The Current State of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Indiana and Why It Will Alter the Trajectory of Hoosier Businesses Forever

Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced that he will decide some time this week whether to extend Indiana’s stay at home order, and for how long.  He stated publicly he’s meeting with the governors of surrounding states to discuss how and when we will be opening up the state of Indiana once the number of COVID-19 cases subside.

Preemptively, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker extended Illinois’ stay at home order until the end of May.  However, he has allowed some non-essential businesses to resume limited operations.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear stated that he will need to see 14 consecutive days where COVID-19 cases are decreasing, among several other data points he will be analyzing before parts of the great state of Kentucky’s economy will be reopened.  His stance follows the CDC’s recommended Phase I guidelines.

President Trump, in accordance with the CDC, has outlined a phased approach to opening up the United States economy.  Details on “Opening Up America Again” can be found here:  opens in a new windowhttps://www.whitehouse.gov/openingamerica/#phase-one

Though Governor Holcomb has not stated Indiana would need to see 14 consecutive days of decreased cases, he has stated that he “won’t act in lock step with neighboring states if the number of COVID-19 cases in Indiana do not decline.”

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, as of April 26, there have been over 15,000 positive cases and over 800 deaths in the state of Indiana.  Unfortunately, there has been a spike in positive cases over the last several days, setting positive case records on Saturday, then again on Sunday.

Nationally, The CDC has reported roughly 900,000 cases and over 51,000 deaths as of April 24. From the CDC data tracker site, we find that Indiana ranks 15th in the country in terms of new cases over the past 7 days.  More detailed data can be found on the CDC website here: opens in a new windowhttps://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/index.html

This most recent data does not bode well for Governor Holcomb to open up the Indiana economy during the first week of May. This is devastating news for many of our “non-essential” business customers who have been forced to close down, or remain open in a very limited capacity; severely impacting their revenue.  Though I can understand the use of “essential” and “non-essential” categorization of businesses, I really, really dislike that terminology.  I’m sure all business owners consider their business essential, as do their employees and customers.

According to Main Street America, over 3.5 million small businesses are at danger of permanent closure.  Worse yet, they opens in a new windowreport that over 35.7 million employees of small businesses in the US could face unemployment.  We at Van Ausdall & Farrar are deeply saddened by this prospect. Though we serve virtually every business segment of every size, it is small business that is the keystone of what we do.  Correspondingly, it is small business that stokes the embers of our diverse Indiana economy.

We have learned much about this pandemic over the past several months.  We will certainly learn much more.  But, by most of the states instituting stay at home orders, we will have flattened the curve.  The whole idea behind this strategy was to prevent our healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed during the peak caseload; assuring those that need extensive care would get it.  With this current strategy, we are buying time.  Time for our courageous healthcare workers to treat all those affected by the virus. Time to uncover treatments to minimize the severity of this disease. And hopefully, time to develop a safe and effective vaccine over the next 12-18 months.

But, by buying that time, we’ve likely extended the re-occurrence of this virus over the next year or two.  Science writer Ed Yong wrote opens in a new windowan article in the Atlantic forecasting our upcoming approach.  Looking ahead, Yong says that even if masks, frequent hand-washing and social isolation strategies are effective in slowing the virus’ spread, the end to the pandemic is still a long way off: “We are in for this long, protracted game of whack-a-mole with the virus where different places will stamp it out at different times. It will surge back. It will need to be controlled again.”

So, rather than one devastating spike in cases, the caseload graph will resemble jagged sharks’ teeth.  Our fine Hoosier businesses may very well open, then have to close in part or in whole again for some amount of time until that “hot” area is controlled once more.

We see that potentiality today when we compare COVID-19 caseloads from one Indiana county to the next.  Marion County has over three times as many cases as any other county in the state, with almost 5,000 positive cases.  On the other hand, Pike county only has one positive case.  Many counties in southern Indiana are in the single digits in terms of positive cases.

So, as there is a state by state strategy, there may very well become a county-by-county strategy as we reach the whack-a-mole phase of this pandemic.  This will require a very high degree of state and local government coordination of communication and resources.

On a positive note, our state and our country for that matter has never been so well-equipped to win this war.  Many of the trans-formative changes taking place in healthcare right now as a result of COVID-19 will forever change the direction of healthcare delivery.  In my view, the changes taking place right now with leveraging technology will become permanent realities.  There is a tremendous boom in telemedicine right now.  We view this shift as a permanent advantage to patients, especially those living in rural areas.  The emerging use of location data to track the disease will strongly improve our ability to whack that mole.

“Most interesting is what’s going to happen when this is over,” says Anne Weiler, the co-founder and former CEO of Seattle health tech startup opens in a new windowWellpepper, recently opens in a new windowacquired by Caravan Health. “I don’t think people are going to be satisfied with going back to the status quo, because these other things are now working. The view has to be into solving these big communication and collaboration problems, which will enable so much else to work across our ecosystem.”

“These other things are now working.”  This is a fact that extends well beyond healthcare to many industry segments in our economy.  Given Van Ausdall & Farrar is considered an essential business that provides critical services, we have witnessed the “other things are now working” first hand.

First of all, VA&F is better utilizing Work From Home (WFH) technology to a much greater degree than we would have without the advent of COVID-19.  As a result, we personally understand its’ strengths and limitations and can provide much greater value and expertise to our clients.

We are not alone.  In daily conversations with customers, I’m finding the secure remote access, videoconferencing and collaboration tools many of our customers had at their fingertips, but never used, are now being leveraged to the hilt.  And for those customers that don’t have these resources, they are quickly adopting them.

As a 28-year veteran of Van Ausdall & Farrar and the communications industry in general, it would be easy for me to become set in my ways if it wasn’t for the fact “my ways” aren’t acceptable right now.  Would I prefer to consult with a prospect or customer in person?  Absolutely!  But, what I’ve found is that by leveraging video collaboration and desktop sharing technology the last couple months, I’ve been successful in consulting with 4-5 clients a day versus 3-4 that I would normally accomplish by climbing in my vehicle and visiting the client in person. The travel time alone hampers my productivity, especially if visiting customers in northern or southern Indiana.

As the healthcare industry has found with leveraging telemedicine, VA&F and many of our customers have found the collaboration technology we have available today not only allows us to continue to function, but function more efficiently and profitably.  And if done right, maintaining a secure environment for your employers most important asset:  it’s data.

When this is all over, the knowledge we’ve learned from working at home isn’t going away.  In fact, many of us have found it has made us better at what we do.  Many Indiana companies have been slowly migrating to a remote worker environment for years.  Slowly but surely.  With the advent of this pandemic, the trajectory and velocity of that migration has forever changed.  Learning from a difficult situation and applying what we’ve learned as a consistent, permanent practice may be the one good thing that comes out of this situation.  At least that’s something, right?

Van Ausdall & Farrar is a 106-year-old technology company that has survived and excelled during two world wars, the Spanish Flu and many other trials and tribulations.  We are experts in remote security and remote office communications. If you have a problem that needs solved, call us.  If we can’t help, I’m confident we know someone who can.