Mar 25, 2020

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 25

Indiana Coronavirus Press Conference Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsIndiana Governor Eric Holcomb Coronavirus Briefing Transcript March 25

Indiana governor Eric Holcomb held a Mach 25 press briefing on coronavirus in the state. Read the full transcript of his speech right here.

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Eric Holcomb: (00:00)
… For as long as we can. I also want to thank, as Secretary Schellinger ticked off a list of folks all over the state, I too, and you see it, you’re reporting on it, the good works that Hoosiers are doing, the Ball Brothers Foundation up in Muncie, Indiana have created rapid grants. They’ve been dishing out resources and funding to a lot of very important organizations, community providers over the decades, but they’ve pivoted and now they’ve got some rapid grants out there on the street already, 12 already, and then they’ve sent another 20 out.

Eric Holcomb: (00:41)
They’re helping EMS, they’re helping their local police, they’re helping behavioral and mental health service organizations get funding into the hands of the very folks that need it on the frontlines right now. They’ve invested in some areas into telemedicine that’s critically important at this time.

Eric Holcomb: (01:05)
I wanted to thank the anesthesiologist association. Also, they’ve created a statewide data center where they can track where all their ventilators are and their anesthesiologists that may not be working right now that can also volunteer. This is going to be of great assistance should that day ever come.

Eric Holcomb: (01:31)
A few moments ago I got off the phone with the Vice President, my immediate predecessor, Vice President Pence. He was just checking in. It just underscores how we’re all in this together and connected on a daily basis. I was able to share with him what our concerns were. Obviously, unlike most governors in the country seeking Title 32 authority to help pay for our guard, we’re very encouraged by what we’re hearing from the administration. I hope that ultimate decision by the president will come soon.

Eric Holcomb: (02:10)
I was also able to talk about the N95 masks and how people are … As you heard Secretary Schellinger say, all over the state of Indiana, folks are coming together and manufacturing masks for their local hospitals all over the state. In Northwest Indiana, the Operating Engineers Local 150 sent word out to all their vendors and contractors and said, “We’ve got to get the supplies directly to the hospitals in the region.”

Eric Holcomb: (02:42)
In Elkhart, in Goshen, in Elkhart County, Commissioner Yoder has put the word out, put the communication out that they’re not trying to micromanage the needs, but they are doing everything they can to encourage folks who may not be working right now or who can work, maybe they’re retired.

Eric Holcomb: (03:03)
Boone County has got a sewing group on Facebook, and they’re making masks and they’re getting them to the folks that need them right now. Bill Perdue down in Washington, Indiana, who waterproofs basements for a living, he’s not doing that right now. He’s with an auto body upholstery shop and they’re making masks. They’re getting those down to Deaconess down in Evansville. The list just goes on and on and on.

Eric Holcomb: (03:29)
When you think about the hand sanitizer, I mentioned breweries or distilleries. Hotel Tango is … If you need your hands cleaned, come in my office. We have boxes full of hand sanitizer. But the Starlight Distillery down in Clark County, Indiana, they’ve sent shipments not just in Clark County, but to Columbus and Evansville and all over the state. The food service turning meals on wheels to the home. Folks are stepping up like I’ve just never seen before.

Eric Holcomb: (04:04)
Brian Bauer up at Umi, in Fort Wayne, is doing 600 meals a day. He said, “I’m going to start out doing 500 meals a day to those who need them.” He got up to 600 and he said, “Okay, 600 is the number. I want to start doing 600 every day.”

Eric Holcomb: (04:17)
So when it comes down to it, you get people like Ted Huber who said, and I just love this quote, “The community supports us in so many ways. It was so easy for us to do this.” Dana Huber said, “It just made sense for the team at the distillery to use their knowledge and their skills to help out in this current situation.” If that doesn’t sum up who we are as a people, I don’t know what does. Any questions?

Abdul: (04:44)
Governor, on the issue … You mentioned this yesterday. No one had any chance to do any check in or follow-up. But a number of businesses that seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place with their insurers. On the one hand they’re being told, “Sorry, this is a pandemic. It’s not covered under act of God because the government closed you down.” I was hearing just the opposite. “It was the government that closed you down, not the pandemic.” They’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Will the Department of Insurance Administration be providing any clarification to these folks?

