TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb held his weekly COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday afternoon. Within it, Indiana’s State Health Commissioner detailed some changes involving schools in the Hoosier State.
Dr. Kristina Box stressed the point that we are not yet out of the woods. She detailed a care package heading to Indiana schools.
One million KN95 masks will be going to schools for staff and students as well as an additional 600,000 masks for K-6 students. Those shipments will start next week.
The state will also be providing BinaxNOW antigen test cards. These are nasal swab rapid tests to help schools test symptomatic students and teachers. That way, if a student or teacher is positive, the school will know immediately and can more quickly isolate them.
Finally, Dr. Box says they are making changes to the definition of “close contact” for classroom exposures only. Data from schools in the state indicate that only 3-5% of infections occur in the classroom.
Effective this coming Monday, quarantines or contact tracing will no longer be required if students remain three feet apart and are wearing masks. Students are teachers can also return to school after only a 10-day quarantine if they never develop symptoms, or after a seven-day quarantine depending on when they test negative and which test they receive.
“We hope that these steps will help to decrease the disruption that COVID-19 continues to cause in our educational system and lead to quicker isolation of individuals which will reduce the spread of the virus,” Dr. Box said.
Dr. Box says just two months ago, we were without a vaccine. Now, the interest in the vaccine by Hoosiers is almost overwhelming. She went through exactly where Indiana is with COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
Over 611,000 Hoosiers have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday. That’s an increase of 134,000 from last week. Of those individuals, more than 166,000 Hoosiers have received both doses of the vaccine and are fully vaccinated.
Since the state expanded vaccine eligibility to Hoosiers between 65 and 69 years of age on Monday, officials say more than 144,000 people in that age group have made appointments to be vaccinated.
To date, more than 875,000 unique Hoosiers ages 65 and older along with health care workers and first responders have been vaccinated or have an appointment.
Nearly 43,000 residents of long-term care facilities have received their vaccine along with 17,000 staff in these facilities.
“Even as more Hoosiers receive their vaccine, we are still very limited in the number of Hoosiers we can vaccinate due to national supplies,” Dr. Box concluded, “We will not achieve herd immunity for many months, and the new variants of the virus that are emerging will require us to remain vigilant about masking, social distancing, staying home if you’re ill, and getting tested.”
As long as vaccine supply remains limited, Dr. Box says the state will continue prioritizing those most at risk to die from COVID-19. State health officials are looking at who to prioritize next when all Hoosiers 60 and older who want a vaccine can get one. The state will continue using data to drive that decision moving forward.