INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed Monday that Indiana may have already peaked when it comes to COVID-19.
As RTV6 reported on April 24, health data expert Dr. Brian Dixon of the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis said the number of hospitalizations has been flattening for the past few weeks.
Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana State Department of Health, said in a news conference Monday that Indiana never saw a big spike.
“When we first began looking at this and we did modeling and predictions looking for that peak, and that was based on info we had from other states and countries about what their projections looked like,” Weaver said. “Because of all the hard work we put in Indiana, we never really saw that big spike. In fact, it went off and it has leveled off and it has even kind of going down. So that is what we will continue to watch over the next weeks and months to make sure everything keeps that nice level plateau.”
Dixon is the director of public health informatics at the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, and he is also a faculty member with IU’s Fairbanks School of Public Health. He gathers data on hospitalizations to help the Indiana State Department of Health get a better picture of what’s going on with COVID-19.
Over the weekend, the institute added data from South Bend and Fort Wayne hospitals, which increased the number of hospitalizations.
“I will say the trends in Indy have remained the same, downward,” Dixon said. “The additional hospitalizations in the north took our statewide flat curve and changed it back to an increase.”
Weaver said hospitalizations are one of the key data points the state looks at.
“So we can access every day what are our hospitalizations, how many vents are we using. We look at EMS data, are they going to the hospital with corona-like illness or trauma or other things,” Weaver said. “We take all of those data points in mind and we start to see something go up or start to change, we can talk to people in the community. We are in constant contact with the people in each region.”
As we enter the summer months, the usual level of flu and influenza-like illness naturally declines.
“Therefore in addition to hospitalizations we should keep an eye on emergency room visits for influenza-like symptoms,” Dixon said. “As the state reopens people will begin to go back to the ER again. It would be odd to see influenza, so people coming in with those systems are more likely to be COVID in the summertime.”
Dixon anticipates a surge in COVID-19 cases after large events like county or state fairs, and says contact tracing will be helpful to identify where patients contracted the virus.
“I would anticipate a surge after those events given that only a fraction of Hoosiers have been exposed to COVID-19 to date,” Dixon said. “Right now, it is hard to estimate that far out but a best guess is we could see an increase in cases and hospitalizations after a large event.”
Dixon said at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, there was a sharp increase in hospitalizations that have now started to level off.
"I think there's some indications with hospitalizations being flattened that we may have already peaked,” Dixon said last month. “This is a good indication of that. Typically, the leading edge would be new deaths, and some of those are smaller this week. Hospitalizations remain flat. Both of those together tell us that we may have already peaked. "
State health officials previously said most of Indiana would likely peak in early May, but Dixon says the new numbers show social distancing and stay at home orders have changed the state’s forecast.