Indiana business and hospital leaders called on unvaccinated people to get the shot after the state topped more than 3,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations this week.
That’s the highest number since last December. And along with that, only 13 percent of the state’s ICU beds remain available.
Those numbers are affecting health care and businesses around the state.
“We’re here today to urge everyone into action, because we need the health care system to be here, not just for those with COVID, but to support all healthcare needs,” said Brian Tabor, the head of the Indiana Hospital Association.
That call to action includes getting vaccinated. COVID hospitalizations are up 149 percent since the middle of November. And 90 percent of those hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated.
“This is really requiring a lot of innovation nimbleness on the part of the members to do everything they can to find spaces to treat patients, in hallways, conference rooms, anywhere they can,” Tabor said. “We have a dwindling number of Intensive Care Unit beds available across the state.”
Hospital beds are getting hard to come by.
Dan McCormick, the CEO of Franciscan Health in Crown Point, said his hospital has been in crisis mode since Thanksgiving. He said 25 patients had to wait in the emergency room this week to get hospital beds and 50 to 60 patients were waiting just to be seen.
“We have seen essentially 90 percent of our patients are unvaccinated (and) coming in with COVID with severe illness,” McCormick said. “The 10 percent that are vaccinated are typically not boosted. Our ICU is full, 50 percent of which are COVID patients.”
McCormick implored those unvaccinated to get the vaccine.
“No matter what you believe regarding vaccinations, one thing is true: vaccinated people do better than unvaccinated people when they contract the virus,” he said.
Businesses have been feeling pandemic effects for nearly two years. Employees who get sick or test positive are removed from the workforce, creating labor shortages and affecting the supply chain.
“Manufacturers that I’ve spoken to have had to cut down production because so many employees are out with COVID,” said Kevin Brinegar, the head of the Indiana Chamber. “And they’re having supply problems because their suppliers are experiencing the same thing.”
Brinegar said the Chamber’s position is that employers should be the ones deciding whether to require vaccines, not the government.
“We do not support the mandates from the federal government nor interference and legislation from the General Assembly that would impact or discourage employers from having vaccination requirements in their workplaces,” Brinegar said.
But with just over half the state vaccinated, overcoming hesitancy remains a problem. Brinegar says continuing to push numbers and education is the best way to overcome that because “if you’re not vaccinated, you’re playing Russian roulette with your life.”