The Indiana Department of Health reported 90 additional confirmed deaths over the last week – the fewest reported in a single week since Indiana moved to Stage 5 of its reopening plan on Sept. 26. That brings the state’s total to 12,536 confirmed deaths. The state also reported more than 5,000 new cases in the last week.
Indiana has administered 1,434,023 initial vaccine doses, with 948,555 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.
Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.
Hoosiers 40 and older can register for appointments to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, starting Monday. The Indiana Department of Health’s announcement Saturday is the fourth expansion by age this month.
If you or a loved one falls into that age group, you can register at OurShot.in.gov. If you’re in need of assistance, you can call 211. About 70 public libraries, AARP and Indiana’s Area Agencies on Aging may also be able to help with registration.
The state opened registration to Hoosiers 45 and older on March 16.
Indiana nursing homes should be open to visitors, with very few exceptions, according to new guidance from the federal government.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said directives from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services order nursing homes to allow visits at all times.
“These visits can occur in single occupancy rooms but are still discouraged for residents in double occupancy rooms,” Box said.
Box said physical touch, like hugging, is allowed for nursing home residents, as long as they wear a mask and wash their hands both before and after. And facilities generally must allow visits of up to two hours.
Indiana has begun to lag other states in getting people vaccinated for COVID-19 - and officials say that’s in part because the state isn’t getting as many doses.
Neighboring states have begun to open vaccine eligibility to all age groups. State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said the state is working to open eligibility to all by May 1, the target date set by the Biden administration.
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only six states have received fewer doses per 100,000 people. Indiana is 17th in the country in population.
But Box said the federal government has indicated things should be looking up soon.
Six referees who were supposed to officiate the Men’s Division I Basketball championships in Indiana have been removed following a positive COVID-19 test.
One of the six officials was reported to have tested positive, but the NCAA said in a statement that the other five interacted with the individual for a prolonged amount of time and must quarantine.
The risk of exposure makes them unable to participate in the upcoming games.
Gen Con will be returning to Indianapolis this year about a month later than usual.
The tabletop gaming convention over the last few years has drawn in about 70,000 people to downtown Indianapolis for several days in August.
The in-person convention will be pushed to mid-September, running from Sept. 16-19, with a lower attendance cap. Officials have not given a specific number just yet. There will be a livestream and online gaming as well as events at local game stores as a part of the Pop-Up Gen Con program for those who are unable or choose to not come to Indy.
The Indiana General Assembly has approved full funding for schools operating virtually because of COVID-19.
The Senate approved the final form of Senate Bill 2 Tuesday, after lawmakers in the House gave their final approval on the legislation earlier this month.
The fix comes after concerns schools would lose state funding for students who have been forced online because of the pandemic.
It's similar to a change made by the State Board of Education in the fall, and now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature.
Democrats in Congress passed the American Rescue Plan earlier this month, earmarking more than $122 billion for emergency school relief. Roughly $2 billion will be made available for Hoosier public schools, with another estimated $81 million available for nonpublic schools.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, Indiana is expected to receive $1,994,734,056 through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
At least 20 percent of those funds must be used on so-called “learning loss,” and school leaders are in the midst of sorting out how to use the massive – but temporary – influx of cash.
Indiana’s unemployment rate continued to fall in January, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It dropped almost half a percent to reach 4.2 percent for the month.
However the federal agency and economists continue to note that uncertainty in employment caused by COVID-19 could mean the rate is actually a little higher.
The Indiana Department of Workforce Development reports Leisure and Hospitality and Manufacturing sectors added workers in January, while there was a slight decrease in business and financial jobs.
Senate lawmakers dramatically scaled back a plan to restrict the governor’s emergency powers, used extensively during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate’s original proposal would have blocked the governor from declaring a public emergency for more than 60 days.
But the language approved by a Senate committee Thursday in HB 1123 allows the legislative council – a panel of legislative leaders – to call the General Assembly into a special session during an emergency.
There are still concerns the legislation is unconstitutional. It's unclear whether lawmakers can call themselves into special session.
After quickly grinding to a halt last spring, officials say Indiana’s hotels and restaurants are slowly recovering.
It’s estimated hotels in the state lost 45 percent in total sales last year. Hoosier restaurants also faced losses and are still below pre-pandemic levels. But Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, said Indiana is the top state in the Midwest in sales and revenue.
He said Indiana’s hospitality industry has been recovering better than the rest of the country, but still has a ways to go.
Indiana senators are considering a second COVID-19 liability bill aiming to further protect medical providers from lawsuits more than a month after passing through the House.
House Bill 1002 would broaden protections for medical providers beyond the legislation already signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb in February.
Except in a case with evidence of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct, people would be unable to file a lawsuit due to issues claimed to have arisen from COVID-19, including staffing shortages and care provided outside of one’s area of expertise or specialty.