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Indiana coronavirus updates for Friday, March 4, 2022

The latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic for Friday, March 4, 2022.

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are 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 Hoosiers 5 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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IDOH Friday update

The Indiana Department of Health reported 1,322 more residents were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Friday morning. The total number of Hoosiers considered fully vaccinated as of Monday morning is 3,687,069

More Hoosiers received a booster dose against COVID-19 in the past day (1,443) than became fully vaccinated. A total of 1,719,412 booster doses have now been administered to Indiana residents.

IDOH posted new totals for deaths and new cases of COVID-19 late Friday. The state added 39 deaths that occurred between Jan. 11 and midnight on Thursday, pushing Indiana’s overall death toll to 22,110.

The state reported 497 more Hoosiers tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of cases in the state to 1,683,739. The new positive tests were recorded between Feb. 26 and late Thursday.

Holcomb ends public health emergency

Indiana lawmakers gave final approval Thursday to administrative steps Gov. Eric Holcomb said were necessary to end the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency while still protecting enhanced federal funding.

The governor’s office said Holcomb signed the bill into law shortly after Indiana House members voted by a wide margin in favor of the bill, setting the stage for Holcomb to lift the emergency declaration after nearly two years.

Holcomb later Thursday signed an executive order ending the current public health emergency, which was due to expire Saturday.

As vaccine demand falls, states are left with huge stockpile

As demand to get COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. collapses in many areas, states are scrambling to use stockpiles of doses before they expire and have to be added to the millions that have already gone to waste. 

From some of the least vaccinated states, like Indiana and North Dakota, to some of the most vaccinated states, like New Jersey and Vermont, public health departments are shuffling doses around the state in the hopes of finding providers that can use them. 

State health departments told The Associated Press they have tracked millions of doses that went to waste. 

The average number of Americans getting their first shot is down to about 70,000 a day, the lowest point since the U.S. vaccination campaign began in December 2020. About 76% of the U.S. population has received at least one shot and roughly 65% of all Americans are fully vaccinated.

Eiteljorg changing mask policy

The Eiteljorg Museum will make face masks optional for visitors, staff and volunteers starting Monday, March 7. Those who are immunocompromised, are unvaccinated or live with individuals who are unvaccinated are strongly recommended to continue wearing masks.

How to order more free COVID-19 test kits from US government

Starting next week, the U.S. government will allow Americans to order another round of free at-home COVID-19 tests.

The second round of orders will begin next week allowing two separate orders of an additional four tests, eight tests total, to be placed.

President Joe Biden announced the second round of orders will begin during Tuesday's State of the Union address.

During the first round of orders back in January, 500,00 tests were available, but nearly half of those tests remain unclaimed.

To order the at-home tests, you can visit this USPS website starting next week and fill out the required information. All orders will ship completely free.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 79.19 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 6 a.m. Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 956,260 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 442.23 million confirmed coronavirus cases with 5.98 million deaths and more than 10.55 billion vaccine doses administered.

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.

NFL suspends all COVID protocols, cites 'encouraging trends'

The NFL has suspended all aspects of its COVID-19 protocols Thursday, citing recent trends showing that the spread of the coronavirus is declining. In an agreement with the players’ association, the league sent a memo to the 32 teams in which it mentioned “encouraging trends regarding the prevalence and severity of COVID-19, the evolving guidance from the CDC, changes to state law and the counsel of our respective experts” as reasons for the move. 

Should the NFL find reasons to reimpose any aspects of the protocols, it will do so in conjunction with the NFL Players Association.

But each team must have a facility to accommodate anyone who reports symptoms that require testing.

Weight room restrictions, including capacity limits, have been dropped, though each team can impose its own rules for weight room usage.

Tracing devices have not been required since Jan. 3, and the service is being discontinued.

Ball State drops mask mandate

Ball State University will no longer require face masks inside campus buildings and vehicles beginning Friday, March 4. BSU President Geoffrey Mearns announced the transition to mask optional in a statement on Wednesday. 

Face masks will still be required in some locations, such as health care and laboratory settings, according to the university's COVID-19 response plans for students and employees. The university will also require people who have had COVID-19 to wear a mask for at least five days after their isolation period ends. 

Mearns said the university made the decision based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a team of local health experts, as well as on-campus data that shows new infections are on the decline. He also noted the "relatively high vaccination rates" among full-time employees and on-campus students.

"This adjustment is justified by the sustained and substantial decline in the number of new infections among the members of our campus community. For example, last week, there were 17 new positive cases. That is the lowest number of new cases in a week since classes resumed in August 2021," Mearns said.

Mearns asked that everyone on campus "respect anyone who chooses to wear a mask, irrespective of that person’s reason for doing so."

The university will resume offering free COVID-19 vaccines, boosters and testing after spring break on Tuesday, March 15, and Wednesday, March 16.

Biden outlines COVID-19 plans, says it's time to return to work

President Joe Biden declared Tuesday that “it's time for Americans to get back to work” as he announced new efforts to allow people to return to normal activities safely after two years of pandemic disruptions.

Biden used his State of the Union address to announce that his administration was launching a “test-to-treat” initiative to provide free antiviral pills at pharmacies to those who test positive for the virus.

A White House official said the “test-to-treat” plan will initially roll out in hundreds of pharmacies across the country, including CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger locations. Those who test positive at the sites will be able to obtain the antiviral pills on the spot for immediate use.

He also highlighted the progress made on the pandemic since last year, with a dramatic reduction in cases, readily-available vaccines and tests, and new therapeutics soon becoming more accessible.

Biden said that starting next week, the administration would make available four more free tests to U.S. households through COVIDTests.gov, which has sent more than 270 million free tests to nearly 70 million households since it launched in mid-January.

FDA adds another COVID-19 test to 'do not use' list

The Food and Drug Administration has issued a "do not use" warning for another COVID-19 test, saying it has not been authorized for use in the U.S. and could provide false results. It's at least the third such warning issued for coronavirus tests this year.

The warning is for the “Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Self-Testing)” from ACON Laboratories. The test comes in a dark blue box with white lettering and symbols in the lower right corner of the box, including the letters “CE.” 

The FDA said it should not be confused with the similarly-named "Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test," which comes in a white box. That test is authorized by the FDA and can continue to be used. 

The concern is the “Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Self-Testing)” could provide false results. A false positive would mean the test says someone has COVID-19 when they don't. A false negative would indicate the person does not have COVID when they actually do. 

ACON recalled the test in the U.S. on Jan. 9. It said the test is only authorized for sale in Europe and other markets.

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