INDIANAPOLIS – State health officials announced Wednesday they are adding about 1,500 COVID-19 deaths to the tally after an audit of all death certificates during the pandemic.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said 1,205 deaths were added to 2020 and 302 to 2021. That brings the state's total death toll to 11,220.
“These are heartbreaking numbers that show us just how many, how devastating this disease can be for families,” Box said.
She said the audit was needed because deaths are being reported in real time, which is not typical. And the state has transitioned to a new vital records registry system.
On Wednesday, the state also added 1,480 new cases and continues to see improvement in trends. Only four counties remain in the red.
In Allen County, 79 new cases were reported.
Box also announced some significant changes in quarantine rules for schools that could limit disruption.
She said data from Indiana and across the U.S. show it is rare for student infections to occur in the classroom when all parties are masked. And requiring all close contacts to quarantine has placed on ongoing burden on schools, students and families.
One school district in southern Indiana reported that nearly 98% of those quarantined due to being an in-classroom close contact never became ill.
So, starting Monday, students and teachers will no longer have to quarantine if they have remained at least 3 feet apart and wore masks at all times in a classroom. This does not apply to lunch rooms, athletics, band, choir or any other school setting where masks are removed.
Box said the safest quarantine is still 14 days, but the state is allowing other options according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a student or teacher must quarantine, they can return after 10 days if they don't develop symptoms. And they can return after seven days if they get a negative swab test.
The state is also sending 1 million KN95 masks to schools, which is enough for 10 masks for each teacher, administrator and staff. About 60,000 masks for children also will be sent and hand sanitizer.
Rapid test kits will be provided to schools also to quickly test symptomatic kids and teachers for isolation.
Gov. Eric Holcomb also announced the state will air a commercial at 6:30 p.m. Sunday during the Super Bowl on the importance of getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It is about a high school athletic director who died from the virus and his son is featured in the ad, which will air statewide.
It is costing about $123,000 to air and Holcomb said it is worth every penny for more Hoosiers to hear the compelling story.
So far in Indiana, 611,429 have received their first vaccine dose and 166,131 are fully vaccinated. Of those, 62% have been women and 85% white. The latter percentage matches state demographics but Black Hoosiers are lagging – with only 4% of those vaccinated being Black compared with 9.8% of the population.
Allen: 79 (1 death)
Kosciusko: 18 (1 death)
Sources: Indiana State Department of Health, Allen County Department of Health, DeKalb County Health Department
Lutheran says no special treatment
Unlike some hospital systems, Lutheran Health Network has not given preferential treatment to directors or donors seeking vaccines against COVID-19, a spokeswoman said Wednesday. "Our vaccination sites across Lutheran Health Network follow all state guidelines, including prioritization as to who receives the vaccine. At this time, we are vaccinating individuals in the 1-A and 1-B groups only," LauraMarie Carmody said in an email. Hospitals in Rhode Island, Washington and Kansas are among those under fire for providing inoculations to board members and big donors before those individuals qualified under state distribution directions, according to the Associated Press. A Parkview Health spokeswoman Tuesday provided a similar statement saying directors and donors have not received vaccines early. - Sherry Slater, The Journal Gazette