State health officials plan for immunocompromised Hoosiers to access third doses of mRNA vaccines. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce launches a campaign to recognize workplaces leading the push to get Hoosiers vaccinated. And Indiana’s most recent surge hits 5,000 cases reported in a single day – for the first time since early January.
August’s new cases have continued their climb, reporting more than 5,000 new cases for the first time since Jan. 9. With the data reported Friday, Indiana has reported more than 70,000 new cases in August.
As recently as June, daily cases reached a pandemic-low average – just 282 cases per day. July’s daily average climbed to more than 600 per day. So far in August, Indiana has averaged more than 2,700 new cases per day.
In the last seven days, Indiana has reported more than 26,000 new cases.
Deaths are also starting to climb – August’s daily deaths average is triple that of July. Deaths take longer to report to IDOH, so daily totals are often filled in over the course of a few weeks. The state has reported 99 deaths so far last week.
Hoosier classrooms are now reporting thousands of new COVID-19 cases, setting a pandemic record.
Teachers and staff did not see the same record-breaking numbers as the student population – though cases still rose to late-January levels.
Indiana’s breakthrough cases – COVID-19 infections in people who are fully vaccinated – are rising. But experts say while the increase in cases is concerning, it doesn’t show a lack of protection from vaccines.
For its update on Aug. 19, the Indiana Department of Health added 3,182 new breakthrough cases. That week, Indiana reported more than 19,113 total cases.
Regenstrief Institute President and CEO Peter Embí said it takes some time to validate the vaccine status of cases, so it’s not that 16 percent of new cases were breakthrough.
But breakthrough cases are rising.
“It’s still worrisome that we’re starting to see the numbers going up, and it’s something we absolutely need to be working on,” he said.
IDOH reports about 97 percent of sampled cases are the more infectious delta variant, which is driving the current surge of new cases in both vaccinated and unvaccinated Hoosiers.
THE STATE’S RESPONSE
Many Hoosier K-12 schools have stopped reporting COVID-19 data to the state, as required.
That’s during what State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box calls the "darkest time of the pandemic."
Box said the state knows students are being quarantined, but schools aren’t reporting positive cases. The portion that are reporting through the state's school pandemic dashboard added 3,028 new cases in the week from Aug. 14-20.
She said the state is working to get schools back on track.
"Talking to the Department of Education about what future actions or supports could be given to schools that aren’t doing the right things here," Box said.
State health officials are encouraging eligible Hoosiers to get a third shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. This additional dose is different from the booster shots recently announced by the Biden administration.
That’s as cases are surging statewide – and likely to get worse in the coming weeks.
Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana Department of Health chief medical officer, said right now, immunocompromised Hoosiers who originally received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine should get a third dose.
"This includes people who are undergoing treatment for cancer, recipients of solid organ or stem cell transplants, individuals who have advanced or untreated HIV infection and people who are taking certain medications that suppress their immune system," she said.
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State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box and Indiana Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsey Weaver shut down misinformation Friday that an antibiotic to treat animals could be used against COVID-19.
Ivermectin is used to treat infections caused by roundworms, threadworms, and other parasites. It is not a drug to treat viruses.
Ivermectin is sold most commonly in feed stores for large animals and for household pets. Some forms of the medication are available by prescription for humans to treat parasitic worms as well as a topical medicine to treat head lice and even rosacea.
Box said there have been call increases nationwide to poison control lines for people getting very sick as a result of taking the anti-parasitic.
“Don’t take a medicine that is prescribed for animals – especially large animals – that has not been proven to affect a virus or disease,” Box said.
Following President Joe Biden’s announcement that nursing home workers will be required to get vaccinated, some fear it will cause staff to leave the already understaffed industry. According to the state's vaccine dashboard, only about half of Indiana’s long-term care workers are currently vaccinated.
Biden’s plan targeting nursing home staff threatens to remove federal Medicare and Medicaid funding for non-compliance. There are still no details about when it would take effect. Health care groups in Indiana fear nursing home workers will leave to other health care settings where vaccinations are not required.
Just more than half of eligible Hoosiers 12 and over are fully vaccinated so far. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s Wellness Council of Indiana launched a campaign last Monday to recognize employers that encourage their workers to get vaccinated.
The COVID Stops Here campaign will publicly acknowledge employers that have higher numbers of vaccinated workers.
To apply for recognition, employers must complete a two-question form. Businesses are asked to answer to the best of their knowledge if they have 70, 80, 90 or 100 percent of their employees fully vaccinated.
Jennifer Pferrer, Wellness Council of Indiana executive director, said each business recognized will receive a media kit to help publicize their employee vaccination rates.
“This promotion can really have a big impact on employers,” said Pferrer. “It really speaks to employee safety, employee morale, as well as it develops a great relationship with customers and visitors and amongst the employees themselves.”
Indiana’s unemployment rate remained unchanged between June and July, standing at 4.1 percent, but some areas are seeing job recovery faster than others.
Despite the static unemployment rate, employment continued an upward hike in almost all major business sectors in July, including some of the ones hardest hit by the pandemic like leisure and hospitality. A few sectors, like government and finance, lost more than 8,000 jobs.
But unemployment rates are still hovering at about 8 percent in Lake County, in northwest Indiana, and the Kokomo area.
Charlie Sparks of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance said, for his region, it’s reflective of lingering supply chain issues affecting the automotive plants in the area.