INDIANAPOLIS — The first reported death in Indiana from the coronavirus outbreak was reported on the same day the governor announced more measures to control its spread.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health announced the first Indiana death from COVID-19 is a Marion County adult.
“A family today is suffering the ultimate loss due to COVID-19, and this sadly underscores how severe the virus can be – especially for some high-risk Hoosiers,” Holcomb said.
“The state is taking unprecedented actions to slow the spread of COVID-19, and every Hoosier should follow the precautionary measures.”
The victim died at a Community Health Network hospital on Monday morning. State officials gave few details, except the was over age 60, had been hospitalized as a COVID-19 patient, and also suffered from underlying medical conditions.
“I cannot stress this enough – if you are ill, stay home. If you need to seek medical care, call ahead so that your healthcare provider can take steps to protect others from exposure to COVID-19,” State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said.
“We all have a role to play to protect Hoosiers from this illness, and the time to act is now.”
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness caused by a novel, or new, coronavirus that had not been previously identified. It is not the same as the type of coronavirus that causes the common cold.
Earlier Monday, Holcomb announced that all bars and restaurants in the state would be closed to in-person dining.
It was among a series of steps announced “to slow the spread of novel coronavirus” of which 24 cases had been confirmed in the state as of Monday morning, including a 55-year-old La Porte man who is being hospitalized in Valparaiso.
Holcomb said among other steps:
Large events and mass gatherings of more than 50 people should be canceled.
Bars, nightclubs and restaurants will be closed to in-person patrons, though they may provide take-out and delivery service through the end of March
Hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers should cancel and/or postpone elective and non-urgent surgical procedures immediately. Doctors should continue to perform critical procedures.
State employees will maximize the use of remote work and meet virtually whenever possible. Non-essential in-person meetings will be limited to 10 persons or less.
State employees over the age of 60 with underlying health conditions are advised to work from home.
The Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites will be closed to the public. And while state parks and recreation centers will remain open, their restaurants will convert, and most events and programs will be canceled.
Holcomb raised the state’s Emergency Operations Center to Level 1 status. He also announced the Department of Workforce Development has suspended rules requiring certain unemployment insurance claimants to physically appear at a Work One location.
The DWD will also request flexibility under federal and state law to expand eligibility for claimants and ease burdens on employers.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing
Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
Touching an object or surface with the virus on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands
Rarely, fecal contamination
Many people who acquire COVID-19 will have mild symptoms, can self-isolate and do not need to be tested, Box said. Older individuals and those with underlying medical conditions are at higher risk for severe illness.
The best ways to protect yourself are to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands, avoid close contact with people who are sick, stay home when you’re sick, cover your cough or sneeze and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms to protect others from the risk of infection.