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Indiana coronavirus updates for Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021

The latest updates on the COVID-19 pandemic from Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are Saturday'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.

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Most insurance plans stop waiving costs of COVID hospitalizations

Early in the pandemic, many insurance companies were waiving the costs of hospital care for COVID patients.  Now, most of those cost-waivers are coming to an end.

In November 2020, 88% of health insurance group plans waived all costs associated with COVID-19 hospital stays, according to a study by KFF, a nonprofit, health policy analysis group. By October 2021, 82% of health insurance plans will no longer dismiss those expenses, the study said.

“What that means for patients is if you have a COVID-related hospital stay, you're going to be on the hook for your deductible and your co-insurance, which could be thousands of dollars,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president of KFF and co-author of the study.

One reason health insurers were voluntarily waiving COVID hospital costs is they wanted to avoid a federal mandate from Congress, according to Cox.

Now that those COVID cost waivers are expiring, unvaccinated patients are the ones who'll be paying most of the out-of-pocket hospital expenses.

COVID-19 vaccine boosters could mean billions for drugmakers

Billions more in profits are at stake for some vaccine makers as the U.S. moves toward dispensing COVID-19 booster shots to shore up Americans’ protection against the virus. How much the manufacturers stand to gain depends on how broad the rollout proves to be. 

The Biden administration last month announced plans to give third doses for nearly everybody. But U.S. regulators and government advisers have rejected the across-the-board approach and instead said booster shots of Pfizer’s vaccine should go to people 65 and older and others at high risk from COVID-19. Still, some top U.S. health officials expect boosters to become broadly available in the coming weeks or months. 

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 42.85 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 6 a.m. Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 687,080 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 231.21 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 4.73 million deaths. More than 6.06 billion vaccine doses have been administered worldwide.

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.

Ferret tests positive for COVID-19; 1st case in US

A ferret has tested positive for COVID-19 in Florida, federal officials announced Friday.

This is the first ferret to test positive for COVID-19 in the United States, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release. A ferret in the European nation of Slovenia previously tested positive for the virus.

USDA officials said samples from the Florida ferret were tested after the animal showed symptoms that included sneezing and coughing. Officials believe the ferret acquired the infection from a person with COVID-19.

The small mustelids are commonly kept as pets. Officials didn't say where in Florida the infected ferret was found.

COVID-19 has been reported in several animal species around the world, usually animals that come in close contact with infected humans, officials said. The USDA said the the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is low and doesn't recommend routine testing for animals.

Eligible Hoosiers can now get the Pfizer COVID-19 booster shot

Booster shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are now available in Indiana.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans.

The Indiana Department of Health announced Friday that eligible Hoosiers who want to get a booster shot can go to www.ourshot.in.gov and search for a site that has the Pfizer vaccine, which is designated by PVAX, or call 211 for assistance.

The booster dose is available and recommended for the following people, according to the CDC:

  • Individuals ages 65 and older and residents of long-term care facilities should receive a booster dose.
  • Individuals ages 50 to 64 with underlying medical conditions that put them at high risk of severe COVID-19 should receive a booster dose.
  • Individuals ages 18 to 49 with underlying medical conditions may receive a booster dose, based on their individual benefits and risks.
  • Individuals ages 18 to 64 who are at high risk of COVID-19 exposure and transmission because of an occupational or institutional risk of exposure may receive a booster shot based on their individual benefits and risks.

The extra dose can only be given once they are at least six months past their second Pfizer shot. Those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines are not eligible for the booster shots at this time.

Hoosiers are encouraged to bring their vaccination card to their appointment to make sure the booster dose is added.

Free testing and vaccine clinic underway at IMS

Free COVID-19 testing and vaccinations are available today in the parking lot across from Gate 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

The clinic will run from noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday through Oct. 30.

The Indiana Department of Health is deploying mobile clinics to the following counties this week to provide testing and vaccinations: Allen, Clark, Clay, Delaware, Fayette, Fulton, Gibson, Hamilton, Hendricks, Henry, Howard, Jackson, Jefferson, Lake, LaPorte, Marion, Marshall, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Newton, Putnam, Ripley, Starke, Tippecanoe, Vigo, Wabash, Warren, Washington, Wayne, White and Whitley.

Hoosiers in the ZIP codes in which the clinics are located will receive a text message or email informing them of the locations and services offered.

CDC endorses booster shots for older, vulnerable Americans

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday endorsed booster shots for millions of older or otherwise vulnerable Americans, opening a major new phase in the U.S vaccination drive against COVID-19. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky signed off on a series of recommendations from a panel of advisers late Thursday.

The advisers said boosters should be offered to people 65 and older, nursing home residents and those ages 50 to 64 who have risky underlying health problems. The extra dose would be given once they are at least six months past their last Pfizer shot. 

However, Walensky decided to make one recommendation that the panel had rejected.

The panel on Thursday voted against saying that people can get a booster if they are ages 18 to 64 years and are health care workers or have another job that puts them at increased risk of being exposed to the virus.

But Walensky disagreed and put that recommendation back in, noting that such a move aligns with a FDA booster authorization decision earlier this week.

The panel had offered the option of a booster for those ages 18 to 49 who have chronic health problems and want one. But the advisers refused to go further and open boosters to otherwise healthy frontline health care workers who aren't at risk of severe illness but want to avoid even a mild infection.