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No “light at the end of the tunnel” for local hospital surge as state continues to post record COVID highs

IU Health Arnett continues to grapple with a spike in COVID hospitalizations (WBAA News/Ben Thorp)
IU Health Arnett continues to grapple with a spike in COVID hospitalizations (WBAA News/Emilie Syberg)

IU Health Arnett in Lafayette is at capacity with new COVID-19 cases with no real end to the surge in sight, according to health officials.

The hospital has expanded its number of ICU beds to 28, with well over 20 of those occupied for several weeks.

IU Health Arnett’s Dr. Chris Mansfield said the hospital has been transferring patients down to Indianapolis to relieve pressure on critical care staff who have already been stretched thin.

“However, today we have the highest volume in our totality in the IU Health system than any given day over the preceding many many months during this pandemic. So we’re running out of areas to send critical care patients to,” Mansfield said.

“It’s very difficult to functionally operate an emergency department out of just a slim number of ER beds,” he added.

Mansfield said he doesn’t expect the COVID surge to decline within hospitals until sometime in February. New COVID cases could decline before then, but hospitals are on a 10-14 day delay.

“We’re still weeks out from this being plateaued off and starting to go in the opposite direction,” he said. “I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel in the next month.”

In spite of the surge, Mansfield declined to comment on whether he thought mask mandates needed to be put in place.

“I don’t get into the political ballgame at all,” he said. “From my vantage point, my view, if I could just give a tour in the hospital to someone who is questioning should I get a vaccination or not – I wish I could give them that vantage point for just five minutes. I think that would open a lot of eyes.”

And, Mansfield said, hospitals no longer feel they have community support as staff face COVID.

“What I’m seeing now in the tiredness and fatigue from the healthcare workers across the board is something I haven’t seen,” he said. “I haven’t seen it this busy and this is not sustainable.”

Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said he has also not asked for mask mandates from county commissioners - who would have the final say in any local ordinances.

“I have not, because they have indicated they are not in favor of that,” he said.

Adler said the county’s high case counts are unlikely to include the results of at-home COVID tests.

“So we’re seeing some very high numbers of infections and this is occurring while Purdue is out of session and local schools are not in session,” he said. “We’re very concerned these numbers could get even higher.”

Tippecanoe County reported just short of 1,700 new COVID cases in the last week.