CHICAGO (CBS) — As Indiana nears the end of its first week of a gradual reopening of businesses and government services, COVID-19 case data shows the state hasn’t met guidelines set by the Trump administration and other public health experts.
Indiana is hardly alone. The New York Times reports that of the 30 states that are relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, 22 of them are doing so even though those states are showing a higher number of cases or positive test results than two weeks ago. Indiana is one of them. Two weeks ago, the state reported 644 new cases. In half of the days since then, officials have reported more daily cases. That includes the second- and third-highest daily counts in the past two months. The White House guidelines called for a 14-day downward trajectory of cases.
In addition, Indiana’s seven-day case average has been rising, except for a brief dip earlier this week. Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the easing of restrictions last week for all but three counties which have high levels of infection. Two of those counties, Lake and Marion (Indianapolis), also account for 509 of the state’s 1,295 reported COVID-19 deaths.
Under Holcomb’s plan, all other counties began to reopen non-essential businesses, including retail stores and malls. Restaurants, hair salons and tattoo parlors can open next week. In all cases, there are restrictions on the number of people allowed inside. The plan also urges employees to work remotely if possible. Lake County begins its initial reopening next week. Local officials are allowed to place additional restrictions, if deemed necessary.
The state fails to meet the testing guidelines set forth by experts. At minimum, testing should be done at a rate of 152 tests per 100,000 residents a day, experts say. On Wednesday, the state conducted 4,316 tests, for a rate of 63 per 100,000.
Experts also say the positive COVID-19 test rate should be around 10 percent before the state begins to ease its mitigation restrictions. Indiana’s two-month rate currently stands at 18 percent. In the past seven days alone, that rate jumps to 27 percent.
The state’s health director Kristina Box said the “one reason we can talk about reopening” is because of changes made in human behavior, such as social distancing, hand washing, wearing masks, and avoiding crowds.
Holcomb on Thursday said the state will monitor for any surges in COVID-19 cases.
“As long as we can care for those in need and Hoosiers are practicing good distancing and hygiene … then we’re on the right path,” he said at this daily COVID-19 news conference. He urged high-risk individuals, those with respiratory conditions and the elderly for example, should continue to stay home.