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Coronavirus: Indiana Exceeds Tax Collection Expectations, To End OptumServe Testing Sites

Lauren Chapman
IPB News

The Indiana Department of Health reported 57 additional confirmed deaths over the last week. That brings the state’s total to 13,324 confirmed deaths. The state also reported more than 2,500 new cases in the last week – the fewest reported in a single week since testing became more widely available during the pandemic.

Indiana has administered 2,722,309 initial vaccine doses, with 2,662,482 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.

Important to note, our weekly numbers were usually measured from Sunday’s data, but the Indiana Department of Health will no longer update COVID-19 data on Sundays. This data, like last week’s, is measured from Saturday.

Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.

Indiana Closing OptumServe COVID-19 Testing Sites After June, Citing Low Demand

Indiana is closing its OptumServe COVID-19 testing sites at the end of June. The sites, set up early in the pandemic, have provided more than 541,000 free tests since May of last year.

According to the state’s website, there are 31 remaining OptumServe sites across Indiana, which will close June 30. The Indiana Department of Health said it’s ending its contract with the private company because of a “robust community-led testing network” that’s now in place.

Community Groups Call For More Direct Action From IU Health After Moore's Death

Three community groups hosted a virtual event on Wednesday as part of an ongoing effort to highlight racism in health care in the aftermath of the external review ofDr. Susan Moore’s death. Moore died in December from COVID-19 complications. In a viral Facebook video, Moore alleged racial bias in the care she received at IU Health North Hospital.

The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Baptist Ministers Alliance and the National Action Network of Indiana asked last month to meet with IU Health CEO Dennis Murphy. They have not received a response.

David Greene Sr., president of the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, said Murphy should resign if tangible change is not made.

“He needs to listen, to be willing to listen to others in the minority community,” Greene said. “Blacks and Latinos — we deserve better.”

Are COVID-19 Vaccines Safe For Kids? Here's What You Need To Know

The Food and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in kids 12 and older in mid-May. 

We asked members of the Indiana Two-Way and the Midwest Checkup for their questions and concerns about the vaccine. To join the Indiana Two-Way text “Indiana” to 73224, and to join the Midwest Checkup, text “health” to 73224.

What’s the age limit for COVID-19 vaccines?

Right now, no COVID-19 vaccine is available for kids younger than 12. 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by the FDA for emergency use May 10, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s independent vaccine committee gave its approval the same week. 

But Pfizer is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. with that approval. Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are still conducting trials and the FDA is reviewing their data. And Moderna is currently conducting clinical trials for kids as young as 6 months old.

Indiana Tax Collections Dramatically Exceed Expectations In May

Indiana collected far more in taxes last month than even recent rosy projections anticipated, which leaves the state well-positioned heading into the final month of the current fiscal year.

State budget analysts ascribe the increased revenue to a variety of factors, including increasingly relaxed coronavirus restrictions, the COVID-19 vaccine and federal COVID relief packages.

Lawmakers and the governor have already made plans for spending some of the budget overage, including hundreds of millions to pay down state debt and money for student learning loss.

School Employees In Kokomo Fight To Unionize, Citing Essential Work And Understaffing

School employees in Kokomo are fighting to organize a union after the school corporation voted not to recognize it earlier this year. Workers involved say they've endured just as many challenges as teachers during the pandemic, but still aren't being valued.

The Kokomo School Corporation's board voted not to recognize the union representing transportation, maintenance and custodial staff in March. The district said in a statement that members based the decision on legal advice, but won't offer additional comment. 

Bus driver Heather Jackson spoke at a board meeting after the vote, calling on members for more transparency and to recognize the union. She said many questions to the district about workers' concerns have gone unanswered, and now leaders won't share more details about why they won't recognize workers' latest effort to unionize.

"I don't understand the whole legal thing, because teachers have a union, so why can't we have a union?" Jackson said.

More Than 100 Gather To Protest Indiana University’s COVID-19 Vaccine Policy

More than 100 protesters gathered in front of the Sample Gates Thursday to protest Indiana University’s COVID-19 vaccine policy.

Earlier this month, IU decided against requiring students and staff to submit proof of vaccination, instead asking them to certify they have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Those who do not comply will be kicked out of school or fired.

“I still feel like there is something underlying that is not right, because I feel like this mandate is bypassing a freedom we as students should have,” said IU sophomore Jackson Pauwels of Fishers.

IU granted Pauwels a religious exemption from getting the vaccine.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.