Coronavirus: IU, Notre Dame Mandate Vaccines, State Ending Federal Unemployment
The Indiana Department of Health reported 73 additional confirmed deaths over the last week. That brings the state’s total to 13,136 confirmed deaths. The state also reported more than 4,700 new cases in the last week.
Indiana has administered 2,588,849 initial vaccine doses, with 2,424,633 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.
Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.
Indiana will opt out of federal unemployment benefit programs, effective in mid-June as Gov. Eric Holcomb follows other states in an attempt to push people back into the workforce.
Starting June 19, Indiana will no longer pay an extra $300 in federal benefits each week for all unemployment claims. It will also completely end benefit programs for people who are self-employed or gig workers that roughly 70,000 Hoosiers are accessing.
Also set to end is an extended benefit program for the long-time unemployed another 62,000 people currently benefit from.
In a little less than a month, Indiana will stop payments of all federal unemployment benefits in hopes it will force workers to fill vacant jobs.
Tiffany Wagner worked as an in-home health provider, but was laid off when the pandemic struck and hasn’t returned. A mother of five children in Vincennes, she said the available jobs in her area aren’t paying enough to cover costs of basics like day care and bills. On June 19, when Indiana opts out of multiple federal relief programs to help those who lost work due to no fault of their own, Wagner said she doesn’t know what she’ll do.
“Even if I go back to work, what am I supposed to do, just leave my kids on the corner because I can’t afford child care?” she said. “I mean, like, what do you want me to do?”
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Wagner said she used unemployment benefits to pay bills and never had to rely on housing or utilities relief programs during the pandemic. She’s not sure that’ll remain the case when federal assistance dries up.
“I made it on my own, but now it’s just not possible,” she said. “I’m sure there’s a lot of people that are going to be freaking out because we’re just sitting ducks.”
Wagner’s situation is emblematic of what economists say is causing a perceived labor shortage among business owners. Several recommend offering more competitives wages and benefits to workers while making sure there’s also affordable child care.
The University of Notre Dame will require all faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of the fall semester.
The university announced last month it would require all undergraduate, graduate and professional students to be vaccinated in order to enroll for fall classes. At the time, faculty and staff were strongly encouraged, but not required, to get the vaccine.
In a letter sent to faculty and staff on Thursday, university officials asked those returning for the fall semester to provide proof of full vaccination no later than Aug. 2, three weeks before the start of classes.
Before returning to campus for the fall 2021 semester, all Indiana University students, faculty and staff must receive a COVID-19 vaccination.
"This new requirement will allow the university to lift most restrictions on masking and physical distancing," the university said in a statement Friday.
The university is urging people to get their first dose no later than July 1, so that everyone is fully vaccinated by the time they arrive on campus.
"Knowing that the vast majority of our IU community is vaccinated is the only way the university can confidently return to in-person classes, more in-person events and a more typical university experience," the university said in an email to campus employees.
Individuals returning must be fully vaccinated by Aug. 15.
As vaccine rollout continues, some researchers say the country has hit a plateau in the number of people being vaccinated. Finding time off work to get vaccinated can be a barrier for many.
Ross Silverman, Indiana University health policy and management professor, said many people want to get vaccinated – but may not be able to take time off work.
“Really at this point, I think the biggest focus is on helping people figure out where they can get the vaccines and then making sure people have times and places that are appropriate for them to go to get vaccinated,” Silverman said. “They may be worried about going out and taking the time to get themselves or help their family members get the shots.”
The federal American Rescue Plan includes a program that allows companies under 500 employees to apply for a tax credit to give paid time off to employees for vaccine-related appointments.
Gov. Eric Holcomb isn’t a fan of the state using monetary incentives to push more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Holcomb’s comments came after Ohio announced it will give away millions of dollars to encourage people to get vaccinated.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced a $1 million lottery system for vaccinated Ohioans last week, using federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Indiana’s neighboring state will also give away full-ride college scholarships to those under 18 who get the vaccine.
Holcomb said he’s got a different approach.
“I’ve taken the approach to try to entice people by making it uber-convenient to get vaccinated and appeal to their better senses about, this is how we all get through this quicker,” Holcomb said.
Several community groups are criticizing IU Health’s response to the external review of Dr. 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.
An external review found that while the medical care Moore received did not cause her death, cultural competence was not practiced by all providers and several lacked awareness of implicit racial bias in Moore’s care.
Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis, Baptist Minister’s Alliance and the National Action Network of Indiana say that’s not enough. In a joint letter, the groups call IU Health’s statement “a toothless, woefully insufficient response to the systemic racism revealed” by Moore’s treatment. The letter also says IU Health’s plans include “few tangible steps to remedy the racism” that many patients of color experience.