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Indiana coronavirus updates for Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

The latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic for Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022.

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are 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 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 update

The Indiana Department of Health reports 2,997 more Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Wednesday. The total number of people vaccinated in Indiana is now at 3,614,768.

There were 8,101 booster doses administered Tuesday, bringing the total number to 1,607,401.

IDOH reported 16,502 new positive cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. There have been 1,490,496 positive cases in Indiana since the start of the pandemic.

The state reported an additional 118 people died from COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths to 19,761.

Government site to order free at-home COVID tests launches

You can now order four at-home, rapid COVID-19 tests from the federal government to be shipped directly to your door. 

Wednesday marks the launch of the Biden administration's initiative to get more tests into the hands of Americans as the highly contagious omicron variant surges across the country. 

The website, COVIDTests.gov, features a link for Americans to order up four at-home tests per residential address, to be delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

These tests have been in short supply in recent weeks, with demand driven up by holiday travel and a rising wave of infections and possible contacts with the omicron variant. 

A separate link, special.usps.com/testkits, went live Tuesday in a "beta testing phase" of the site ahead of Wednesday's launch, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed. 

The federal government is limiting the number of tests any household can order due to projected high demand. Four tests can be shipped per household, not per person.

Biden administration to give away 400 million N95 masks starting next week

 The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week, now that federal officials are emphasizing their better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings.

The White House announced Wednesday that the masks will come from the government's Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand. The masks will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. They will begin shipping this week for distribution starting late next week, the White House said.

This will be the largest distribution of free masks by the federal government to the public since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In early 2020, then-President Donald Trump's administration considered and then shelved plans to send masks to all American at their homes. President Joe Biden embraced the initiative after facing mounting criticism this month over the inaccessibility — both in supply and cost — of N95 masks as the highly transmissible omicron variant swept across the country. 

The White House said the masks will be made available at pharmacies and community health centers that have partnered with the federal government's COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 67.59 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 854,000 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 334.19 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 5.55 million deaths and more than 9.69 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.

Indiana House passes bill weakening employer COVID vaccine mandates

The Indiana House passed HB 1001 on Tuesday, weakening employer COVID vaccine mandates and eliminating Gov. Eric Holcomb's state of emergency. 

The bill passed 57-35 with several Republicans choosing to vote against it.

The bill would require a business with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate to recognize medical and religious exemptions and provide the ability to opt out through weekly testing and/or natural immunity.

Last week, the House amended the bill to take out language that penalized a business through unemployment insurance if an employee quit over a vaccine mandate. The bill was also amended to say a company could not enter into a contract or bid after March that would contain a provision requiring an employee to receive an immunization against COVID-19 unless the above exemptions were allowed. 

The measure now goes on to the Senate to consider.

IU Health gets extension on military help

IU Health told 13News Tuesday, that a 30-day extension had been granted to allow the U.S. Navy's clinical team to keep supporting Methodist Hospital.

The team consists of physicians, nurses and respiratory professionals, and they are integrated into medical units and the emergency department. The support team consists of 14 nurses, four doctors and two respiratory technicians.

Hospital staff, working harder than ever to heal, are still pleading with the public to ease the strain:

  • Get vaccinated.
  • Mask up.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Get tested and stay home if you're sick.

Randolph Central Schools move to e-learning

Randolph Central School Corporation announced Tuesday a switch to e-learning for the remainder of this week.

"Because of the increased number of staff positives and our shortage of substitute teachers we have decided to switch to (e-learning) beginning tomorrow and continuing through this Friday," read a message from school superintendent Rolland Abraham.

Read the full message here.

IU women's basketball postpones another game due to COVID-19

The IU women's basketball team postponed another game due to COVID-19. The game against Iowa on Sunday, Jan. 23 in Iowa City will need to be rescheduled.

A future date for the game has not been set. If the game is not able to be rescheduled, it would count as a “no contest” for both teams.

The IU women already postponed the game with Michigan State, scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 19 at Indiana University. Ticketholders will receive information from the ticket office on next steps.

IMS testing, vaccine clinic extended with new hours

The Indiana Department of Health has extended its COVID-19 vaccination and testing clinic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway through Saturday, Feb. 26. The hours of operation have also been revised, which goes into effect immediately. 

The clinic, which is held in the INDYCAR parking lot at 4551 W. 16th St. across from Gate 2, offers vaccinations and testing on the following schedule: 

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays: Noon-8 p.m.
  • Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Appointments are strongly recommended, but walk-ins will be accepted if there is availability.

IDOH will contact those who have already scheduled appointments from 4 p.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday and Fridays.

Carmel Symphony Orchestra postpones concerts

Carmel Symphony Orchestra is postponing five upcoming concerts due to concern over the omicron variant of COVID-19.

The postponed concerts include the following:

  • Family Fun Concert – Sunday, Jan. 23
  • Masterworks 3 with the Harlem String Quartet – Saturday, Feb. 12
  • Beethoven Lives Upstairs: A Classical Kids Live! Event – Saturday, Feb. 19
  • Pops Concert: Serpentine Fire - the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire – Saturday, Feb. 26
  • Side-by-Side Concert with Fishers High School featuring CSO Young Artist Competition winner Abigail Ko – Sunday, March 6.

“Hopefully, the peak of this particular surge will be reached over the next month or so, and by the time we resume our concerts, we’ll be on the down side of Omicron,” said Robert Schlegel III, chairman of the CSO Board of Directors.

The CSO season will resume on March 12. The Family Fun concert from Jan. 23 will be presented on May 14. The other concerts affected by the pause, including Serpentine Fire: the Music of Earth, Wind and Fire, will be booked for the 2022-23 season with dates announced in April.