The Indiana Department of Health reported 168 additional confirmed deaths over the last week. That brings the state’s total to 12,310 confirmed deaths. The state also reported more than 5,500 new cases in the last week.
Indiana has administered 1,127,721 initial vaccine doses, with 696,457 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.
Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.
The Indiana Department of Health announced the state reached the milestone March 1. As of Sunday, March 7, 1,127,721 Hoosiers had received at least one vaccine dose, with nearly 700,000 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.
Those who qualify may schedule vaccination appointments at OurShot.in.gov or by calling 211. About 70 public libraries, AARP and Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging may also be able to help with registration.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened the state’s first mass vaccination site Friday. Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state officials received their COVID-19 vaccine.
“This is easy peasy,” Holcomb said. “It’s free. We want to encourage every eligible Hoosier to get vaccinated, it's going to help us get through this quicker than we already are.”
Saturday marked one year since Indiana’s first known COVID-19 case.
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About more than 4,000 people were vaccinated at the IMS each day. Additional mass clinics will be hosted March 12 and 13 at Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg and March 26 and 27 at the University of Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena.
Hoosiers 50 and older can now register for appointments to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Wednesday's announcement from the Indiana Department of Health is the second expansion in the last week.
The addition of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine helped Indiana lower eligibility twice within two days. Dr. Lindsay Weaver, IDOH chief medical officer, said the J&J vaccine also enabled the state to create three mass vaccination sites in the coming days.
“What’s most important to understand is that all three vaccines are highly effective and successful at preventing hospitalizations and deaths – and those are the results we want to see with any vaccine,” Weaver said.
Health officials said on social media that Hoosiers with specific comorbidities should reach out to their primary care providers – after that, they'll be provided a separate registration link.
Those comorbidities are active dialysis patients, Hoosiers with Down syndrome, post-solid organ transplant recipients, sickle cell disease patients, and people in treatment for cancers now or in the last three months, or with active primary lung cancer or active hematologic cancers, like lymphoma, leukemia or multiple myeloma.
The pressure to track kids down, get them engaged in school, and come up with lesson plans they can do remotely or in-person is a lot for one person to handle. Crawfordsville language arts teacher Emily Race said she’s exhausted.
“There are rooms in my house I haven’t been in since June or July. I’m so worn out at the end of the day – I can’t even sit down to enjoy, like, some TV,” she said.
Not having the things she used to look forward to – visits with her parents or trips with her best friend – makes it nearly impossible to cope with what she calls a nightmarish workload.
“When I have 20 students who are out but at staggered times for quarantine, trying to catch those patterns for ‘who has dropped off the radar, who do I need to reach out to’ in addition to the students who are physically in front of me, becomes very challenging,” she said.
The way school staff and educators like Race are feeling isn’t without consequence.
Hoosier K-12 teachers and child care workers can now get the COVID-19 vaccine through a federal program, outside of the state’s plan.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said teachers who aren’t otherwise eligible for the vaccine in Indiana (which, as of Wednesday, means anyone younger than 50) must schedule their appointments directly with those three stores.
“They’re scheduling with those three different entities, directly with those three entities and sites – not 211 and not our website,” Holcomb said.
Indiana hasn't changed its approach to vaccine eligibility, but more teachers are also eligible under the state's most recent expansion to Hoosiers 50 and older.
Indiana has expanded eligibility twice in the last week, which health officials said was because of the increase in vaccine supply from the federal government and the emergency use authorization for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Teachers are eager to schedule their first dose, after months of frustration with the state refusing to offer them more access to vaccines.
Crawfordsville High School science teacher Jenny Veatch said she's planning to schedule her shot in the coming days.
"Not that I'm scared, but because I wanna be here. I don't want to be quarantined at home teaching remotely, I wanna be here for the kids, it's better that I'm here," she said.
Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill said it will take time for federal distributors to adjust to teacher eligibility, and will likely be fully prepared for the change by next week. He said teachers should pursue vaccines wherever they're eligible – whether through a federal site, or a state site if they qualify with other criteria.
A year after its arrival in Indiana, headlines around COVID-19 are revolving around vaccine distribution, new variants, and mountains of public health data.
All IN talked about recent COVID-19 trends and the vaccine rollout in Indiana – what experts know about these new coronavirus variants, and how they might affect Hoosiers. And about what could be done to stop a pandemic like this from happening again, and how much longer it'll be until things are back to normal.
Indiana’s average unemployment rate in 2020 – 7.1 percent – increased nearly 4 percentage points compared to the year before. Keep in mind: many economists say, due to problems with data collection, it could be even higher.
Across the country, unemployment rates skyrocketed due to COVID-19, but the South and Midwest seemed to fare a bit better. States more dependent on tourism and entertainment like Hawaii and Nevada experienced some of the worst job losses.
Indiana small businesses – particularly in the hospitality industry – are a step closer to getting help from the state to recover from the pandemic.
A Senate committee Thursday unanimously approved a bill, HB 1004, for a $30 million small business recovery grant program.
The legislation essentially puts into law a program created by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation last year, using federal COVID-19 relief dollars.
It’s aimed primarily at hospitality businesses and limited to those whose revenue is $10 million a year or less. Businesses must also show monthly revenue loss of at least 30 percent to qualify.
Some Hoosiers are finding out money from their income tax refunds is being taken by the Department of Workforce Development to pay off unemployment benefits they received by mistake. However, the department has suspended other types of collections during the public health emergency declared by the governor.
An overpayment happens when the state pays someone unemployment benefits and later determines they’re ineligible for those benefits. Indiana law allows DWD to collect that money back in a variety of ways, including intercepting state and federal tax refunds or lottery winnings. However that can be prevented if someone has appealed the overpayment or applied for it to be waived.
During the pandemic, DWD has suspended wage garnishment and reduced the amount it collects from future unemployment benefits to a maximum of $10 each week.