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Indiana coronavirus updates for Monday, Nov. 29, 2021

Monday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic for Nov. 29, 2021.

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are Monday'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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Indiana's COVID-19 surge continued over Thanksgiving weekend

The number of COVID-19 patients in Indiana hospitals continued its sharp spike over the Thanksgiving weekend. The state health department reports Indiana hospitals had about 2,000 COVID-19 patients as of Sunday, an increase of 170, or 9%, from Tuesday. Indiana has seen a 66% increase in hospitalizations over the past three weeks. 

The Republican-dominated state Legislature had been scheduled to meet Monday for votes on a proposal that included administrative actions which Gov. Eric Holcomb had said would enable him to end the state's public health emergency. But those votes were called off following objections from medical and business groups over provisions forcing broad exemptions from workplace vaccination requirements.

How omicron variant symptoms differ from other COVID cases, according to South Africa doctors

South Africa's rapid increase in COVID-19 cases attributed to the new omicron variant is resulting in mostly mild symptoms, doctors say.

“We've seen a sharp increase in cases for the past 10 days. So far they have mostly been very mild cases, with patients having flu-like symptoms: dry coughs, fever, night sweats, a lot of body pains," said Dr. Unben Pillay, a general practitioner in Gauteng province where 81% of the new cases have been reported.

Most of the new cases in South Africa have been among people in their 20s and 30s, and doctors note that age group generally has milder symptoms of COVID-19 in any case. They warn that older people infected by the new variant could have more severe symptoms and people who are vaccinated tend to have milder symptoms. 

“We have not seen a vast increase in hospitalizations, but this is still early days. Hospitalizations often come several days after a rise in confirmed cases," Pillay said. 

Federal judge's ruling halts vaccine mandate for health care workers in 10 states

A federal judge on Monday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement.

The court order said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor.

The preliminary injunction by St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp applies to a coalition of suing states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. Similar lawsuits also are pending in other states.

ISDH update

The Indiana State Department of Health is reporting 8,884 more Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The total for Hoosier's vaccinated is more than 3,430,689.

There were more than 48,000 booster shots reported Sunday, bringing the total number of booster shots to 790,169.

The state reported another 2,960 positive cases Monday afternoon, bringing the total to 1,097,128 since the pandemic started.

Two more deaths were also reported Monday. A total of 16,853 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19.

'This variant is a cause for concern — not a cause for panic,' President Biden says on omicron

President Joe Biden is urging Americans to get vaccinated, including booster shots, as he seeks to quell concerns Monday over the new COVID-19 variant omicron, but he won't immediately push for more restrictions to stop its spread. 

During remarks from the White House, the president said the omicron variant is a "cause for concern" but not cause for panic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and Biden's leading COVID-19 adviser, said Monday that there were as yet still no cases of the variant identified in the U.S. but that it was “inevitable” that it would make its way into the country.

Speaking on ABC's “Good Morning America,” Fauci said scientists hope to know in the next week or two how well the existing COVID-19 vaccines protect against the variant, and how dangerous it is compared to earlier strains.

“We really don’t know," Fauci said, calling speculation “premature.”

Children's Museum hosting virtual COVID-19 panel on Monday

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is hosting a variety of medical experts for a free virtual COVID-19 panel on Monday.

Experts with various specialties will answer parents' questions at the Facebook Live event, which begins at 9 a.m. on Nov. 29. Dr. Elaine Cox, chief medical officer at Riley Children's Health, and Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, will be among the expert panelists. 

You can watch the stream at this link and submit questions early at this link.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 48.22 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3 a.m. Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 776,600 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 261.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 5.19 million deaths and more than 7.60 billion vaccine doses 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.

Japan denying entry to all foreign visitors as omicron variant spreads

Japan announced Monday it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors from around the world as a new coronavirus variant spreads. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the measure will take effect Tuesday.

The decision means Japan will restore border controls that it eased earlier this month for short-term business visitors, foreign students and workers.

Over the weekend, Japan tightened entry restrictions for people arriving from South Africa and eight other countries, requiring them to undergo a 10-day quarantine period at government-designated facilities.

Many countries have moved to tighten their borders after the new omicron variant of the coronavirus was found in a number of nations.

Canada reports 1st omicron variant COVID cases as world races to learn more

Cases of the omicron variant of the coronavirus popped up in countries on opposite sides of the world Sunday, including Canada, and many governments rushed to close their borders even as scientists cautioned that it's not clear if the new variant is more alarming than other versions of the virus.

"I do think it’s more contagious when you look at how rapidly it spread through multiple districts in South Africa. It has the earmarks therefore of being particularly likely to spread from one person to another. … What we don’t know is whether it can compete with delta,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health in the United States said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Collins echoed several experts in saying the news should make everyone redouble their efforts to use the tools the world already has, including vaccinations, booster shots and measures such as mask-wearing.