INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana hospitals have increased the state's intensive care unit capacity by about one-third in the last few weeks in preparation for an expected surge in coronavirus-related illnesses, state officials said Monday.
Having such ICU capacity available has been a prime concern as health officials reported Monday that the state had 1,786 confirmed COVID-19 cases in a seven-fold increase from a week earlier. Indiana's 35 virus deaths are five times greater in that time.
Indiana hospitals have added about 500 critical care beds to give the state 1,940 as of Monday, said Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, secretary of the state's Family and Social Services Administration.
While officials said about 60% of those ICU beds were in use, Sullivan said hospitals continued working to create more ICU capacity by steps such as converting operating and recovery rooms space.
The state's goal is to double the pre-virus intensive care capacity and Indiana's count of 1,177 ventilators to meet Indiana's anticipated COVID-19 case surge in the coming weeks, she said.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said Indiana's illness peak is still expected in mid- to late April, but some prediction models show that lasting longer.
“It could be as late as mid May. We don't know,” Box said. “That surge could be more of a flattened-type surge and that would be over a longer period of time.”
Three more people have died in Indiana from coronavirus-related illnesses, increasing the state's virus death toll to 35, state health officials said.
Indiana's number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 grew by 273, the Indiana State Department of Health said.
Two of the new deaths involved Indianapolis residents, while the other person who died was from southeast Indiana's Franklin County.
Indianapolis had the most new cases at 135, while Hamilton County in suburban Indianapolis had 20 and northwest Indiana's Lake County had 12.
A statewide stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb took effect Wednesday, with exemptions for essential businesses to remain open and for necessary trips for food and medicine.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.