Eric Holcomb: (05:13)
Hey Fred, you want to comment on that? You hear the question?

Fred: (05:16)
[inaudible 00:05:18].

Eric Holcomb: (05:19)
Yeah. I mentioned, I think, to Brandon yesterday. I’ve misheard your question. I think that I mentioned Steve Robertson. But you want to talk about … What we’re trying to do, Abdul, and I understand this, we’re trying to sail through this storm as fast as we can and make sure that we’re accommodating.

Eric Holcomb: (05:41)
One thing that we’re going to spend a lot of time yet this evening combing through is this latest phase three supplemental that does get at building this bridge to recovery in a massive way for every state. I appreciate and applaud the work that’s happening in Washington, DC. But, Fred, you might want to talk about actually we are covering a lot of these businesses.

Fred: (06:06)
Right. We are covering quite a few businesses and we are making sure that we’re in contact with our federal partners. We’ve just had quite a few phone calls yesterday and today, so there should be some information coming out over the next few days on those businesses that wouldn’t ordinarily be covered and individuals who wouldn’t ordinarily be covered, but who will now be covered under disaster relief.

Speaker 4: (06:37)
Governor, some of us are frustrated. We’ve been trying to get demographic information on the people who are sick, and we are continually told we can’t give personally identified stuff. Why can’t we get aggregate data? I’ve asked for things like how many people are below the age of 30 or above the age of 60, and they won’t give us anything. So why can’t we get some more information on the Hoosiers that have this disease?

Dr. Box: (07:11)
That’s a good question, and I understand that your frustration. As I said yesterday in my comments, we are just now able to start getting some of that data together.

Dr. Box: (07:20)
Initially, when we had a smaller number of deaths, I didn’t want to release specific information because I thought it was too identifiable. But now, especially when we get the ICD 10 codes, which are those codes that the hospitals will actually code an individual had COVID-19, an individual was tested for COVID-19, and an individual had that admission or discharge diagnosis, we’ll be able to look at their length of stay in the hospital, whether it was an ICU stay, whether they had to be ventilated, what age group they were in. And so, we’ll be able to bring all of that together.

Dr. Box: (07:51)
We’re already starting to get some of that data just in the last day or so. So you will see more data coming out, and it is a very strong goal of ours. But again the bigger picture of that, the co-morbidities, the other chronic diseases that these individuals have, is going to have to wait until that is coded because we pull all of that from the hospitals, in their data.

Speaker 4: (08:14)
I’m sorry. Just one follow-up. But can’t we know the ages right now [inaudible 00:08:20]?

Dr. Box: (08:20)
Right. And that is what we are able to start to tell you. So we’ll get that data out and start posting that data.

Male: (08:27)
Is there anything else we need in addition to [inaudible 00:08:30]?

Male: (08:32)
Dr. Box? Testing.

Dr. Box: (08:36)
Yes, sir.

Male: (08:36)
Another testing question for you. Are the cases increasing or are we testing more? Yesterday you said we weren’t changing from targeted testing. So that does not mean we don’t have an abundance, or are the cases just going up faster?

Dr. Box: (08:53)
I think that we are testing more people, so you’re seeing the cases go up. Still, our numbers are running between 13% to 15% of individuals that are tested are testing positive. But providers all across our states still have the opportunity to test and send to Quest Lab, LabCorp. There’s a little bit longer turnaround time, but they can get those results, especially for those people that, when they’re sick, need to go home and isolate anyway. Maybe it’s not as critical as that person that’s coming into the hospital.

Male: (09:22)
Thanks. Governor I know you just talk with Vice President Pence. When you have these conversations and these nationwide governor conference calls, what have you told to the other governors who have not followed your path as well as our surrounding governor’s path to shut everything down? What advice are you giving? Because yesterday you said that if these numbers don’t get your attention, you don’t know what will.

