Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health said Wednesday they will distribute additional personal protective equipment to businesses and schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Indiana has 3 million masks remaining after shipping more than 1 million KN95 masks to schools, which Holcomb said is enough to give 10 masks to every teacher, administrator and staff member.
Schools are reporting low transmission of COVID-19 in the classrooms, Indiana State Health Commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, said. Some schools have only been able to separate students by three feet, but Box said this reduced spacing has not resulted in an increase of cases.
Effective Monday, the state will no longer require quarantine or contact tracing if students and teachers remain three feet apart and are wearing a mask at all times in the classroom. This does not include any other areas where students may congregate, such as in the lunchroom or at after-school activities, where the quarantine rules will still apply.
As of Wednesday, Holcomb said more than 611,000 have received their first dose of vaccine. 166,000 Indiana residents have received both doses of the vaccine while over 244,000 people have received both doses in the neighboring state of Illinois, according to an article from the Chicago Tribune. The state’s positivity rate stands at 7.7%, which decreased from last week’s rate of 8.9%.
“These changes do not mean we are out of the woods,” Box said. “We are still very limited in the number of people we can vaccinate.”
Box said Indiana receives 100,000 doses of the vaccine a week from the federal government, but still can’t vaccinate every eligible person. The Indiana State Department of Health announced Monday that the vaccine is now available to those 65 and older.
Holcomb said Indiana will continue to focus on the most vulnerable populations, which are primarily identified by age. Box previously said residents over 60 account for 64.1% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations of 93.3% of deaths.
“We are looking at the folks that are most at risk of dying or being hospitalized,” Holcomb said. “We’re trying to slow down the deaths and save lives.”
Box said a year end audit was conducted on COVID-19 deaths to identify any additional lives lost to the virus. As a result, 1,205 additional deaths were identified from 2020. The audit included death certificates that attributed COVID-19 as a cause or contributor of death, the Indiana State Department of Health’s death reporting hotline and an electronic reporting system, according to Box.
Box said Indiana will continue to encourage strict COVID-19 protocols such as wearing masks, social distancing and staying home if you feel sick. This Sunday, the Indiana State Department of Health will locally air a commercial during the Super Bowl encouraging the public to get vaccinated. Holcomb said the state spent $123,000 to air the ad and it was worth every single dollar.
“I think the message that will come across will not only be compelling, but will make a difference.” Holcomb said.
The commercial features University of Indianapolis student Will Loggan who lost his father, Paul, a high school athletic director, to COVID-19. In a behind-the-scenes video, Loggan said he wants everyone to know how great his dad was, and hopes no one has to feel the pain of losing someone the way he lost his father.
“I know a lot of people know that feeling,” Loggan said. “I want to tell people, this is serious. This vaccine will save people.”