Precautions remain same after state’s first confirmed COVID-19 case

Friday, March 6, 2020

Health officials still urge hand washing, not touching face, staying home if sick

INDIANAPOLIS — In the face of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Indiana and a public health emergency declared by Gov. Eric Holcomb, officials are urging the same precautions that have been encouraged all along.

Wash hands often. Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose with unwashed hands. Avoid contact with sick people. Stay home if you are sick.

Gov. Eric Holcomb

On Friday morning, Gov. Holcomb and various state and Marion County health officials conducted a press conference to announce the first confirmed case of COVID-19 — commonly known as coronavirus.

The patient was confirmed to be a Marion County resident who recently traveled to Boston, where he was exposed to someone who had contracted the virus.

To ensure continued coordination, the governor is issuing a public health emergency declaration.

“With the help of our federal, state and local partners, Indiana is responding to this case as we have planned and prepared for weeks,” Holcomb said. “The Hoosier who has been diagnosed has taken responsible steps to stay isolated.”

These “responsible steps” included calling the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) to say he believed he was infected, and following the advice to call ahead to the hospital.

He was then taken in a side door and not exposed to the general population.

Anyone who believes they might be infected is being encouraged to take similar measures.

Locally, the Putnam County Health Department has issued no formal statement on COVID-19, though the department website,, contains a video on avoiding the new coronavirus from the World Health Organization as well as a number of helpful links on the topic.

Various health organizations advise a number of ways to protect yourself from any respiratory illness, including the flu or COVID-10:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. Individuals should only wear masks if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms to protect others from the risk of infection.

Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:

• Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing;

• Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;

• Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands; and

• Rarely, fecal contamination.

The ISDH is working closely with the Marion County Public Health Department, Community Hospital North and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure that any close contacts of the patient are identified and monitored and that all infection control protocols are being followed.

A presumptive positive case means the patient has tested positive at the ISDH Laboratories. Samples will be sent to the CDC for final confirmation.

The public health emergency declaration Gov. Holcomb issued will call on state agencies to continue their diligence and cooperation in responding to COVID-19 and ensures that Indiana can seek funding to control and stop the spread of coronavirus.

State Health Commissioner Kris Box said the adult patient has been in quarantine since arriving back in Indianapolis and that the risk to the general public is low. The CDC will work to identify and notify air travelers who were on the individual’s flight from Boston and had close contact with the patient.

The patient will remain in isolation for 14 days and will not be released until specimens taken two consecutive days at the end of that period test negative for COVID-19. No additional information about the patient will be released due to privacy laws.

“The state health department has been preparing for weeks to ensure that we have the resources and systems in place to limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Indiana,” Dr. Box said. “Given the global spread of this illness, the question was never if Indiana would have a case, but when it would arrive. I want to stress that this is an isolated case, and that this patient and the hospital did everything possible to limit the risk of exposure to other individuals. Because of those steps, the risk of additional exposure and community transmission is low, but we are taking every precaution to prevent new infections related to this patient.”

This is an ongoing situation and is evolving rapidly. ISDH will provide updates as new information becomes available. For more information, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit

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