Coronavirus: School Disruptions Rise, New COVID-19 Cases Top 3,000 In A Day
The Indiana Department of Health reports more than 300 COVID-19 cases early in the school year. The state surpasses 3 million fully vaccinated, as new cases surpass 3,000 in a day for the first time since January. Gov. Eric Holcomb maintains that he will not reimpose restrictions.
The Indiana Department of Health stopped updating its COVID-19 data on Saturdays and Sundays at the end of June. But from Aug. 6 to Aug. 12, the state reported more than 15,000 new cases – averaging more than 2,200 new cases each day.
While June averaged about 284 new cases per day, July grew to more than 600. August, so far, has averaged more than 1,900 new cases per day.
The Indiana Department of Health reported more than 3,000 new COVID-19 cases Thursday. This is the first time since late-January – the beginning of Indiana’s vaccine rollout – the state has reported this many cases in a single day.
IDOH reports the vast majority of sampled cases are the more infectious delta variant – at more than 80 percent.
But Indiana also reached a different milestone this week: 3 million fully vaccinated.
There’s been a slight – though not insignificant – increase in new vaccinations over the last several weeks.
Indiana continues to lag behind our immediate neighbors – with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting nearly 44.9 percent of Indiana’s total population fully vaccinated.
That compares to 46.4 percent in Kentucky, 47.1 percent in Ohio, and 49.4 percent in Michigan and Illinois.
THE STATE’S RESPONSE
Gov. Eric Holcomb remains clear – he will not reimpose any statewide COVID-19 restrictions. That’s as the state and country are in the midst of a new wave of worsening COVID-19 conditions.
Indiana is reporting more cases per day of COVID-19 than any time since January, when the state’s vaccine rollout began. In the past week alone, the seven-day average number of Hoosiers in hospitals with COVID-19 has jumped nearly 30 percent.
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Holcomb refuses to reimpose any statewide restrictions. Instead, he said his answer remains the same as it’s been for months: just get vaccinated.
“I want folks to understand that they have access to not ending up in the hospital or worse,” Holcomb said.
Holcomb said he’ll continue to monitor health care capacity, ensuring Hoosiers are able to access treatment.
THE EFFECT ON SCHOOLS
Indiana schools are reporting hundreds of new student cases of COVID-19 – with some only days into a new academic year. And it's disrupting classrooms and extracurricular activities across the state.
According to the Indiana Department of Health's COVID-19 dashboard, Hoosier schools have reported more than 300 new cases in the last week alone.
In Anderson, entire classrooms of elementary school students have been forced to quarantine, and in southern Indiana, a high school football game was canceled because of the number of players in quarantine.
The governor and state department of health are strongly recommending people get vaccinated and mask up. But both have recently said the state has no plans for a new mask order, and are leaving it to local health departments and school boards to decide what COVID-19 mitigation measures to take up in their communities.
The Tippecanoe School Corporation’s optional mask policy for students remained in place after the school board heard hours of public comment from a packed room of parents at a board meeting Wednesday.
Many parents spoke in favor of the board's decision, noting that the first day of school felt normal without masks. A group of TSC parents even wore matching blue t-shirts with the word “freedom” placed over the word “fear.”
But, while last week's board meeting was largely made up of parents opposed to masking, Wednesday night's meeting was attended by an equal number of parents in favor of a mandate.
Michael Childress has three children in the TSC system. He said not many children die from COVID-19.
“But some do. But some do. What’s the price of one child’s life? I think wearing a mask is a small price to pay,” he said. “I came out tonight because the decision not to impose a mask mandate in schools right now is capricious, it’s foolhardy, and it’s gambling with our children’s lives.”
Students learning primarily in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic last school year benefitted from face-to-face instruction, according to a new analysis of state data shared with the Indiana State Board of Education Wednesday.
State data shows nearly 80 percent of Indiana schools had more than half of their kids learning in-person last school year. The state's analysis of instructional mode and assessment data suggests students going to school remotely didn't make academic progress at the same rate as their in-person peers.
Education Secretary Katie Jenner said it makes clear that students need to be in classrooms.
"So the spoiler alert, in really simple terms, is: in-person instruction really, really, really matters," she said.
The information comes as some kids in the state return to virtual instruction because of new COVID-19 outbreaks forcing schools to go remote – including an entire school district in Scott County and a Brown County elementary school.
An entire school district in southern Indiana has gone virtual until later this month because of an outbreak of COVID-19 cases. It's one of several areas experiencing disruptions caused by COVID-19 cases found in schools as a new academic year begins.
Scott County School District 1 went virtual just one week into the new school year, citing an explosive outbreak of COVID-19 cases among students.
Superintendent Trevor Jones said about 2 percent of the total student population tested positive, forcing a little more than 40 percent of the district's entire student population to quarantine.
"To give you an idea: we have a little over 300 kids in our middle school, and 130 were in quarantine," he said.
At the elementary school, he said, they had more cases in the first week than they did all of last school year.
In a surprise to many, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new eviction moratorium Aug. 3, targeting areas of the country that are at higher risk for spread of COVID-19.
Many legal experts – including, before Aug. 3, the Biden administration – questioned the legality of any new eviction moratorium from the CDC.
But as long as it’s in effect, it covers counties with significant or high spread of the virus, as determined by the CDC. That information is updated daily – and covers all counties in Indiana.
The trend towards youth apprenticeships in Indiana is continuing despite challenges from the pandemic as a program in northern Indiana recently received $500,000 to continue paid career training for high schoolers.
CareerWise Elkhart County was the first modern youth apprenticeship program in the state, launched in 2019. This fall, students in Indianapolis will also start paid apprenticeships while completing high school.
Both place 11th graders with paid jobs at local companies. They spend roughly half the week working at a local company and learning career skills instead of traditional school.
The U.S. Department of Education has approved Indiana’s plan outlining how the state is using the latest round of federal COVID-19 relief funding. Officials announced approval of Indiana’s plan alongside a handful of other states Thursday.
States are required to receive federal approval before accessing the full amount of the American Rescue Plan’s Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief – or ESSER – funding. The plans outline how states are using, and intend to use, federal relief to safely open schools and provide more opportunities for students impacted by the pandemic.
The approval does not change the timeline for Hoosier schools to use federal funds to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. USDOE already released two-thirds of the latest ESSER funding to states earlier this year.