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Coronavirus: IU Health requests National Guard help, student cases on the rise again

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Justin Hicks / IPB News
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Indiana University Health Hospitals request help from the Indiana National Guard. Along with the increase in statewide cases, student COVID-19 cases are also on the rise. And U.S. Sen. Mike Braun says he largely opposes bans on private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

THE DATA

Indiana has reported more than 3,000 new daily cases for 11 consecutive days. In the last week, the state has reported 32,646 new cases, averaging 4,663.7 per day. 

For context, this is the first time Indiana has reported more than 30,000 cases in a single week since mid-January.

Hospitalizations are also following that meteoric climb – the state’s hospital census has grown by 136.97 percent since Nov. 7. There are currently 2,865 Hoosiers hospitalized due to COVID-19.

The Indiana Department of Health reported 283 new deaths in the last week.

THE NEW CASES

IU Health Hospitals ask for help from National Guard as COVID-19 hospitalizations increase

Indiana University Health Hospitals are requesting help from the Indiana National Guard to fill treatment, administrative, and logistical needs, according to an IU Health spokesperson. 

The request for help comes as hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases increase across the state.

The first national guard team arrived in Muncie Wednesday, and other IU Health hospitals are expecting them in the coming days.

READ MORE: How is Indiana distributing COVID-19 vaccines? Here's what you need to know

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues.

IU Health Arnett in Lafayette reported that a National Guard team will start there on Monday, Dec. 13.

Dr. Chris Weaver is the chief clinical officer for IU Health. He said IU Health currently has more than 430 COVID-19 patients across its system – 65 were admitted in the last week.

Weaver said most of these patients are unvaccinated.

Newly reported COVID-19 cases in schools are on the rise – again

Newly reported COVID-19 cases among students in Indiana's K-12 schools are once again on the rise.

Hoosier schools reported more than 1,419 new student COVID-19 cases in a single day last week, part of a total of 4,321 newly reported cases included in the state's latest school dashboard update. That's the highest daily total since early September. 

The increase in student cases mirrors Indiana's overall climb in new cases, which set 2021 records last week. The state has reported more than 3,000 new cases each day for the last 10.

Just this semester, schools have reported 52,986 cases of student COVID-19 – compared to 35,781 reported all of last school year.

VACCINE MANDATES AND EXEMPTIONS

Faith, medicine and COVID-19: Why do religious vaccine exemptions exist?

Many employees are turning to religious exemptions as vaccine mandates become more common in workplaces. Exemptions are federally protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But what is the history of these exemptions and what are the consequences?

Imam Ahmed Alamine frequently speaks to his mosque in Indianapolis about getting vaccinated. In fact, he’s trying to set up a clinic at the mosque to make it easier to do so. For him, getting people vaccinated is just as much about faith as it is personal. He had COVID-19 in April 2020.

“I–my experience with malaria was horrible. But COVID was worse,” Alamine said. “I never thought–every day that passed by or night, I would just assume that would be my last day or night. When I was asked to compare it to malaria, I would say it’s double or triple malaria.”

With more people pushing for broader exemptions, he said all faith traditions should encourage vaccines.

“We have to use the faith to save people’s lives. We should not use faith to destruct humanity, to cause harm to humanity,” he said. “If you don’t want to take vaccine, that’s your choice. But please do not use faith as a weapon.”

U.S. Senator Braun largely opposes bans on private employer COVID-19 vaccine mandates

U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) said he doesn’t support government mandates around the COVID-19 vaccine – including efforts to stop companies from requiring it.

Braun is currently leading a bipartisan fight in Congress to halt President Joe Biden’s rule that would force companies with at least 100 employees to either get their workers vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.

READ MORE: What laws say about religious exemptions and how Indiana lawmakers could change them

The GOP senator said he thinks the cost of losing employees outweighs the benefits of getting more people vaccinated against a virus that’s still killing about two dozen Hoosiers a day.

“Because we’ve been spending trillions of dollars to get businesses to keep their employees through this whole venture,” Braun said.

THE HEADLINES

If child tax credit payments end, 175K Hoosier kids at risk of slipping back, deeper into poverty

Roughly 175,000 Hoosier children under the age of 18 are at risk of slipping back into poverty or deeper into poverty if the expanded federal child tax credit ends after December. That’s according to a new report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. The study also estimated about 92 percent of children under 18 in Indiana would lose out on the expanded benefits, if the monthly payments end.

Advocates urge Congress to pass the Build Back Better bill that would preserve the expanded tax credit into 2022 and help keep children out of poverty.

The proposed legislation not only continues the current advance child tax credit payments – which was signed into law last spring – but also keeps families that did not qualify in the past a part of the expanded program. 

Indiana survey shows many Hoosiers are thinking about getting new jobs

One in four Hoosiers are keeping their eyes open for new jobs, even though they feel confident about their current job security. And more than half of workers who weren’t satisfied with their pay plan on finding new jobs in the next year.

Those estimates are from a recent survey of about 600 workers conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber said it’s evidence that many workers have more negotiating power now than before the pandemic.

Jason Bearce is vice president for education and workforce development at the Indiana Chamber. He said the survey results should cause employers to think about offering perks in housing, transportation and child care – not just higher pay – to attract and keep workers.

“The old way of doing things isn’t effective anymore and this new normal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” he said.

During the first year of the pandemic, Boone County saw huge growth in filled jobs

During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boone County — just northwest of Indianapolis — saw the highest percent growth in jobs of anywhere in the state. That’s even as 84 of Indiana's 92 counties hemorrhaged jobs due to economic uncertainty. 

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages shows that between March 2020 and March 2021, the county filled 3,500 jobs — growing by more than 10 percent. Even the runner up, Elkhart County, only saw 3.5 percent growth in jobs thanks to an increased demand for recreational vehicles. However, Elkhart County did add a larger raw number of jobs.

The QCEW is different from local unemployment rates. The employment census measures the numbers of jobs, not workers, disclosed by businesses on quarterly reports. Local unemployment rates are calculated via a monthly phone survey to extrapolate how many people are currently working or looking for work, irrespective of jobs.

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