Eric Holcomb: (09:50)
Well, different states are in … If you look at the numbers in Idaho or you look at numbers in some of those states in the Great Plains area, they’re not reflective, or if you look at a state like Nebraska, they’re looking at Omaha and not much outside of Omaha yet.

Eric Holcomb: (10:08)
So we’re all in a different situation. There are a number of states. We were classified as one of, I don’t know, seven or eight that have taken the most comprehensive approach in the country. We’ve been very methodical. We have escalated, I think, responsibly. We can deescalate responsible as well. But we’re going to be driven by medical consultation when we take those steps, whether to ratchet up or ratchet down.

Eric Holcomb: (10:43)
We’re swapping stories. We’re putting out fires every day, all of us that on the National Governors Association conference call today as well. And so, whether you’re talking about the east coast or west coast, we do share a lot of the same situations, but it’s crashing on our shores at different times. And, of course, the density factor is playing into this as well. But I’ve learned a lot from New York, and hopefully states have learned a lot from us.

Male: (11:16)
Governor, has anyone started putting a picture together yet of what the state is going to look like with the loss of everything from capital gains, taxes on stocks, personal income tax, retail sales tax, corporate taxes?

Eric Holcomb: (11:31)
Yes, we have. We started to put together that recovery … What the recovery package will look like in a comprehensive way. Our numbers obviously within the next two weeks won’t be reflective. I mean, in February … I see Fred standing over my shoulder again. But in February, we had a record number of people working in the state of Indiana, more people working in the state of Indiana than ever before. Oh, what a difference a month makes, and it’ll compound itself over the 60-day period.

Eric Holcomb: (12:05)
The good news is, as Secretary Schellinger mentioned, we went into this in a strong, strong position, and the business community has long-term vision. They play things through. Our fundamentals were sound going into this.

Eric Holcomb: (12:20)
This is a virus that we’re dealing with. This is not our economy that is pulling us back or dragging us down, so to speak. And so, we will bounce back, and the pent-up capital that needs to be deployed when we sail through this globally for sure, nationally for sure, but as a state, it’ll play to our strengths of certainty and predictability and continuity.

Eric Holcomb: (12:47)
Yeah, we’re digging a hole right now, the whole world is. That’s why it’s critically important. Again, I applaud and appreciate the work that’s being done on this phase three, the supplemental. It’s going to make a huge difference to every state. I can tell you, if you’re looking at that bill right now and you’re looking at a minimum of $1.2 billion coming to every state, at a minimum, that’s going to help us build a bridge. We’re going to need a lot more than that. But as you can already see, and you’ll hear every time I take this podium, Hoosiers will help us build our way back as well.

Male: (13:29)
Dr. Box, this one’s for you. Can we get specific numbers as to how many ICU beds the state has, how many are available, and how many ventilators we have on a really specific basis?

Dr. Box: (13:42)
Right. Those numbers are changing on a daily basis, because what I asked for was basic ICU beds and basic ventilators. But because everybody’s stepping up to the plate and trying to pretty much double their ICU capacity, I’m seeing those numbers increase as we go along, and the ventilators that they’re repurposing or getting from their surgery centers that are now shut down. So I can’t give any specific numbers on it, but I can tell you that I’m seeing some very positive movements in that.

Male: (14:06)
Is there a reason why the state can’t make that information more publicly available?

Dr. Box: (14:11)
EMResource has information for hospital systems as a system for regions across the state and for the entire state. Honestly, they are putting these numbers, these individual hospitals and companies, with the idea that these will be held confidential. So I’m respecting that.

Female: (14:30)
This one’s for the governor. I want to talk about the $2 billion surplus. It’s nice to know that that’s a good safety net for the state. But when might we dip into that and who will see that money first?

Eric Holcomb: (14:44)
Well, these are all pieces to a puzzle. Fortunately, we have it, and that’s better than not. One thing that will be critically important is, I don’t want to be playing against myself here, when the federal government is stepping up to the plate in such a big way. And so, we have weighed in with the federal government and we’ll evaluate what they’re able to cover and then what shortcomings are left over in terms of that $2 billion, over $2 billion by the way right now. But better to have it than not.

