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Indiana coronavirus updates for Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic from Wednesday, March 31, 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS — Wednesday'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.

Fishers public health orders will end Tuesday

Fishers is rescinding its current health order at midnight on Tuesday, the same day Governor Eric Holcomb's latest order will begin to allow local officials to make decisions about venue capacity and social gatherings.  

In an address to the state last week, Holcomb announced the state public health emergency would be renewed for another 30 days, beginning April 1.  

Beginning April 6, the mask mandate will become a mask advisory. Plus, decisions about venue capacity and social gatherings will be made by local officials. 

In response to this, the Fishers Health Department on Wednesday issued a new health order that sets the expiration of current health orders at midnight on April 6. 

The new order rescinds all previously issued local public health orders and instead puts in place advisories strongly encouraging the public and local businesses to continue practicing coronavirus mitigation strategies.

State leaders weekly update

State leaders are providing an update on the pandemic response as vaccinations open to Hoosiers 16+ and the mask mandate is coming to an end.

The state is removing proof of residency to receive a vaccine and other barriers to receive the vaccine. Those Hoosiers 16 to 17 can only receive the Pfizer vaccine and must have a parent with them or parent's approval to receive the vaccine.

Hoosiers vaccinated or scheduled:

  • Age 80+: 74 percent 
  • Age 70-79: 77 percent
  • Age 60-69: 66 percent
  • Age 50-59: 48 percent
  • Age 40-49: 35 percent
  • Age 30-39: 25 percent
  • Age 20-29: 10 percent
  • Age 16-19: 7 percent

The state is working to track what it calls breakthrough cases where a Hoosier tests positive for COVID-19 at least two weeks after being fully vaccinated. To date, the state has tracked 221 of these breakout cases.

The state has seen an increase in cases across the state and is asking people to continue wearing masks, social distancing and taking other preventative measures.

Unemployment claims

The state is reporting 9,200 initial claims filing in one week in March. In one week of March in 2020, the state recorded 139,000 initial claims. The state said 85 percent of claims were paid within 21 days.

The state reports a total of 18.4 million weekly claims filed from March 2020 through February 2021. Around 2.5 million of those claims remain unresolved and 2.3 million are being investigated as suspicious.

Since the pandemic began, 841,586 Hoosiers have been paid unemployment insurance. The state said in 2019 it paid 82,167 Hoosiers and from 2015-2019 paid 495,348.

ISDH update

The Indiana State Department of Health reports 1,127 new cases of COVID-19 and one more death. Indiana has seen a total of 686,497 positive cases of the virus and 12,633 deaths.

As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, there were 1,133,956 fully vaccinated Hoosiers. The state administered 53,761 doses of the vaccine over the past day, resulting in 24,789 new fully-vaccinated people.

After multiple weeks with counties only in the blue and yellow categories of the weekly metrics map, two counties have moved up into the orange category: Blackford and Wells.

COVID was 3rd leading cause of death in US for 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday released a report detailing how the coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020.

The provisional data said heart disease claimed about 690,000 lives, all forms of cancer claimed just over 598,000 lives and COVID-19 was responsible for more than 375,000 American deaths last year.

The CDC said of the 378,048 death certificates it received tied to coronavirus in 2020, COVID-19 was listed as the sole cause of death in 5.5% of them. Of the other death certificates listing COVID-19, 97% also listed "a plausible chain-of-event condition" — for example pneumonia or respiratory failure. Another main contributor was hypertension, diabetes, or both, according to the report.

Delta to stop blocking middle seats on May 1

Delta Airlines announced Wednesday it will stop blocking middle seats on its planes starting May 1, marking the last U.S. carrier to end the policy. 

Delta, along with all major U.S. airlines, introduced a middle seat block in spring 2020 to allow passengers extra social distance while traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Atlanta-based airline also announced Wednesday that it would be gradually reintroducing onboard snacks and beverages. The airline said snacks will be available starting April 14, following by hot food options for select passengers in early June and boxed meals in early July. 

Delta also said tickets valid until the end of this year, as well as tickets purchased this year would be valid until the end of 2022. 

Hoosiers 16+ now eligible to sign up for vaccine

Hoosiers 16 years old and older are eligible to sign up to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Eligibility was expanded to Hoosiers under 30 years old just before 8 a.m. Wednesday, March 31.

