What we learned from Wednesday’s press conference
Indiana health officials held a COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday, just a day after the state has exceeded 15,000 total deaths due to the pandemic.
State Health Commissioner Dr Kris Box and Chief Medical Officer Dr Lindsay Weaver discussed the declining trends of COVID-19 in the state and the availability of booster shots, such as recommended by the CDC for many populations.
Box and Weaver spoke from the IndyCar parking lot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is offering PCR and COVID-19 antigen testing, COVID-19 vaccinations and influenza vaccines. The clinic is open from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday until October 30.
Here’s what else we learned:
- The number of COVID-19 cases statewide has declined for the third week in a row, matching the general trend across the country.
- The statewide positivity rate fell below 10% for the first time in weeks.
- “We don’t think these declines are linear. We can see cases rebound and rebound, ”Box said,“ That’s the nature of this disease. But the overall three-week drop is “certainly a cause for optimism,” she said.
- Since schools have put in place mask warrants and offered non-quarantine options,Authorities are seeing a decrease in the number of close contacts quarantined, a drop in the number of cases in schools, more schools reporting COVID-19 data and more in-person school instructions.
- COVID-19 hospitalizations statewide have declined slightly, but hospitals “continue to be stressed. Many hospitals are still in disarray for their emergency departments and intensive care units.
- Some hospitals are receive assistance from the Indiana National Guard, including Ascension Health St Vincent on 86th Street, Deaconness Midtown and Deaconess Hospitals in Evansville, and Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville. Another team will soon be deployed to Methodist South Lake and North Lake in northwest Indiana, Box said.
- 95% of hospitalized Hoosiers are not vaccinated. For example, Box said, of the 315 patients who were in intensive care as of September 5, only nine were fully immunized.
- Authorities continue to be concerned that pregnant women are infected with COVID-19. The disease has been found to be more serious for pregnant people, Box said, with an intensive care hospitalization rate twice that of non-pregnant people. The disease also increases the risk of poor pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth and premature birth.
- There is no evidence-based study that the COVID-19 vaccine decreases a man’s or a woman’s fertility, Box said.
- The state is making COVID-19 booster injections available for those under the latest CDC guidelines, says Weaver. Pfizer booster vaccine is authorized for the following populations:
- Hoosiers aged 65 and over
- Hoosiers aged 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions
- Hoosiers 18-49 with underlying medical conditions, depending on individual risk and benefit
- Hoosiers aged 18 and over who present a risk of exposure due to their work and institutional environment, including healthcare workers, first responders and teachers.
- “We have sufficient Pfizer supply” for the booster injections, said Weaver. You do not need an appointment to receive a reminder, if you are in the applicable populations. 1.6 million people aged 18 and over have received the Pfizer vaccine.
- More than 35,000 Hoosiers aged 18 and over have received a third dose of Pfizer vaccine. This includes both immunocompromised third dose recipients and booster dose recipients.
- 56% of eligible Hoosiers are fully vaccinated to date. About 10,000 doses of the vaccine are given every day in Indiana, Weaver said. This means that 5,000 to 6,000 Hoosiers are fully vaccinated each day. This rate means that it could be “well over a year before reaching sufficient immunization levels to provide strong protection to the population as a whole”.
- Only 1/3 of all eligible children ages 12 to 15 are vaccinated statewide. Weaver said the health department is communicating with school nurses and pediatricians “to give them leads” on how to talk to families and share the importance of getting children immunized.
- Authorities have also stressed the importance of protecting yourself during flu season. “Remember to get your flu shot,” Weaver said. Both vaccines are safe to receive at the same time, Box and Weaver said.
- Since the IMS testing and vaccine site opened last week, more than 120 Hoosiers have received both their COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. The clinic offers all three COVID-19 vaccines and Spanish and ASL interpreters are available on site.
IndyStar’s Shari Rudavsky contributed to this report.