Indiana surpasses 900,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. State data debunks a COVID-19 hospitalization myth. And more hospitals are reporting they are “in crisis mode.”
In just four weeks, Indiana reported more than 100,000 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, driving its total beyond 900,000. The state has averaged 3,976 new cases per day in September, after reaching a pandemic low in June of 282. That average is also higher than August's, which reached an average 2,899 new cases per day.
In the last seven days, the state has reported nearly 27,000 new cases.
The state's deaths have also grown. Since Sept. 1, the state has added 537 new deaths to its total, averaging nearly 30 deaths per day.
IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital in Muncie is “in full crisis mode.” Its affiliate hospitals in Jay and Blackford counties are in the same situation. The reason: COVID-19 and its delta variant infecting, for the most part, unvaccinated people.
Dr. Jeffrey Bird, the president of IU Health East Central Region, said COVID-19 is at its worst ever. On Tuesday, IU Health Ball was treating 104 COVID-19 positive patients. These patients, Bird said, occupy approximately 40 percent of the hospital's beds.
“About 90-95 percent of our in-patient admissions are in unvaccinated patients,” he said. “It is all unvaccinated people who are dying, and who are needing intensive care and the ventilator.”
During last winter's surge, Bird said the highest COVID-19 bed occupancy was 90. He said hospital staffers thought it could not get any worse than that.
After an unpaid two-week suspension period – which ended Tuesday – 125 IU Health employees chose not to get vaccinated and left the organization, according to an IU Health spokesperson.
The spokesperson said in an email that the 125 employees that left make up the equivalent of 61 full-time workers.
They said Sept. 2, 97 percent of the hospital system's more than 34,000 person staff was fully vaccinated. At that time, fewer than 300 people had been suspended.
Child care providers from across the state gathered in Indianapolis Thursday to discuss how best to use a massive influx of pandemic relief funding aimed at early childhood education.
Staffing problems and capacity needs remain top of mind for many of them.
According to Early Learning Indiana, more than $1 billion in federal COVID-19 relief is coming to Indiana specifically for child care – an amount providers likely won't see again.
Adrienne Johnson owns a child care center in Indianapolis. She said her vision is to expand; she's considering buying the plaza space surrounding her center.
"It is for sale, so I'm like, this is a prime opportunity for us to buy the whole thing – there's no reason that we can't," Johnson said.
Indiana is seeking input on a new tool to better show how schools prepare students for life after high school.
The Indiana State Board of Education is in the process of developing a new school performance data dashboard, after lawmakers approved legislation to create it earlier this year.
The new school performance dashboard has to include some traditional data points, like test scores and graduation rates, but will also focus on students' progress as they develop other skills in K-12 schools.
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Bluffton High School Principal Steve Baker has been involved in meetings with the state to figure out how to integrate different student skills with school performance data. He said it will be a challenge figuring out how to measure some of those, but a worthwhile one.
"Those are things that I think are just at this point more important than a test score," he said.
Per a draft proposal shared at this month's board meeting, the state is considering how to track and monitor things like a student's grit and resilience; communication and collaboration skills; as well as civic, financial, and digital literacy. The student skills officials decide to focus on will ultimately help determine what data goes into the state dashboard.
A new piece of COVID-19 misinformation claims that most of the summer surge of hospitalizations are actually people who aren't really sick.
The claim is based on a study that tested whether COVID-19 hospitalizations were a valid marker of the severity of illness. Using hospitalization data from VA hospitals across the country, it found that nearly 50 percent of veterans admitted for COVID-19 weren't severely ill.
An Atlantic article making the rounds suggests that data can be extrapolated nationwide. But that's not how Indiana's data plays out.
Indiana's August unemployment rate remained stuck at 4.1 percent for the third month in a row. The state lost both employed and unemployed workers from the total labor force as thousands of jobs remain unfilled.
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the state lost more than 6,000 jobs combined in manufacturing and leisure and hospitality last month. That's as COVID-19 infection rates grew exponentially due to the spread of the delta variant.
Rachel Blakeman, director of the Community Research Institute at Purdue University Fort Wayne, said a month-to-month comparison of numbers may seem lackluster, but Indiana's come a long way since last August.