Indiana’s COVID-19 cases are slowly declining as experts say the U.S. has hit its peak for the delta variant. The state is opening booster shots to certain groups of Hoosiers who received the Pfizer vaccine. And a new study out of the University of Notre Dame says Black and Brown communities saw disproportionately high non-COVID deaths in 2020.
The Indiana Department of Health reported its fewest number of new COVID-19 cases since mid-August, still adding more than 22,000.
But while cases and hospitalizations are declining, deaths continue to climb. The state averaged four deaths per day in July. It’s averaging about 33 deaths per day in September. Since Sept. 1, Indiana has added 783 deaths to its total, with 684 reported during the month.
The Indiana Department of Health announced Friday Pfizer booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine are now available for certain groups of Hoosiers.
This follows new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention after an expansion of Pfizer’s emergency use authorization for booster shots by the Food and Drug Administration.
Previously, the FDA and CDC had approved third doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for immunocompromised Hoosiers, which became available in late August.
To find a site with Pfizer vaccines and sign up for a booster dose, go to OurShot.IN.gov or call 211. Pfizer vaccine sites on the state’s map are designated as PVAX.
The Indiana House dismissed an attempt by one lawmaker this week to ban any COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the state. But that likely won’t be the last time this issue comes up in the General Assembly.
Rep. John Jacob (R-Indianapolis) tried to introduce an amendment to the redistricting bill that would bar anyone from imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that includes negative consequences – such as being fired, fined or banned from a facility.
House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) has said repeatedly that lawmakers’ current work at the Statehouse is solely on redistricting. So, any legislative action on vaccine mandate bans shouldn’t come until next session.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona praised the efforts of educators and focused on the importance of masks to keep schools open as he visited classrooms in northern Indiana Wednesday. The stops in Elkhart and South Bend were part of a multi-state bus tour across the Midwest, highlighting the return to in-person school.
Cardona said there were few signs of the pandemic in the Hoosier classrooms he visited – other than kids wearing masks.
"Relationships were established, teachers were smiling, engaging with students, and you know it just felt – it felt normal," he said.
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The approach to get kids back in classrooms has been mixed in the state and across the country. Tensions have boiled over in some communities about schools' health and safety policies as students returned to in-person instruction.
But Cardona said COVID-19 precautions are aimed at achieving a goal everyone can agree on: keeping students in-person, and avoiding pandemic-related disruptions to their learning.
The U.S. saw more than 400,000 extra deaths in 2020 compared to the previous two years. Much of this excess death was caused by COVID-19. But new research from the University of Notre Dame suggests that around 15 percent of these deaths are not directly related to the virus.
The study was published in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences of the United States. It looked at nationwide data from the National Center for Health Statistics and found that the non-COVID excess deaths happened in Black and Brown populations at a much higher rate.
“We're finding that 70 percent of the non-COVID excess deaths are among Black and Brown people. So it's a really, really striking figure,” Christopher Cronin, assistant professor of economics at Notre Dame and co-author of the study, said.
According to the study, the country saw 2.8 million deaths last year as of early March 2020. This is more than 17 percent higher than mortality over the same time period from 2017 through 2019.