Three-thousand 756 Hoosiers got confirmation on Wednesday that they have coronavirus.

That's the highest total since COVID-19 hit Indiana in March. Until Thursday, that is, when the number skyrocketed to 4,457.

Also Wednesday, the Vigo County Health Department cautioned the community about local "hot spots," where coronavirus cases have emerged. A surge in cases has stretched the department's resources, making it difficult to conduct vital contact tracing to identify and alert residents who may have been exposed to the infectious virus.

Also Wednesday, the Vigo County School Corp. announced that its three high schools would return to remote instruction for one week, while an elementary school would do the same for two weeks, because of "the amount of critical staff on quarantine," a district statement said. Honey Creek Middle School joined that list Thursday. Positive cases within the VCSC in the past two weeks had increased and quarantine totals hit 762 for students and 75 for staff.

All on Wednesday, Nov. 4, and Thursday, Nov. 5 — the days after Tuesday, Nov. 3.

The pandemic didn't magically go away after Election Day. And, it's not going to disappear anytime soon.

Doctor Kris Box, the Indiana health commissioner, challenged lingering political conspiracy-theory fantasies that COVID-19 would vanish after the polls closed on Tuesday. Box was commenting Wednesday afternoon on the reasons Fountain and Warren counties in west-central Indiana have become virus hot spots.

"I can say, one of the underlying issues there is a significant resistance to social distancing, wearing masks. And, [there's] just kind of this concept and the belief system that the COVID pandemic, and the importance of it, was going to get better once the election was over," Box said during Gov Eric Holcomb's weekly coronavirus update, livestreamed statewide.

The passage of Tuesday into Wednesday also didn't stop or even slow the spread of COVID-19 across America and the globe. A total of 102,831 new cases in the U.S. were confirmed Wednesday, Johns Hopkins University reported. Fresh cases rose 21% during the past week, while the number of tests increased only 4.5%. The virus claimed 1,616 American lives Wednesday. Overseas, England reinstituted a national lockdown until Dec. 2, and other European countries imposed similar restrictions.

Here in Indiana, Holcomb stuck by his decision not to reimpose restrictions on businesses and public gatherings — steps he'd taken in March. Holcomb dismissed the idea of adding penalties for failing to wear face masks in public, suggesting they would be unenforceable.

Instead, the governor and his health commissioner urged Hoosiers to voluntarily abide by recommendations from public health professionals. Those four protocols — face masking in public, social distancing outside of the household, maintaining rigorous hygiene and staying home when sick — can slow COVID-19's spread and help keep schools and businesses open, Holcomb said. Coordination on a county to county basis, and tactics such as deploying National Guard troops to support the staff at nursing homes are more effective than adding restrictions, the governor believes.

Still, he acknowledged the detrimental effect pandemic deniers can have on the success of voluntary safety guidelines.

"To just be cavalier and say, 'Eh, I don't make that much of a difference,' well, A, it does, and, B, we don't know enough about this and the fatal impact it can have not only on the elderly, but those half their age," Holcomb said.

Twenty-one Hoosiers under 50 died of COVID-19 in the last two weeks of October, Box reported.

A record 1,948 Hoosiers were hospitalized with coronavirus on Thursday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. People who refuse to mask up, and those they encounter, often are among the hospitalizations. The doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies, nursing assistants and EMTs who care for them are "frankly exhausted," Box said, even as the hardest months are just now unfolding. Health-care workers have already run a nine-month marathon at a sprinter's pace.

Many "are quarantined or in a family quarantine," Box explained. "They're juggling home issues, just like the rest of us, like hybrid schooling. And some have even lost coworkers and family members to this disease. This all takes an incredible toll. They need our support now more than ever." Box asked retirees or nonpracticing health care workers to join a reserve force.

So, that's how the picture looked on Nov. 4 and 5. The governor urged every Hoosier to comply with voluntary safety measures, though that seems as productive right now as making I-70 speed limits optional. Some local schools reverted to online at-home learning. Cases are spiking. Hospitalizations are spiking. Workers in nursing homes and hospitals are tired, and many are battling infections themselves. National Guard troops are pitching in. A vaccine's timing and availability are uncertain.

COVID-19 didn't evaporate after Election Day. It's real. It's harming bodies, lives and livelihoods, now more than ever.
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