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Coronavirus: Indiana reports first omicron case, COVID-19 hospital census surpasses 3,000

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Lauren Chapman
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The Indiana Department of Health added 357 new deaths to its total in the last week.

Indiana reports its first case of the COVID-19 variant omicron. Epidemiologists and hospitals sound the alarm as hospitalizations rise across the state. And Hoosiers testify on the House Republican bill that would effectively ban employer vaccine mandates.

THE DATA

Last week’s total of 30,714 newly reported cases was the first time new infections have dropped in six weeks. The average of new daily cases has nearly doubled from November to December.

The state’s hospital census has hovered around 3,000, after surpassing it for the first time in 2021 on Dec. 14. The Indiana Department of Health added 357 new deaths to its total in the last week.

COVID-19 hospitalizations rise as an estimated 1 in 10 Hoosiers has active infection

Indiana’s COVID-19 hospital census surpassed 3,000 for the first time in 2021. And hospitals are stretched ahead of the holidays.

Dr. Scott Stienecker is an epidemiologist with the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. He said several hospital systems in northeast Indiana are at 115 percent capacity.

There has been a rapid growth in new cases – still driven by the delta variant, which accounts for 99 percent of sampled cases, according to the Indiana Department of Health.

“Right now, to date, in the state of Indiana – 1 out of 10 to 1 out of 8 people has active COVID disease,” Stienecker said.

Stienecker said that’s based on positive cases, the positivity rate and estimates from the state and Regenstrief Institute.

‘We need help’ IU Health reports record number of COVID-19 patients

Indiana University Health — the state’s largest health system — registered its highest in-patient census due to COVID-19 last week.

More than two-thirds of patients systemwide requiring intensive care are due to complications from COVID-19.

Brian Shockney, president of IU Health’s South-Central Region, said patients are being kept in areas that have never been used before.

“We’re using spaces in our facilities in the south-central region and in this district, that we’ve never used before to care for patients,” Shockney said.

READ MORE: Are Hoosiers being hospitalized for COVID-19 with mild symptoms? Data says no

Shockney said he remains optimistic the system can continue to care for patients even though elective procedures throughout the region have been cancelled. He reiterated the collective burden this puts on everyone.

“We need help,” he said.

THE OMICRON VARIANT

Indiana reports first case of COVID-19 variant omicron

The Indiana Department of Health reported its first case of the COVID-19 variant omicron Sunday. Indiana was one of seven remaining states yet to detect the variant.

IDOH said in a news release the person who tested positive for the omicron variant was unvaccinated, and tested positive on Dec. 9. The COVID-19 strain has caused a rapid increase in cases throughout Europe, and was labeled a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.