The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, April 28, 2021 5:53 pm

Dr. Box: COVID-19 still here, not going away soon

State health officials offer warnings, encouragement at briefing

Niki Kelly | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS -- Indiana’s top doctors updated reporters on all things COVID-19 Wednesday -- from rising hospitalization numbers to what it will take to get to herd immunity.

It was the first briefing in about a month and State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box wanted to both warn and encourage Hoosiers.

She said about 1.8 million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated -- or 33% of the eligible population. She added later that the goal for the state is to get well more than 60% in order to feel safe for the future.

And Box warned that variant strains of the virus are increasing. Indiana is sampling a small amount of positive cases and almost 32% are those newer strains. She expects another large spike in the fall -- another reason to get vaccinated.

Box also noted a 50% increase in hospitalizations from late March, but acknowledged the state is still significantly lower than its record highs in November.

“Hoosiers, COVID is still here and it is not going away anytime soon,” she said.

The Indiana Department of Health also updated the weekly county map. The state has just seven orange counties -- red is the highest -- and five or them are in northern and northeast Indiana. They include Steuben, DeKalb, LaGrange, Whitley and Elkhart counties.

Box said Michigan has had a high proportion of B.1.1.7 cases and that variant is the most transmissible. She said the virus doesn’t respect state lines and believes that is contributing to the growth in the area.

Allen County remained in the yellow -- blue is best. The county reported 76 new cases and one new death.

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, who is heading up Indiana’s vaccination effort, said the vaccine is working for those getting it. She said the vast, vast majority of new cases are those who have not been vaccinated. Only 2.5% are so-called breakthrough cases since March and usually occur in people who are older or who had the initial vaccination several months ago.

In all, only 0.04% of those fully vaccinated have gotten COVID-19 in Indiana.

She acknowledged, though, that there is still work to do. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indiana ranks 45th in the percentage of population vaccinated.

“Every vaccine is a win,” Weaver said, noting they are starting to push out to places where people feel comfortable, such as employers, community centers, churches and more. And they are working to reduce barriers to primary care physicians being able to provide the vaccine.

Sign up for our Coronavirus newsletter

Sent daily