The Journal Gazette
Saturday, August 28, 2021 1:00 am

'Darkest time' of pandemic, Box says

State health chief upset at lax attitude as cases surge

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana's exasperated state health commissioner on Friday called out schools and other officials for not following evidence-based recommendations amid a COVID-19 surge that is now hitting children.

“This is the darkest time in the pandemic,” Dr. Kris Box said during a news briefing. She said she expects the next four to six weeks to get even worse if Hoosiers choose not to get vaccinated and not wear masks indoors.

She said at least 1,000 schools aren't reporting positive COVID-19 cases to the state dashboard as required by law. And Box said she can't think of anything else the state can do to get people and local elected officials to make the right choices.

“We are giving appropriate, accurate, evidence-based recommendations on how to get out of this surge,” she said.

On Friday the state reported 4,893 new cases and 21 new deaths. Allen County saw 245 new cases and one death.

Box cautioned that pediatric cases and hospitalizations are skyrocketing.

“To anyone who argues that COVID-19 does not impact children, I can assure you that every parent with a hospitalized child would disagree,” she said.

Four emergency districts in the state are over capacity on intensive care beds, including northeast Indiana. She said people are waiting for hours or can't get into emergency rooms that are inundated with COVID-19 cases. And Hoosiers are having elective procedures postponed – from cancer biopsies to hip and knee replacements.

Box was also asked about the Whitley County commissioners' decision to come out against contact tracing and quarantine rules, saying that if a person doesn't have symptoms, they should be able to go back to school and work.

She said an early Indiana study found that 45% of those who tested positive had no symptoms at the time. It was a random sample.

“We know 100% that up to 48 hours become symptomatic, you are infecting other people. That's why this concept that people who are positive as long as they are asymptomatic can go to school ... that's why that concept doesn't work.

“That is absolutely incorrect and not an appropriate or science-based decision-making process.”

One way to get kids back into school more quickly after close contact is for schools to use rapid testing equipment. She said federal money is available and the state will help maneuver the process but only about 10% of schools are testing in their buildings.

And Box forcefully shot back against those taking ivermectin – a drug made for livestock – instead of getting an effective and safe vaccine for humans. She said studies show no benefit, and some people are becoming severely ill from the medicine.

“Don't take a medicine that is prescribed for animals – especially large animals – that has not been proven to affect a virus or disease,” she said.

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