Hoosiers 16 and 17 years old must get parental permission to get the vaccine. Also, 16- and 17-year-olds must sign up for the Pfizer vaccine because that is the only vaccine approved for anyone under 18 years old at this time.

To date, more than 2.73 million doses have been administered in Indiana, and more than 1.1 million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated.

Follow these steps to register online:

  • Go to vaccine.coronavirus.in.gov.
  • Select which group you belong to in order to qualify for the vaccine.
  • If you are registering by age, you must enter your date of birth for confirmation.
  • Enter your zip code, and click "Search."
  • Select a vaccine clinic available in your area.
  • Select the blue link that says "Schedule an Appointment" for your desired location.
  • Find a date with availability, and click "Select This Time."
  • Fill out the patient's information (name, date of birth, sex, contact information), and click "Submit Patient Information."

To find a vaccination site in the county where you live, click here.

Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine protects younger teens

Pfizer announced Wednesday that its COVID-19 vaccine is safe and strongly protective in kids as young as 12, a step toward possibly beginning shots in this age group before they head back to school in the fall.

Most COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out worldwide are for adults, who are at higher risk from the coronavirus. Pfizer’s vaccine is authorized for ages 16 and older. But vaccinating children of all ages will be critical to stopping the pandemic — and helping schools, at least the upper grades, start to look a little more normal after months of disruption.

In a study of 2,260 U.S. volunteers ages 12 to 15, preliminary data showed there were no cases of COVID-19 among fully vaccinated adolescents compared to 18 among those given dummy shots, Pfizer reported.

Credit: AP Photo/Hector Amezcua, Pool
UC Davis Medical Center nurse Heather Donaldson prepares to inoculate a staff member with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 in Sacramento, Calif

It's a small study, that hasn't yet been published, so another important piece of evidence is how well the shots revved up the kids’ immune systems. Researchers reported high levels of virus-fighting antibodies, somewhat higher than were seen in studies of young adults.

Kids had side effects similar to young adults, the company said. The main side effects are pain, fever, chills and fatigue, particularly after the second dose. The study will continue to track participants for two years for more information about long-term protection and safety.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in the coming weeks plan to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European regulators to allow emergency use of the shots starting at age 12.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 30.39 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 550,000 deaths in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 128.22 million confirmed cases with more than 2.8 million deaths and 72.73 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.

Walk-up J&J COVID-19 vaccine clinic planned for Wednesday and Thursday

A walk-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic brought a few hundred people to an Anderson church Tuesday.  

The Madison County Health Department announced on Facebook Tuesday morning of 430 unexpected Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.  

By early afternoon, a line had formed outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church. 

Staff members from the Indiana Department of Health and the Indiana National Guard administered the shots.  

Another walk-up vaccination clinic is scheduled for Wednesday, March 31 and Thursday, April 1 at Anderson Zion Family Life Center at 2008 Reverend J.T. Menifee St. beginning at 9 a.m.

IRS to begin sending payments for social security recipients

The Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department announced Tuesday that stimulus checks for Social Security recipients and other federal beneficiaries will be issued this weekend. 

While these payments will be distributed in the coming days, the agencies said the majority of the checks will be sent electronically and received on Wednesday, April 7.

Since the American Rescue Plan was signed into law, stimulus checks have gone out to at least 127 million Americans; however, many who receive federal benefits and don't typically file tax returns were given no timeline initially for when they would get their money. 

RELATED: You can now track the status of your third stimulus check

RELATED: How much will your stimulus payment be? This calculator can help

Last Thursday, the IRS received data on beneficiaries from the Social Security Administration which then allowed the agency to start the process of validating eligibility on what they say are millions of records. The agency has already been inundated with a backlog on tax filings which has seen the tax filing deadline pushed back multiple times already for this tax season.

While Tuesday's announcement did not say how many people will now be getting their stimulus checks, lawmakers said last Thursday that the wait for files from SSA had been holding up the stimulus payments for nearly 30 million Americans. 

The IRS noted Tuesday that federal benefit recipients who file tax returns already started to receive Economic Impact Payments earlier this month, along with other taxpayers.

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