October 18, 2021

Coronavirus: Questions linger for Biden vaccine rules, student COVID-19 cases continue decline

With too many unvaccinated and too many cases, experts say it’s too soon to call COVID-19 endemic.  - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

With too many unvaccinated and too many cases, experts say it’s too soon to call COVID-19 endemic.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Student COVID-19 cases are dropping, in line with statewide declines. At the same time, businesses and workers have questions about how Indiana’s government will respond to the new Biden administration vaccine rule. And experts say it’s too soon to call COVID-19 "endemic."

THE DATA

Indiana added 14,009 new cases in the last seven days – putting the state back to early August numbers. 

Hospitalizations have also improved significantly: the state’s hospital census reached its delta peak at 2,676 on Sept. 10. The most recent census dropped to 1,599.

Deaths are also starting to drop. The state added 244 deaths to its total in the last week, and is averaging about 26 deaths per day – down from September’s average of 38. 

THE HEADLINES

Indiana's latest COVID-19 update shows further decline in newly reported school cases

The number of reported COVID-19 cases in Hoosier schools has been declining in recent weeks.

Indiana saw an explosive number of COVID-19 cases reported in schools as many kicked off the new academic year without requiring masks. But since a peak around Labor Day, Hoosier schools have reported fewer new cases each week. 

Indiana's latest COVID-19 dashboard update shows 2,359 newly reported student cases, with 1,859 of those from the past week. That's a significant drop in new cases compared to the start of the school year; Hoosier schools reported 1,759 new student cases on Aug. 30 alone.

Questions linger as employers and workers wait for Biden's new vaccine rules

Employers are waiting for details on President Joe Biden’s promised rule instructing employers with more than 100 workers to require vaccinations or testing. Businesses and workers have questions on how Indiana’s government will respond when the rule comes.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration programs can be run either by the federal government, or as a state agency. Indiana’s OSHA office is operated by the state’s Department of Labor. It will be charged with enforcing the new rule, although labor unions have long said the agency is routinely underfunded.

It’s unclear if states like Indiana will immediately adopt the standard if it's challenged in court. Attorney General Todd Rokita has promised he will sue when it’s implemented, along with several other Republican governors.

Too soon to call COVID-19 endemic, experts say

After a year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts believe we’re still a way off from endemic.

Endemic is a term used for a disease that is normally seen in a population, said Shandy Dearth from the Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health. A pandemic is an epidemic of an infectious disease spread internationally.

Dearth said endemic viruses are a lower level of concern— much like norovirus or the seasonal flu.

But she said right now it is too soon to call COVID-19 endemic.

“We still have a much higher fatality rate with this disease and many other diseases that are endemic,” she said. “And just saying that something is endemic, kind of creates a sense of complacency.“

Eviction courts are ‘insane’ as new and old filings pile up

Tenant advocates say eviction courts have been “insane” as both old and new filings begin to move through Indiana courts. 

An estimated 64,000 eviction cases have been filed in the state since the start of the pandemic, with roughly 6,000 filed just since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moratorium was struck down in August. 

Brandon Beeler is a tenant advocate with Indiana Legal Services. He said dockets in Marion County, where he works, have been packed.

“The eviction courts are insane this month because again, so many cases have been pushed to this month, plus just the filings,” he said. “Not only do we have new filings, but we also have a big load of cases that were continued in October.”

Beeler said he feels in the sessions he’s watched, it appears landlords are less interested in accepting payment agreements than they were even a month ago. 

Camp Atterbury says most eligible evacuees have been vaccinated against COVID-19

Camp officials recently completed a campaign to vaccinate over 6,100 evacuees against measles, mumps, rubella and chickenpox.

Part of that process has been making sure evacuees are up-to-date on their vaccines, since many are from rural areas of Afghanistan.

Flu vaccinations will begin this weekend, as will second doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Navy Captain Dr. Luke Zabrocki said “nearly 100 percent” of those who are eligible have received a COVID-19 shot.

Nearly 400 Afghan evacuees arrived at Camp Atterbury over the weekend: 150 were expected to arrive Thursday, and another 100-plus are expected in the next four days.

They’ll spend the next few weeks getting processed at the base before outside organizations can begin work settling them across the U.S.

Court says Indiana could end unemployment benefits early, but it's too late to matter now

An Indiana court said this week the state did have the authority to end federal unemployment benefits before an end date set by Congress. But it’s too late to affect unemployed Hoosiers, coming nearly a month after benefits ended nationwide.

Federal unemployment benefits were set to expire in September. Earlier this year, Indiana officials tried to end them early. Then, a Marion County judge issued an order forcing the state to restart the COVID-19 relief programs.

Now, the Indiana Court of Appeals has decided the lower court “abused its discretion” and lifted the temporary injunction.

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

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Annual Indiana Chamber survey: Employers struggle to find enough qualified workers

Hoosier businesses are back to dealing with the issues that were top of mind prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The annual Indiana Chamber of Commerce survey shows more than half say they are unable to find enough qualified workers. 

In the latest Indiana Chamber employer workforce survey, 72 percent of businesses in Indiana told the chamber the supply of applicants does not meet their needs, up from 50 percent last year.

Jason Bearce is the chamber’s vice president of education and workforce development. He said businesses can no longer avoid addressing external factors including child care, housing and transportation.

“Increasingly, I think employers are recognizing that one, they have to, they have to market their community and what the community has to offer as much as they're marketing their individual business,” said Bearce. “But also these kind of wraparound type supports – that historically have not really been considered to be the employer's role – are at least part of the consideration employees are making when they think about, you know, where to work.”

Bearce said to attract and retain workers, businesses have to become more creative and not wait for the perfect candidate to walk through the door.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

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