Coronavirus: Holcomb Vetoes Local Health Orders Bill, Indiana Hits 2M Fully Vaccinated
The Indiana Department of Health reported 66 additional confirmed deaths over the last week. That brings the state’s total to 13,003 confirmed deaths. The state also reported more than 7,000 new cases in the last week.
Indiana has administered 2,439,862 initial vaccine doses, with 2,135,682 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.
Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.
More than 2 million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a little more than four months into the state’s rollout. The Indiana Department of Health announced the milestone Wednesday.
Indiana continues to lag slightly behind our immediate neighbors – with IDOH reporting nearly 31.8 percent of all Hoosiers fully vaccinated.
That compares to 34.4 percent in Kentucky, 35.6 percent in Ohio, 35.9 percent in Michigan and 33.8 percent in Illinois – according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s important to note however, the CDC’s data for Indiana appears to be delayed by a few days, while other states are more up-to-date.
The demand for COVID-19 vaccines in Indiana is slowing down, even as the state hits 2 million fully vaccinated Hoosiers. And some experts are concerned that vaccine hesitancy may prevent us from reaching herd immunity. But hesitancy is more complicated than just distrust.
Dr. Michael Weiner is a Regenstrief Institute scientist and Indiana University professor of medicine. He said vaccine hesitancy or reluctance falls into three broader categories: convenience, confidence and complacency.
Convenience refers to eligibility and access. Confidence is the trust – or lack thereof – in vaccine safety. And complacency describes populations who already feel protected enough.
While convenience has been improved since Indiana opened eligibility to all Hoosiers 16 and older – and asked state-run sites to accept walk-ins – confidence and complacency are more in the spotlight.
Indiana surpassed 13,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths Sunday. The state’s rate of newly reported deaths has continued its exponential slowdown since the state began vaccine distribution.
The state has gone from an average of nearly 98 deaths per day in December to seven deaths per day in April.
After recording more than 100 deaths for 12 days in December, the state has only reported 10 or more deaths three times since April 15, which is the best month since the start of the pandemic.
Which makes sense – state health officials justified their strict adherence to age-based eligibility for vaccines because age is such a huge factor in deaths and hospitalizations from COVID-19.
Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his third veto this year Tuesday, rejecting a bill that would’ve tied the hands of local health officials during public emergencies.
The legislation, SB 5, would have barred local health officials from issuing emergency rules that went any further than restrictions created by the state. Instead, only local legislative bodies – county commissioners or city councils – could have done that.
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Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of a bill tying the hands of local health officials during emergencies may have only postponed the inevitable.
The Indiana House and Senate will come into session Monday, May 10 for a potential veto override.
Every year, lawmakers set themselves a “technical session” day, a few weeks after their regular session ends. It allows them to come back to fix any significant technical errors with bills they just passed and consider overriding any vetoes the governor issued.
The Indiana House and Senate will use their technical session day this year after Holcomb vetoed two bills. One, SB 303, requires a new label at the pump for gasoline with 15 percent ethanol. The other, SB 5, bars local health officials from imposing emergency restrictions that go further than the state’s.
The Indiana Department of Revenue issued guidance Tuesday on how Hoosiers who got unemployment benefits last year should file taxes after weeks of the department asking people to wait due to potential legislative changes.
Hoosiers who received unemployment benefits cannot claim the $10,200 federal tax break on their state taxes. That applies even if the unemployment benefits came from one of the new federal programs started in the pandemic. It comes after the legislature passed a law linking Indiana’s tax code to some pre-pandemic language.
However, there may still be other tax deductions for out-of-work Hoosiers. The state recently issued an updated worksheet on their website to help people determine exactly what that is. For those using software to help them with state taxes, DOR is advising to make sure you’re using the most updated version or to check for instructions that add back unemployment income excluded from their federal adjusted gross income
Gov. Eric Holcomb said he will require out-of-work Hoosiers to actively search for jobs to remain on unemployment benefits.
He plans to issue an executive order in coming days. The work search requirement was waived during the pandemic.
In a statement, Holcomb also said he’s directed the Department of Workforce Development to review the demographics of unemployed Hoosiers over the last 16 months. He wants to determine if Indiana should follow other conservative states in opting out of federal unemployment programs as a way of forcing more people back into the workforce.
Some parents of online learners still have lingering concerns about sending their children back to school – specifically for in-person standardized tests – but the state says most students have already taken their federally required assessments, and there aren't consequences if they don't.
Indiana Department of Education spokesperson Holly Lawson said schools just have to take note of any students who can't take the test in person – whether it's a parent opting them out, or COVID-19 quarantine forcing them to stay home.
"Schools just need to document that locally and then continue with the assessments for the remaining students," she said.
According to IDOE, 99 percent of schools have been operating in-person in some form since the start of April, and the state has requested federal waivers for accountability and participation requirements.
Eli Lilly is joining other pharmaceutical companies working to fight the surge of COVID-19 cases in India. The country has reported almost 4,000 deaths Wednesday and is averaging over 300,000 new cases a day.
The Indianapolis-based global company is donating COVID-19 treatments to help severe cases in India and other countries struggling with the virus.
Lilly is providing three of its COVID-19 treatments found to help treat severe cases to the non-profit group Direct Relief to help low- to lower-middle-income countries that are most affected by the virus.
“In developing countries, they have different access issues in terms of just infrastructure for getting products and services to people,” said Tiffany Benjamin, Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation president. “And then the populations are large, and the need is substantial. And we just could see that something was happening, and we could not stand by without doing something to make an impact.”
The company is also donating an initial 400,000 tablets of one of the drugs, baricitinib, to India. It will be able to be used to help treat hospitalized adults with COVID-19 who require supplemental oxygen, are on a ventilator, or are on ECMO life support.