The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, May 06, 2020 1:00 am

Holcomb defends reopening plan

Touts Pence's support despite per capita rate

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb defended his reopening of the Indiana economy Tuesday even as a new national model dramatically increased the state's expected death toll.

He said Vice President Mike Pence praised the five-stage plan to open back up.

“He said he had seen a lot of plans to reopen throughout the country and he had seen none better than ours,” Holcomb said. “He commented on how thorough it was, how thoughtful ... how we are able to adapt to the facts on the ground. He held it up actually as a model.”

The governor continued to say the north star guiding his administration is the measure of resources to care for those who get sick, rather than the measure of positive cases or deaths.

But Holcomb didn't address a reporter's question pointing out Indiana's high per capita death rate – or that the state's plan doesn't follow President Donald Trump's guidance concerning a downward trajectory on cases.

Indiana has lost 18 residents per 100,000, compared with 6 for Kentucky and 10 for Ohio. Those states are not reopening. Three states that are reopening are West Virginia, Iowa and Missouri, which have rates of 3, 7 and 6 deaths per 100,000 residents, respectively.

“Did I hear right that the governor said Vice President Pence commended Indiana's plan to reopen as the best in the country? How can Indiana have the best plan to reopen when this so-called plan doesn't even meet the standards set up by the president and vice president themselves?” Senate Democrat Leader Tim Lanane asked.

“It was reported today that Indiana has the highest number of COVID-19 cases per capita out of all the states moving to reopen. It is irresponsible that our state and federal leadership seems to be all over the board on this and is succumbing to the emotional demands of a distinct minority to rush to reopen, instead of following a true safety-first approach.”

Pence's office released a statement applauding Holcomb's plan. “Vice President Pence fully supports Governor Holcomb's decision and is grateful for the tremendous work being done by the Governor and state health director to open up Indiana and get the economy growing again in a responsible way,” it reads.

Holcomb and his administration stuck to the same statistics they have been pushing – a drop in hospitalization numbers, and a sufficient count of open ventilator and ICU beds.

Those might come in handy, according to the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which updated its projections Monday. It doubled the death toll for the U.S. and increased Indiana's estimate more than six times to 6,248. The projections run through August, and the institute's leader told CNN the change was made because earlier projections assumed lockdowns would continue through May; as well as because of outbreaks in meatpacking plans and unreported deaths.

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