INDIANAPOLIS — Here are Tuesday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest news on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in Indiana. Registrations for the vaccine are now open for Hoosiers 12 and older through the Indiana State Department of Health. This story will be updated over the course of the day with more news on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hamilton County discovers parts of county slow to get vaccinated
Hamilton County health officials took a close look at vaccine statistics in the county and discovered some parts of the county were much slower to get vaccinated than others.
Hamilton County is the second-most vaccinated county in the state with 59% of its residents now fully vaccinated. That equates to 165,112 residents 12 years and older. However, a closer look into those statistics reveals a discrepancy that the Hamilton County Health Department said it is working to correct.
“When we break our vaccination numbers down by zip code, we see considerably fewer people getting vaccinated in the northern, more rural area of our county,” says Chris Walker, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Hamilton County Health Department. “We need to reevaluate how we’re reaching residents in the Atlanta, Sheridan, and Arcadia areas.”
The Westfield zip code of 46074 currently tops the county’s list with 76% of its residents fully vaccinated. That zip code is closely followed by 46290, a small pocket south of Carmel. At the other end of the spectrum is 46031 in Atlanta with 33% of its residents fully vaccinated, 46069 in Sheridan with 39%, and 46030 in Arcadia with 40%.
Walker said there are 49 vaccination sites in Hamilton County, but only two north of State Road 32.
"We need to find ways to ramp up vaccinations in the northern third of the county. How we do that remains to be seen," Walker said. "It could be a sustained vaccination clinic or pop-ups at summer festivals. We’ll know more soon.”
Multilingual hotline started
Marion County is again offering a multilingual hotline to help answer questions about the coronavirus vaccine for Hoosiers who speak one of nine different languages.
In addition to English and Spanish, volunteers will be available to assist residents from across Indiana who speak Burmese, Arabic, Mandarin, Swahili, Yoruba, Hakhan Chin and French. The volunteers can also help callers schedule their vaccination appointment.
“The end of the pandemic in Indianapolis is within our reach,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department. “It is still critical that we ensure the lifesaving protection of the COVID-19 vaccine reaches traditionally underserved members of our community through efforts like this multi-lingual hotline.”
The hotline can be reached at 317-327-2100. It is available from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Hoosiers can also still sign up for an appointment by visiting ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211.
IU will not require COVID-19 vaccine documentation from employees and staff
Indiana University will not require documentation that employees and students have received the COVID-19 vaccine by the fall semester. IU is still requiring everyone working or enrolled at any of its campuses be vaccinated.
The change in requiring documentation comes after state lawmakers and Indiana's attorney general said it violates a new state law banning immunization passports by the government.
Students and employees receiving the vaccine can now certify their status as part of an attestation form that will be available on June 2. Employees and students found to be lying could face punishment.
Indiana University will also be offering incentives to those opting to upload documentation. Details on the incentive program will be announced later this week.
A form for requesting vaccination exemption, originally scheduled for June 15 release will be available on June 2. Employees and staff can apply for medical or religious reasons, or for an online exemption for those not present on or near campus. The university will be able to decide whether or not to grant an exemption. Exemptions details will be included in the form. IU’s Medical Response Team and other designated IU leaders will review exemption requests, responding within five business days.
Wearing a mask on campus will be optional for those students, faculty and staff who are fully vaccinated. There will also be no social-distancing requirements for those who are fully vaccinated.
IU Health require vaccines for all employees
Indiana University Health announced Tuesday it will require all employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 1.
"Vaccinating team members is a safe and effective way to protect patients and help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in facilities and in the community," the health care system said in a press release. "All COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the U.S. have been shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19.
Requiring employees to be vaccinated against certain illnesses is not a new practice for the system. It has previously required several other vaccinations as a condition of employment, including the flu vaccine since 2012.
Deferrals or exemptions based on medical or religious reasons will be considered. Those decisions will be made on an individual basis.
Drive-thru testing sites open at Keystone, Greenwood malls
Drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites are now open at the Fashion Mall at Keystone and the Greenwood Park Mall. The sites are run by Covid Clinic.
Rapid antibody, rapid antigen, expedited PCR and antigen/flu combination tests, as well as rapid testing for worldwide travel will be available at the sites.
For more information about the services the sites provide, including operating hours for each location, visit covidclinic.org.
State reports 1,392 more people fully vaccinated, 8 deaths
The Indiana State Department of Health reported 1,392 more people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning. Indiana now has recorded 2,517,639 people who have been fully vaccinated.
ISDH also reported 370 more positive tests for the virus, along with eight deaths that occurred May 27 through May 31.
The 370 additional Hoosiers diagnosed with COVID-19 brings the total number of Indiana residents now known to have contracted the novel coronavirus to 744,213. A total of 13,211 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19.
Moderna begins process seeking full FDA approval for COVID vaccine
Drugmaker Moderna announced on Tuesday it has started the process to request full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its mRNA coronavirus vaccine.
Moderna's vaccine is currently authorized under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for adults 18 and up. Since receiving the EUA in December, more than 124 million doses of Moderna's vaccine have been administered across the U.S.
The company is the second drugmaker in the U.S. to apply for full FDA approval for its COVID-19 vaccine. Last month, Pfizer and BioNTech announced they had started the approval process.
