Indiana’s top medical officer has tested positive for COVID-19. The news comes as the state’s positivity rate and hospitalizations have started to surge after moving to stage five of Indiana’s Back on Track reopening plan three weeks ago.
During a news conference Wednesday, Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said she tested positive Tuesday for the virus, as did her daughter and her 23-month-old grandchild.
Box says she and her husband, being in an at-risk age group, have a limited social circle.
“We’re really going to have limited to no individuals who are close contacts except for my immediate family that will need to quarantine and/or isolate depending if they become ill. That’s because we do socially distance, we do wear our masks. And now we’re tested and contact tracing,” said Box.
Box says she is asymptomatic, while her family members are showing mild symptoms of the disease.
As a result of the positive reading from Dr. Box, Governor Holcomb, ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver and key office staff – who may have been in proximity – were getting tested Wednesday, shortly after the news conference.
Weaver says they will be undergoing two diagnostic tests, a rapid test and a PCR test. They expect to have results by midday Thursday.
Holcomb says he has cleared his calendar and will be self-quarantining.
Weaver says the state’s seven-day average positivity rate reached 5.3% after having been as low at 3.9% during the middle of September. She says the number of hospitalizations on Wednesday reached 1,357, a level not seen since May 13.
“Because of a lag to allow for all negative tests to be reported, those rates do not account for the large increase in the cases we’ve seen over the past few days, so we could see them change again in the coming days,” warned Weaver.
Holcomb says the state will remain at stage five for the next 30 days, but his administration will revisit the status and data each week and could issue an order to take the state off the current level.
“Stage five does not mean life is back to pre-pandemic normalcy,” said Weaver. “We can’t afford to get complacent.”
The statewide mask mandate, which was set to expire on Saturday, will remain in place.
“I know people are tired of this. They have mask fatigue. They are yearning to get back to the ‘good ole days,’ said Holcomb.
But Holcomb says there are big financial costs associated with what he calls “actions or inactions” with many people choosing not to wear face masks.
“It’s because too many are ignoring science and are rolling the dice as if someone else is going to pay the bill for us,” said Holcomb.
Governor Holcomb criticized people who aren’t wearing masks or practicing social distancing, especially in close quarters.