Last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and state Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box declined to provide numbers of ICU beds and ventilators to media outlets requesting them. On Monday, that abruptly changed.
"I will never share hard numbers with you," Box said at a news conference Thursday, expressing concern that hospital systems in Indiana expect those numbers to remain confidential. Hospitals would also not reveal ventilator numbers in email exchanges with Side Effects.
Officials broke the silence on Monday. Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Dr. Jennifer Sullivan told reporters that the state has 1,940 ICU beds and 1,177 ventilators.
Sullivan says Indiana has 1,940 ICU beds right now (up from a baseline of 1,432).
She says it has a baseline of 1,177 ventilators.
The goal, Sullivan says, is to double both those numbers.— Brandon J. Smith (@brandonjsmith5) March 30, 2020
Box indicated about 40 percent of the state’s ICU beds are currently open.
The numbers contradict a statement earlier Monday from U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), who said that two weeks ago, the state had “roughly 3,700 hospital beds with ventilators."
A slide on the virtual press conference says the state has identified 750 additional ventilators across the state (in addition to the baseline 1,177).— Brandon J. Smith (@brandonjsmith5) March 30, 2020
Public health experts across the U.S. have been worried about a shortage of ventilators and ICU beds for severe COVID-19 cases. The issue has been highlighted in hard-hit New York City and other regions where the disease is spreading rapidly.
A week ago, Indiana had identified 259 COVID-19 cases. That number has since grown to 1,786.
On Sunday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams wrote that Indianapolis is an “emerging hotspot” in the COVID-19 epidemic. More than 800 people in Marion Co. have tested positive for the disease.
7/n We must now focus on flattening the curve AND raising the bar in emerging hotspots like New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, LA, Miami, and Indianapolis.
This story was produced by Side Effects Public Media, a news collaborative covering public health.