STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Indiana officials recommend — not requiring — vaccine, masks

Indiana's top health officials made pleas Friday for people to get vaccinated and continue wearing masks as an especially contagious coronavirus variant spreads throughout the state, but they said they had no plans to reinstate statewide health mandates.

Posted: Jul 31, 2021 5:22 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's top health officials made pleas Friday for people to get vaccinated and continue wearing masks as an especially contagious coronavirus variant spreads throughout the state, but they said they had no plans to reinstate statewide health mandates.

In recent weeks, the number of new COVID-19 cases in Indiana “bounced back up” to rates comparable to a year ago, the state’s health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, said during a news conference. Although the state had well below 2,000 new confirmed cases per week in June, it is now seeing 4,000 to 6,000 cases per week.

The biggest threat is from the delta variant, which spreads more easily than previous versions of the coronavirus. Tests conducted this month on a sample of Indiana’s cases showed that as of Friday, more than 94% of them were the “highly viral” strain.

Although Box emphasized that “we have the most powerful tool available to prevent disease in the form of three highly effective vaccines,” only about 44% of Indiana’s total population, including children younger than 12 who aren’t eligible, is fully vaccinated against the virus. That lags behind the national average of 49.4% and far behind the state with the highest vaccination rate, Vermont, where more than two-thirds of the population — 67.4% — is inoculated.

Since the beginning of the month, the percentage of fully vaccinated individuals has risen somewhat in every age group, said the state health department's chief medical officer, Dr. Lindsay Weaver. The biggest increase has been among the 12- to 15-year-olds, who have gone from 17% fully vaccinated to 21%. The next highest increase has been among Hoosiers ages 16 to 19, who are now more than 34% vaccinated.

With schools returning at full capacity, Box said Indiana still doesn't have enough students who are vaccinated. She said state health officials are “strongly recommending” that every district follow the CDC’s recommendations for masking, vaccinations, contact tracing and quarantining.

But specific action plans “are local decisions now,” Box said. Although health officials are giving “strong guidance” to schools and businesses, she said Indiana “is very much a state” that feels such control “should be in the hands of the elected officials.”

“We have given Hoosiers the tools that they need, the information, the education, the ability to get vaccinated. We have provided that over and over and over again,” Box said. “We do believe that it comes down to some personal responsibility for Hoosiers across the state to make those decisions for themselves and in their own communities.”

Indianapolis' school district said Thursday that it will require all students and staff to wear masks while indoors. Purdue University issued the same rules on Friday, joining most other Indiana colleges on mask guidance but leaving vaccination optional.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said again this week that he won’t implement any new statewide restrictions, despite the COVID-19 resurgence.

He cited the surge in infections as he issued an extension Thursday of the statewide public health emergency until Aug. 30. That extension didn't reimpose any statewide face mask requirements or crowd-size limits that expired in April.

The decision came as the number of Indiana counties approaching high risk for community spread of COVID-19 nearly quadrupled in one week. The state’s new coronavirus hospitalizations for COVID-19 also rebounded this month to levels l ast seen in May.

Indiana additionally topped 14,000 presumed or confirmed coronavirus-related deaths on Friday, though Box said the rate of such deaths remains at the lowest levels since the start of the pandemic. Weaver cautioned that could change, however, noting that 96% of the state’s recoded coronavirus-related deaths have occurred in unvaccinated individuals.

“Until we increase our vaccination rates, and unless we use every tool available to us to stop the spread of disease, this virus will continue to have the advantage," Box said. “It will continue to mutate, and we will be constantly playing whack a mole for the foreseeable future.”

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

West Lafayette
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Kokomo
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 61°
Rensselaer
Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 59°
Fowler
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 61°
Williamsport
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 69° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 61°
Crawfordsville
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 61°
Frankfort
Cloudy
61° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 60°
Feels Like: 61°
Delphi
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 60°
Monticello
Cloudy
60° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 60°
Logansport
Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: °
More welcome rainfall ahead...
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 934586

Reported Deaths: 15157
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1272871967
Lake629921090
Allen53252749
Hamilton43603446
St. Joseph41729586
Elkhart33340488
Vanderburgh30183442
Tippecanoe26738247
Johnson23466416
Hendricks22102340
Porter21573342
Clark17306227
Madison17213380
Vigo15991274
Monroe14404190
LaPorte14238237
Delaware13977219
Howard13772267
Kosciusko11310135
Hancock10749161
Warrick10616176
Bartholomew10461167
Floyd10375203
Wayne9848219
Grant9017200
Morgan8813159
Boone8351109
Dubois7647123
Henry7536129
Dearborn751787
Noble7369101
Marshall7314128
Cass7140117
Lawrence6913152
Shelby6526108
Jackson651884
Gibson6101106
Harrison601185
Huntington596192
Montgomery5756102
DeKalb568591
Knox5398104
Miami536684
Putnam532067
Clinton530965
Whitley520951
Steuben492867
Wabash480592
Jasper475561
Jefferson466291
Ripley451175
Adams441765
Daviess4105107
Scott400764
White388757
Clay387156
Greene385689
Decatur383496
Wells381683
Fayette371976
Posey358041
Jennings350356
Washington329747
LaGrange318775
Spencer315535
Fountain312354
Randolph309487
Sullivan304047
Owen282461
Starke276662
Orange274459
Fulton274253
Jay253034
Perry249352
Carroll242427
Franklin236737
Vermillion231450
Rush231330
Parke217720
Tipton208355
Pike204538
Blackford167434
Pulaski161751
Crawford144818
Newton142044
Benton141616
Brown133346
Martin127716
Switzerland124810
Warren114116
Union95511
Ohio78111
Unassigned0473

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events