the community, if people start gathering more as the weather gets warmer, this could all contribute to another spike. But he’s hopeful we’re on our way toward herd immunity, if a significant majority of Hoosiers have already been infected and we continue to vaccinate the most vulnerable.
“I hope we don’t have another wave,” he said. “I hope we continue to get more people vaccinated.”
Luetkemeyer says he believes we’re making progress on herd immunity, but we’d need to know exactly how many people have contracted the virus, how many haven’t, and how many people have been vaccinated so far to know an exact percentage.