Moderna said data to support its vaccine will be submitted to the FDA on a "rolling basis" over the coming weeks. Like Pfizer, Moderna requested a priority review, which asks the FDA to fast-track the application within six months instead of the usual 10 months.
To apply for full approval from the FDA, companies need to submit a Biologics License Application or BLA. These include the most recent analyses on its Phase 3 clinical trial, which found that its vaccine is effective up to six months after the second dose.
Moderna said it is currently just requesting full approval for adults 18 years and older.
Last week, the company announced plans to request Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine to be used starting at age 12.
Marion County revising schedules for vaccine clinics
The Marion County Public Health Department is changing hours for its two COVID-19 vaccination sites.
The changes go into effect on June 1 and will allow for resources to be shifted to pop-up clinics around the county. Those pop-up clinics will be aimed at vaccinating eligible school children 12 years and older.
The new hours for the two main clinics are as follows:
3685 Commercial Drive, Indianapolis (west side) – Pfizer vaccine
- Monday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Tuesday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
- Wednesday: Closed
- Thursday: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
- Friday: 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Sunday: Closed
9503 E. 33rd Street, Indianapolis (east side) – Moderna vaccine
- Monday: Closed
- Tuesday: 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Wednesday: 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Thursday: 7 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Friday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- Saturday: 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
- Sunday: Closed
To make an appointment, go to ourshot.in.gov, call 211, or call the Marion County Public Health Department directly at 317-221-2100.
State's latest executive order extends pandemic emergency funds, removes mask mandate in state facilities
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has extended the state's public health emergency in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holcomb signed Executive Order 21-15 Friday, May 28 and will go into effect Tuesday, June 1 at 12:01 a.m.
Continuing the public health emergency will allow people to continue administering the COVID-19 vaccine who would not otherwise be eligible, as well as allowing the state to continue receiving pandemic emergency funds for programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Other changes include:
- Removing the mask mandate while in state facilities, except for anyone inside any these state government congregate facilities – the state prisons, state hospitals, Indiana Veterans Home and the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. Masks are also still required inside COVID testing and vaccination clinics.
- Continuing the face covering requirement inside Indiana schools through June 30. Face coverings are not required outdoors on school grounds.
- Starting July 1, local school boards will determine what measures or restrictions are needed in their local schools regarding the spread of COVID-19.
- Directing Hoosiers to follow the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people regarding mask wearing and other protective measures.
- Waiving any penalties or interest payments accrued on state income taxes on unemployment wages that must be paid due to HEA 1436.
The executive order continues through June 30 at 11:59 p.m.
COVID-19 variants given new names based on Greek alphabet
The World Health Organization on Monday announced a new, simple way to label coronavirus variants by using the Greek alphabet.
In a press release, the health agency said the decision to label the variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was to help prevent misreporting and end "stigmatizing" the variants from where they were first detected.
The new labels will not replace existing scientific names, but they will be used for variants that are designated as "Variants of Interest" or "Variants of Concern" by WHO.
"While they have their advantages, these scientific names can be difficult to say and recall, and are prone to misreporting," the WHO said. "As a result, people often resort to calling variants by the places where they are detected, which is stigmatizing and discriminatory."
Viruses often develop small genetic changes as they reproduce, and new variants of the coronavirus have been seen almost since it was first detected in China in late 2019.
Four variants of concern have been labeled with the first Greek letters -- Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta. For example, the mutated version of COVID-19 first detected in Dec. 2020 in Britain is now labeled as "Alpha." Its scientific name remains B.1.1.7.
Variants of concern have some evidence that it spreads more easily between people, causes more severe disease, or might be less responsive to treatments and vaccines.
WHO has labeled six variants of interest with the Greek alphabet letters Epsilon through Kappa.
Businesses shut as Malaysia enters second virus lockdown
Malls and many businesses in Malaysia have shuttered as the country begins its second nationwide lockdown to tackle a worsening surge of the coronavirus that has put its health care system on the verge of collapse.
The Southeast Asian nation imposed a partial lockdown on May 12, banning all social activities but allowing the economic sector to operate. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin caved in to growing calls for large-scale lockdown after daily infections breached 8,000 on Friday and soared to a record 9,020 on Saturday. This will be the country’s second nationwide lockdown since the start of the pandemic and it risks derailing its economic recovery.
Australian court upholds ban on most international travel
An Australian court has rejected a challenge to the federal government’s draconian power to prevent most citizens from leaving the country so they don’t bring COVID-19 home. Most Australians have been stranded in their home nation for more than a year under a government emergency order made under the powerful Biosecurity Act.
Australia is alone among developed democracies in preventing its citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country except in “exceptional circumstances.” Libertarian group LibertyWorks argued the government did not have the power to enforce the travel ban. But the judges said Parliament knew the law's impact would be harsh when it passed the Biosecurity Act in 2015. LibertyWorks is considering an appeal to the High Court.
Latest US, world numbers
There have been more than 33.26 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 4 a.m. ET Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 594,500 deaths in the U.S.
Worldwide, there have been more than 170.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 3.55 million deaths. More than 1.89 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.
The actual number of people infected by the virus around the world is believed to be much higher — perhaps 10 times higher in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — given testing limitations and the many mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognized.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.