In a week when Hoosiers are still digging out from a significant winter storm, Governor Holcomb’s news conference brought welcome news regarding Indiana’s COVID-19 positivity rates. The color-coded maps “look the best they have in months” according to Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana’s State Health Commissioner Wednesday, February 17.
No counties were at the red level this week, down from 4 last week. Wayne County remains at the yellow level first achieved last week; however, the infection level decreased from 1.5 to level 1. While this is a reason to be optimistic, County residents must continue to be diligent about measures to keep the spread contained until the majority are vaccinated.
Because of the unpredictability of when vaccine shipments will arrive in the state, Indiana will keep the threshold of those eligible at 65 and older. Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana’s Chief Medical Officer suggests that anyone receiving the first vaccine dose should take a picture of their vaccination card to help ensure the second dose is from the same manufacturer.
Many organizations are helping with registration, transportation, and other barriers to getting vaccines into the arms of those who are eligible, including Area Agencies on Aging, AARP, library staff across the state and managed care partners. Success stories were shared as these contacts have reached people who said they had not previously planned to get vaccinated.
Dr. Box responded to a question about whether individuals who test positive with a variant strain of COVID are notified. She responded that they are as ISDH wants to do additional contact tracing. The other strains have been found to be more contagious than the dominant strain the US has fought since the pandemic first began.
Dr. Box indicated that there are 660 deaths that have previously been included in Indiana’s COVID deaths; however, after case review, they are now being attributed to long-term care facilities. Some were reported to CMS and not to ISDH, or vice versa. These cases are all continuing to be reviewed and the update will be added to the LTC dashboard updated 2/18/21. All were resident deaths, except 1 which was a staff death.
Jacob Sipe, Executive Director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority announced a new relief program will be rolled out soon to help Hoosiers with rent and utility assistance. Since this is a new program, anyone who received assistance previously may also be eligible for the new round of funding. Hoosiers in need of ongoing help should go to INhousing.org to register for an email notification which will let you know when the application period opens. Sipe said eligible Hoosiers can receive up to 12 months of assistance which can include a combination of past-due and future rent.