Coronavirus: State Vaccine Clinics To Take Walk-Ins, New Lawsuits For Emergency Powers
The Indiana Department of Health reported 73 additional confirmed deaths over the last week. That brings the state’s total to 12,937 confirmed deaths. The state also reported nearly 8,000 new cases in the last week.
Indiana has administered 2,364,001 initial vaccine doses, with 1,933,367 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.
Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.
The Indiana Department of Health is asking state vaccine providers to accept walk-in appointments for COVID-19 vaccines. That’s as demand has dropped off.
Officials said appointments are still preferred and some vaccine providers are booked through May.
Dr. Lindsay Weaver, Indiana Department of Health chief medical officer, said the expansion to walk-ins is partially because demand for vaccines has dropped off and partially to help lower the barrier for Hoosiers to get vaccinated.
"But almost everyone that we’ve asked said absolutely and are taking walk-ins. And that really means a lot to people who have had difficulty trying to plan ahead and schedule," Weaver said.
Indiana lags behind the national average for COVID-19 vaccines, with a little more than 28 percent of the state’s total population fully vaccinated. When pointing to more rural zip codes, health officials said they’re working with the Indiana Rural Health Association to help improve vaccination rates.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said access is only one of the barriers.
"I believe truly, it has a little bit more to do with vaccine hesitancy than it has to do with the access there. But I always say you can’t say it’s about vaccine hesitancy until you’ve made sure you’ve made the access appropriate," Box said.
Steve Lyday spent most of April preparing what would’ve been Morgan County’s largest vaccination clinic.
It was scheduled at Paul Hadley Middle School in Mooresville, an area of the county officials have had trouble serving because of the tight controls on vaccine storage. The state provided 2,400 Moderna doses to be split between two mass clinics: one scheduled for last Saturday and a follow-up effort in May.
“1,200 – that's what we based our entire plan on,” said Lyday, the county’s public health and response coordinator. “And it didn't materialize.”
When Lyday checked the schedule Tuesday, 97 people had signed up. He had 40 medical professionals and volunteers coming to work the clinic. It didn’t make any sense logistically, so the county had to cancel.
“I was really kind of excited to see if we could pull it off,” Lyday said. “We have these plans [but] we've never actually had to do it for real life event. I was just hoping to see that happen, and it didn’t.”
Indiana is using its emergency alert system to urge people to visit its mass COVID-19 vaccination sites.
Hoosiers in central Indiana got the alert on their phones Tuesday that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway vaccine clinic is open to walk-ins through Thursday. And it’s offering both Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
The Indiana Department of Health said it used a similar alert for its mass vaccination site in Gary and generated an increase in walk-ins.
Gov. Eric Holcomb sued the Indiana General Assembly Tuesday over legislation that would give lawmakers more authority to intervene during a public emergency.
Many lawmakers felt sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic as the governor issued dozens of executive orders, some of which legislators openly opposed. To give themselves more opportunity to intervene in the future, lawmakers passed a bill, HB 1123, that allows them to call a special session of the General Assembly during a public emergency.
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But Holcomb – supported by some constitutional experts – believes the Indiana Constitution exclusively gives the governor that power. And he’s suing to find out for sure.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita wants Gov. Eric Holcomb’s lawsuit against the General Assembly to stop before it goes any further.
Holcomb sued lawmakers Tuesday over a bill that allows them to call a special session during a public emergency, giving legislators more power to intervene with the governor’s decision-making.
But Rokita said Holcomb isn’t allowed to bring a lawsuit without an OK from the attorney general’s office – and Rokita didn’t give that permission. Indiana law says the state speaks with one voice in court – the attorney general’s. For Holcomb to use private attorneys without authorization, Rokita argued, “[erodes] the state’s defenses.”
There’s another lawsuit seeking to strike down a new Indiana law that gives lawmakers more power to act during a public emergency.
Gov. Eric Holcomb sued lawmakers over that measure earlier last week. Now, a Hoosier citizen has done the same.
John Whitaker, former special counsel to Gov. Bob Orr, filed the latest suit. He said recently-passed House Bill 1123 unconstitutionally allows lawmakers to call themselves into special session during a public emergency.
His lawsuit would avoid the hurdle from Attorney General Todd Rokita’s position that, in part, Holcomb isn’t allowed to sue the legislature.
Labor unions and local officials across Indiana recognized an annual Workers Memorial Day on Wednesday. One event in South Bend unveiled a memorial to essential workers who died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Services honored those who died on the job and celebrated labor unions who have historically pushed for safety regulations. This memorial day also marked the 50th anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA is currently drawing criticism for being more than a month past President Biden’s deadline to produce an emergency safety standard related to COVID-19.
Fewer high school graduates in Indiana are enrolling in college according to a recent report from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education.
The commission says college-going rates in Indiana are at their lowest point in recent history at just 59 percent – that's a drop of 6 percentage points over the past five years. The report's data comes from 2019, so state and school officials say they expect a further decline in next year's report as data begins to reflect the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
College-going rates are even lower specifically among Black, Hispanic and Latino, and low-income high school graduates.
Indiana high school students taking career and technical courses like cosmetology and welding wrapped up a statewide competition last week. Due to the pandemic, it looks a little different this year as students compete virtually.
As schools went virtual this past year, many had to adapt their hands-on CTE courses. The statewide SkillsUSA competition, often a culminating experience for those students, is trying something new as well. After being canceled last year, this year students are competing through video, photos, or online submissions. Normally it draws hundreds of students, teachers, and industry groups looking to hire young workers together in-person at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.