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White House task force says Indiana needs to step up COVID-19 mitigation as cases rise

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Posted at 12:16 AM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 00:16:59-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's COVID-19 situation is worsening and the state should take additional measures to prevent the spread of the virus, according to a White House Coronavirus Task Force report obtained by ABC News.

Indiana has the country's 15th highest rate of cases per 100,000 people and its test positivity rate ranks 16th nationally, the report said. Task force members noted Indiana previously had success in limiting morbidity and mortality by using mitigation measures in response to changes in the spread of the coronavirus.

"At this point, the rapid increase in cases and test positivity throughout the state indicates that additional measures should be taken in addition to upward adjustment of mitigation in highly affected counties to avoid falling behind the rapid spread. Additional measures should include communications to reinforce messaging around social gatherings and a new asymptomatic surveillance approach," the report said.

Indiana has experienced a steep increase in deaths, new cases, hospitalizations and test positivity since mid-September, according to the report. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb advanced the state to Stage 5 of its reopening plan on Sept. 26, which allowed businesses, including restaurants, bars and nightclubs, to operate at full capacity.

The report cited concerns made by the Indiana State Department of Health regarding personnel shortages and noted that the Indiana National Guard is deploying this week to help nursing homes as cases rise within long-term care facilities.

During the week of Oct. 19-25, 18% of Indiana nursing homes had at least one resident test positive for COVID-19, while 28% of nursing homes reported at least one new staff case and 8% had at least one resident die with COVID-19.

The report recommends intensified mitigation efforts in highly affected counties and a movement to more intensive mitigation efforts in red or orange counties. In addition, the report recommends further mitigation efforts to limit transmission in personal gatherings.

As part of the recommendations, the report said state, local and community leaders should present a clear and shared message asking Hoosiers to wear masks, physically distance, and avoid gatherings, particularly indoors.

The report said community spread of COVID-19 continues at social and family gatherings where observance of social distancing and mask wearing is not followed due to people assuming that healthy family members and friends are not infected with COVID-19 since they do not have symptoms.