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Friday's Indiana coronavirus updates - Feb. 26, 2021

The latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic from Friday, Feb. 26.

INDIANAPOLIS — Friday'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 select groups through Indiana State Department of Health. This story will be updated over the course of the day with more news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Here's everything we know about the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines

The House approved a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill, the first step in providing another dose of aid to a weary nation as the measure now moves to a tense Senate.

“We have no time to waste,” Biden said at the White House after the House passage early Saturday. "We act now — decisively, quickly and boldly — we can finally get ahead of this virus. We can finally get our economy moving again. People in this country have suffered far too much for too long.”

The new president’s vision for infusing cash across a struggling economy to individuals, businesses, schools, states and cities battered by COVID-19 passed on a near party-line 219-212 vote. That ships the bill to the Senate, where Democrats seem bent on resuscitating their minimum wage push and fights could erupt over state aid and other issues.

Democrats said that mass unemployment and the half-million American lives lost are causes to act despite nearly $4 trillion in aid already spent fighting the fallout from the disease. GOP lawmakers, they said, were out of step with a public that polling finds largely views the bill favorably.

FDA panel authorizes Johnson & Johnson vaccine

U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic.

The Food and Drug Administration is expected to quickly follow the recommendation and make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Vaccinations are picking up speed, but new supplies are urgently needed to stay ahead of a mutating virus that has killed more than 500,000 Americans.

After daylong discussions, the FDA panelists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. If the FDA agrees, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday. 

While early J&J supplies will be small, the company has said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June.

J&J’s vaccine protects against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, and it can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the previous vaccines, which must be frozen.

Noblesville homebound vaccinations

The Noblesville Fire Department plans to start administering the COVID-19 vaccine to homebound resident in their area beginning March 1. This is part of the Homebound Hoosier EMS Vaccine Administration Program.

Paramedics will visit homebound Noblesville residents who have made arrangements with the county health department. Noblesville has 16 residents on the list for vaccination as of Friday.

People in Noblesville, who are homebound, are encouraged to call the health department to schedule an in-home vaccination by calling 317-776-8500 or 211.

Community Health Network gives 50,000th vaccine

An 84-year-old woman at Community Hospital South was the recipient of the health network's 50,000th vaccine shot.

Imah Rodgers of Clayton, Indiana went to get her first dose of her vaccine with her sister on Friday. She said she was eager to visit family again.

Hamilton County Health Department switching to Pfizer vaccine

The Hamilton County Health Department will start administering doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday, March 2. Up until now, the site at the 4H Fairgrounds in Noblesville has been administering the Moderna vaccine.

The state wants to use the Moderna vaccine for mobile units in rural areas and asked Hamilton County to switch.

The state is also receiving more doses of Pfizer which will allow the Hamilton County Health Department to triple vaccinations.

“It’s going to be a challenging few weeks as we transition, but we welcome the challenge,” said Christian Walker, emergency preparedness coordinator. “It means we’ll be able to get more vaccines into the arms of more Hoosiers.”

The switch in vaccines does not affect those who received their first doses of Moderna at the 4H Fairgrounds. The health department will provide second doses of Moderna through the end of March.

ISDH update

The state is reporting 963 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 660,071 since the pandemic began.

The state is also reporting 33 additional deaths. Indiana's death toll from coronavirus now stands at 12,098.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 28.41 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. ET Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 508,000 deaths in the U.S. 

Worldwide, there have been more than 113.02 million confirmed cases with more than 2.5 million deaths and 63.74 million recoveries.

RELATED: See where confirmed Indiana coronavirus cases are with this interactive map

RELATED: VERIFY: Are Indiana’s new COVID-19 case numbers inflated with multiple positive tests for the same person?

The real 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.

Marion County expected to give update Friday on in-person learning

During Thursday's virtual press conference, Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine said she hopes to have a decision by Friday, Feb. 26 about whether or not high school students should return to in-person learning full-time.

Click here to see the latest data on the MCPHD's school guidelines dashboard.

$1,400 stimulus checks get full House vote Friday

Democrats are ready to vote a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package through the House on Friday, despite a setback that means a minimum wage boost is unlikely to be in the final version that reaches President Joe Biden.

The relief bill would provide millions of people with $1,400 direct payments. It contains billions of dollars for vaccines and COVID-19 testing, schools, state and local governments, the ailing restaurant and airline industries and emergency jobless benefits while providing tax breaks to lower earners and families with children.

Republicans oppose the sweeping measure, saying it’s too expensive and not targeted enough at the people and businesses that need it most. No Republican has publicly said they will support the legislation.

Despite their paper-thin congressional majorities, Democratic leaders are hoping that House approval of the package would be followed by passage in the Senate, where changes seem likely. Democrats are aiming to get the legislation to Biden’s desk by mid-March.

Pfizer COVID vaccine no longer needs ultra-cold temperatures, FDA says

U.S. regulators are allowing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be shipped and stored at less-frigid temperatures, which should ease distribution and administration of one of the two vaccines authorized for emergency use in the country.

The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that it’s allowing the additional option after reviewing new data from New York-based Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

The FDA said the vaccine, which is shipped in frozen vials, now can be transported and stored for up to two weeks at the temperatures of freezers commonly found in pharmacies. That’s after Pfizer provided the FDA with data on Feb. 19 that showed its vaccine remains stable for up to two weeks at those standard freezer temperatures, minus 13 degrees to 5 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 25 degrees to minus 15 degrees Celsius).

Until now, the vaccine was required to be kept at ultra-cold temperatures — from minus 112 degrees to minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 80 degrees to minus 60 degrees Celsius) — so Pfizer shipped the vials in a special thermal container packed with dry ice to maintain that temperature range. That requirement meant vaccination sites had to either obtain expensive ultracold freezers, keep adding dry ice to the shipping container to keep to the correct temperature range or administer all the doses in each shipment quickly so none spoiled.