Eric Holcomb: (15:29)
But we haven’t spent that yet, but that that day’s coming. Hoosiers should know that this is the exact reason why we were so fiscally prudent year after year after year after year. When I said we were going to war with this, that’s not rhetorical. I didn’t say that for effect. We weren’t trying to amass a surplus for a bumper sticker slogan. It was for this day. When we put pencil to paper and we start to address the real needs in a line item fashion, Hoosiers should take comfort that we live within our means.

Female: (16:12)
This might be better for Dr. Box. Are you planning to-

Eric Holcomb: (16:15)
Try me. No.

Female: (16:17)
You’re more than welcome to answer, if you like. Are you planning on giving any guidance to pharmacies when it comes to distributing hydrochloroquine? I’ve talked to some Hoosiers who’ve had trouble getting their prescriptions filled for that drug.

Dr. Box: (16:33)
Yes, we actually have been looking at that. We have a research team that’s actually done that and we have some guidance that we’ve worked on the pharmacy board with regards to that, because hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are drugs that are used, as you know, to prevent things like malaria and also for individuals that have underlying autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis. It’s important that they’re able to still get those. Very, very limited data about the effectiveness of those medications with regards to a COVID-19.

Female: (17:03)
When can pharmacists expect to get that information? When I called this morning, they hadn’t heard anything.

Dr. Box: (17:05)
I am not sure where that is in the process of the scheme of things, but I know that I’ve seen some initial information on that. So it should be coming out very soon.

Male: (17:19)
When you talk about the allotment from the federal government, we’ve had our second one, is that correct?

Dr. Box: (17:25)
I’m sorry. Are you talking strategic national stockpile?

Male: (17:28)
Yes.

Dr. Box: (17:28)
Yes, sir.

Male: (17:29)
Could you describe to us exactly what that allotment is?

Dr. Box: (17:32)
So my understanding, and we don’t really get any notice of when this is coming, but we did get four or five trucks in the last two days. It involves having mask, face masks, face mask with shields. It involved gloves, it involved N95 masks, and it involves some gowns. So we are in the process of putting that altogether, picking it, getting it ready, and actually, today, are getting that out to some of our hospital systems, especially in local health departments, that needed that.

Male: (18:02)
As of right now, the supply that you have on hand in the state of Indiana, how long would that last?

Dr. Box: (18:09)
That’s a really good question. We’re working on calculating, as is the rest of the United States, what we call a burn rate for how much PPE is used on an average COVID-19 patient. We know that an average COVID-19 patient that gets very ill is in the ICU about 14 days to 15 days. So we can look at that, but it really factors in how people are conserving that, whether they’re cohorting the patients. So we have a whole unit. So somebody can just put their PPE on in the morning and then wear it all day. So there’s a lot of different factors that go into that. So I can’t really answer that specific.

Male: (18:41)
[crosstalk 00:18:41] a ballpark. Give me a, what, week, two weeks?

Dr. Box: (18:44)
Oh, no, no. No. We are better off than that, I can guarantee you. I got many hospitals and local health departments that haven’t even asked for their allotment. I mean we’ve got that stored. So we will give that to them when they’re ready and they need it.

Female: (18:59)
Governor, I wanted to follow up on something that was brought up yesterday, in terms of employees still being called into work, even though their employer may not be deemed essential. You had said that was something you would want to know about. So how can Hoosiers report that to the state? Are there plans to create some sort of hotline like you guys did for employees?

Eric Holcomb: (19:24)
Yeah, ultimately they can file a complaint with IOSHA. Again, I don’t live in fairy land here, but I would hope that the employee would talk to the employer about that specific angst and at the very same time understanding, the employers need to understand, we are advocating teleworking if at all possible. We are trying to spread this out.

Eric Holcomb: (19:57)
Now with some essential workers, I understand, and we have put out guidance in our executive orders six, seven items on how to, if you’re an essential worker, spread out, space out so that you can accommodate both your job and the job we have as a state to slow the spread. But, as I mentioned yesterday, ultimately we want to know about it, and that would be the formal channel to file a complaint with IOSHA. We can get you that specific number.

