Lawmakers aim to address nursing shortages. Indiana surpasses 21,000 dead. And statewide COVID-19 cases continue to drop.
Indiana reported less than half as many COVID-19 cases last week compared to the week before. The state reported 42,901 new cases from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3. In the last seven days, Indiana reported 17,257 new cases. It’s the second week in a row Indiana has seen exponential statewide declines in new cases.
Alongside that decline in cases, hospitalizations are also continuing to fall. With Friday’s dashboard update, the Indiana Department of Health reported fewer than 2,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations in its census – the first time it’s been this low since Nov. 26.
In the last week, IDOH added 404 new deaths to its total. Indiana surpassed 21,000 dead on Tuesday, reporting 1,000 cases in just two weeks. For context, the state’s current confirmed COVID-19 death toll is larger than the populations of 25 counties.
After a brief reprieve from the state’s late-summer delta surge, November 2021’s average was 28.9 deaths per day. December 2021 climbed to 55.5. January, so far, stands at 63.1 deaths per day – a number which is still growing as it takes a little longer to report confirmed deaths.
January 2022 also reported two days with more than 80 confirmed deaths. Single-day death totals had not been that high for a year.
Health care providers say Indiana has a nursing shortage crisis, made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic. Legislation that cleared a Senate committee Wednesday seeks to help solve that issue.
But there’s stark disagreement about whether the bill weakens standards too much to reach its goal.
The legislation, HB 1003, allows nursing programs to make several changes. Current state policy limits how much they can increase enrollment – those limitations would be relaxed for programs with high passing rates. It also allows nursing programs to substitute some clinical training – working directly with patients – with simulation hours. And it allows two-year nursing programs to use predominantly part-time faculty, rather than full-time.
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The Elkhart-Goshen metropolitan area has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Other areas in Indiana also have a historically very low level of jobless workers.
Each month, the Bureau of Labor statistics puts out unemployment estimates for Metropolitan Statistical Areas, or MSAs. In December, Elkhart’s MSA was calculated to have an unemployment rate of just 0.9 percent. Throughout the pandemic, employment has thrived in local manufacturing plants, mainly due to record sales of recreational vehicles.
Indiana's Commissioner for Higher Education gave her final annual address Tuesday, touting the state’s successes, as well as the need for more affordable, accessible and valuable education for students.
Teresa Lubbers said the state is working to better understand why enrollment is declining – especially among men, Black and Hispanic Hoosiers. But for now, she said it's crucial for schools to embrace pandemic-spurred flexibility and reduce costs for students.
Lubbers is leaving the commission after the legislative session.