Eric Holcomb March 25

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Indiana hospitals and health care systems have at least several weeks' worth of protective gear for nurses, doctors and other workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak, the state's health commissioner said Wednesday. 

In the past two days, the state has received four to five trucks of equipment from a national stockpile that includes N95 masks, gloves, face masks with shields and gowns, Dr. Kristina Box told reporters at the Indiana Statehouse. 

"We are in the process of putting that all together, picking it, getting it ready and actually today are getting that out to some of our hospital systems -- especially local health departments that needed them," she said. 

Box said Indiana officials are calculating how long the state's supplies will last, factoring in an average hospitalization time of about 14 days for patients that need intensive care treatment. 

And while she couldn't give a timeframe, she said the state is "better off than" a two-week window put forth in a question. Box said many hospitals and health departments haven't yet asked for their allotment. 

Indiana Commerce Secretary Jim Schellinger said 115 companies have approached state officials about helping provide personal protective equipment or manufacture the gear, including Fiat Chrysler. 

"Our businesses have stepped up," he said.

Indiana reported 115 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 477. Two new deaths raised the number of deaths linked to the virus to 14.

Box said about 14 percent of Hoosiers being tested have confirmed cases of the COVID-19 illness caused by a new coronavirus. 

“We are testing more people, so you’re seeing the cases go up,” she said.

Besides the personal protective gear, which is in short supply in Kentucky and across the U.S., the fast-moving virus also could put a strain on hospitals' capacity to handle a surge of new patients.

Specific numbers of statewide intensive care units and ventilators are “changing on a daily basis,” Box said, as hospitals are trying to double their ICU capacity and add ventilators from other sources, such as surgery centers that are now closed.

She declined to give detailed figures because individual hospitals are providing data “with the idea that these will be help confidential.”

Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered Hoosiers to stay at home starting Wednesday, with exceptions granted only for essential travel for groceries, medicine and other necessary supplies; taking care of others; and other activities such as work deemed necessary. Walking and other “health”-related outdoor activities still are allowed.

The order runs through April 6, although the governor indicated it could be extended.

Holcomb also directed nonessential businesses to close, while grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, health care facilities, and other essential services and industries are staying open.

Schools in Indiana are closed until at least May 1. Jennifer McCormick, Indiana’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, said Wednesday that a survey done last week shows that 50 percent of school districts have some kind of child care available in their communities. 

McCormick said state and local officials are looking to "expand that."

"We are going to determine where those needs are and contact our superintendents," she said.

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