Female: (20:40)
The question is for Superintendent McCormick. I wanted to ask about special education students, students at APs, ELL students, and students who require more intense intervention and services, OT/PT. How are those services being met, if they are, and to what degree are those services being met?

Supt. McCormick: (21:01)
Sure. That’s a good question about how are we taking care of our most at-risk students in the state of Indiana. There are guidelines that have been passed down from the feds that we are following. Also, we are providing our interpretation of that.

Supt. McCormick: (21:14)
Having been a special education teacher, I understand the importance of making sure that our most vulnerable get the services that they need and deserve. So we are giving our school’s very prescribed guidelines on how to handle those students.

Supt. McCormick: (21:29)
Part of it depends on if your school is actually closed and you’re not providing any sort of e-learning or expanded learning, that’s a little different. So there are different guidelines for the different situations in the schools.

Supt. McCormick: (21:42)
As far as our support services, OT, PT, speech therapy, we are working really hard to look at that differently. Some of it’s through virtual, parts of it is paper-pencil packets, parts of it through a healthcare plan. So it’s been delivered in the ways that’s most appropriate for students.

Supt. McCormick: (21:58)
Are we perfect? No, but we are also in an unprecedented situation where schools are working really hard with the Department of Education and us with the feds to make the best plans for those students. So we will continue to do that. Again, that’s for our 504 special education EL students.

Supt. McCormick: (22:17)
The other part that we haven’t talked about is telemedicine for our students. So we are aware, as our healthcare system may get a capacity charge, that we have to determine some things. We’ve had a lot of our school nurses step up and say, “We can help,” whether it’s virtual or whether it’s on the telephone.

Supt. McCormick: (22:34)
I want to commend Indiana’s Medicaid department as well. They have worked really well on getting us to, yes, how can we have our schools deliver these services and still apply for Medicaid reimbursement to help offset those costs? So there are a lot of moving parts to that, but our charge right now is to make sure that students are healthy and that academically they are taken care of.

Male: (22:59)
Governor, you’ve got three bills left unsigned. Today’s the deadline, including that landlord-tenant bill. What are you planning to do there?

Eric Holcomb: (23:05)
We’ve got nine hours left. Or maybe not nine hours. I’ve gone back and forth on all three. I’m not there yet. The authors will know before you do, but you’ll know shortly after that.

Male: (23:20)
I didn’t expect an answer that short. It caught me by surprise. Dr. Box, I have a question for you, if you don’t mind. Is there any way to cut down on delays and speed up test processing? It appears that a lot of these COVID-19 tests are being shipped out of state, adding to the time it takes. Can you explain why that’s being done, how big of a problem it is, and can it be fixed?

Dr. Box: (23:49)
Right. So we have, as you know, been ramping up our testing through Lilly and the State Department of Health. Those are the tests that we need to really be able to turnaround quickly. Those are the people that are admitted to the hospital, that are long-term care facility workers, live in a long-term care facility, work with our most at-risk population because it is critical that we know that turnaround.

Dr. Box: (24:09)
Other individuals that are sick, but may not need to be admitted to the hospital, when they’re sick, they need to go home and isolate anyway. So those are the tests that I think can afford to have a longer turnaround time, because if it’s COVID-19, they’re going to need to be home for at least seven days anyway, at a minimum.

Dr. Box: (24:26)
So the problem that we’re seeing is LabCorp originally came out and had about a three to five-day turnaround, and now they’ve got a big lab backlog because there are people doing drive-through testing. And so, consequently their lab is getting backed up. Quest, because they started just testing on the west coast the most, has been a 10 to 12-day turnaround from the very beginning.

Speaker 9: (24:52)
Thank you for joining us today.

Male: (24:53)
[crosstalk 00:24:53].

Speaker 9: (24:53)
That concludes our press conference.

Eric Holcomb: (25:10)
Thank you.

Speaker 9: (25:10)
[inaudible 00:25:12].

Eric Holcomb: (25:10)
[inaudible 00:25:13].

Male: (25:10)
[inaudible 00:25:23].