Colby Snyder, a trauma nurse who was volunteering at the polls on Election Day, helped a voter who had a medical emergency while waiting in line.

Indianapolis Star

Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box on Wednesday renewed the call for retired health care workers to volunteer their services to help relieve exhausted staff in the state’s hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Now in the eighth month of the pandemic, hospitals are seeing more COVID patients than at any other time since the first patients crossed their doors. As of Wednesday, nearly 1,900 people across the state were hospitalized with COVID, according to the state’s online coronavirus dashboard.

“This all takes an incredible toll,” said Box, who said she has been meeting with hospitals in different regions of the state to discuss surge planning should the tide of patients not slow.

While the state keeps a careful eye on intensive care unit beds — as of Wednesday about 30% were open — the limiting factor for many hospitals has been the human element of staffing. In areas where community spread of the virus is rampant, workers may be quarantined after exposure to an infected person outside the workplace.

Unlike in the spring, however, hospitals are not short on personal protective equipment, Gov. Eric Holcomb has said. In addition, doctors have more experience with treating COVID patients.

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Nurses at IU Health Methodist Hospital put on the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) after a patient fighting COVID-19 is wheeled into one of the eight newly created intensive care rooms inside the hospital’s emergency department, Thursday, April 30, 2020. (Photo: Mykal McEldowney/IndyStar)

So for now, the governor said in Wednesday’s weekly coronavirus press briefing, Holcomb would not make any changes to the state’s reopening plan.

“We are not in the same position that we were in the spring. We have the capacity to care right now,” Holcomb said. “When we start to lose that capacity to care, then we’re going to have to become more and more restrictive.”

The Indiana National Guard also is being deployed to assist in long-term care facilities. The Guard will help staff with screening and testing for COVID as well as with infection control.

For now, both Holcomb and Box said that they appreciate all that health care workers are doing. Box said that the Health Department is talking to hospital systems about ways to move different staffers into different positions.

But the most important message for Indiana’s health care workers, Box said, is “we do see you and we do hear you.”

The best way for everyday Hoosiers to express their own appreciation, Holcomb and Box said, would be for everyone to wear masks, social distance, and wash their hands, measures that Holcomb called the most effective tools for stopping viral spread.

Even before COVID, one had to be a special type of person to opt for a career in health care, Holcomb said. The advent of this new virus has only intensified that.

“We would be lost without their stamina and their commitment,” Holcomb said. “That’s obviously going to be reflected in every decision we make. It also needs to be reflected, not just by our local leaders, but also (by) wethe people in our daily lives.”

Contact IndyStar reporter Shari Rudavsky at [email protected]. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter: @srudavsky.

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