INDIANAPOLIS — Thursday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic:
IPS does not plan to return to in-person learning on January 4
Indianapolis Public Schools released the following statement regarding the Marion County Health Department's announcement that in-person learning can resume on January 4.
“IPS does not anticipate shifting back to in-person learning on January 4 at this time. We believe it will be critical to assess the conditions and data after the Winter Break in order to make a determination if it is safe to return to in-person learning prior to the already scheduled January 19 date.
The safety of our students and staff continues to be our top priority. We will continue to leverage our return to in-person learning framework approved by the Board of School Commissioners in October.”
Marion County leaders giving update
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and MCPHD Director Dr. Virginia Caine are giving an update on COVID-19 in Marion County.
Hogsett opened by saying the city needs help from the federal government to keep families financial afloat during the pandemic, noting that there has been no follow-up to the CARES Act passed in March. The funds distributed from the CARES Act will stop at the end of the year. He encouraged people to contact the leaders of Congress and demand action.
Dr. Caine recommended students and teachers stay away from people outside their household for 10 days before returning to in-person schooling next year. Caine said the executive order on closing schools was initially set to go through Jan. 18, but now schools may return to in-person learning on Jan. 4.
Caine said her office felt comfortable continuing to have bars open at 25 percent capacity after looking at the statistics and science, while restricting education to virtual only.
Ellen DeGeneres tests positive
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres announced Thursday that she has tested positive for COVID-19.
"Fortunately, I'm feeling fine right now. Anyone who has been in close contact with me has been notified, and I am following all proper [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines," DeGeneres said in a statement posted on Twitter.
"I'll see you all again after the holidays. Please stay healthy and safe," she said in her statement.
ISDH daily update
The Indiana State Department of Health is reporting 6,604 more positive cases and 96 additional deaths from COVID-19. That brings Indiana's totals to 404,935 cases and 6,302 confirmed deaths. Another 301 deaths are considered "probable," meaning COVID-19 is believed to have contributed to a patient's death, but there was no positive COVID test result on file.
The positivity rate remains high: 13.9 percent for all tests between Nov. 27 and Dec. 3, and 26.7 percent for unique individuals in the same time span.
More than 43 percent of the state's ICU beds are in use by COVID patients. There are just over 20 percent of ICU beds available. On Wednesday, there were 3,221 people being treated for coronavirus in Indiana hospitals.
Moderna begins testing COVID-19 vaccine in US adolescents
Moderna announced Thursday that it has started testing its coronavirus vaccine candidate in adolescents.
The company, which made one of two vaccines expected to be approved soon for adult use in the U.S., said it plans to enroll 3,000 U.S. kids as young as 12 in the trial.
So far, there have only been a handful of attempts around the world to start exploring if any of the experimental coronavirus shots being pushed for adults also can protect children. Some U.S. pediatricians are worried they may not know if any of the shots work for young children in time for the next school year.
In a statement, Moderna Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel said they hope to have data in the spring that can support giving the COVID-19 vaccine to children before the start of the 2021 school year.
Each child in the Moderna trial will either receive the COVID-19 candidate or a placebo at both vaccinations.
Indiana house speaker tests positive
Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston has tested positive for COVID-19. He got the result Wednesday and is experiencing mild symptoms.
"Unfortunately, I have tested positive for COVID-19," Huston said in a statement. "I will continue quarantining at home and taking all necessary precautions. I look forward to returning to work when it's safe to do so."
Huston has not been in contact with any colleagues or staff members. He has not been to the Indiana Statehouse in the last week.
US jobless claims jump to 853,000
The number of people applying for unemployment aid jumped last week to 853,000, the most since September, evidence that companies are cutting more jobs as new virus cases spiral higher.
The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of applications increased from 716,000 the previous week. Before the coronavirus paralyzed the economy in March, weekly jobless claims typically numbered only about 225,000.
The latest figures coincide with a surging viral outbreak that appears to be weakening the job market and the economy and threatening to derail any recovery. Consumers thus far haven't spent as much this holiday shopping season as they have in previous years, according to credit and debit card data. And in November, employers added jobs at the slowest pace since April. Restaurants, bars and retailers all cut jobs last month.
The total number of people who are receiving state-provided unemployment aid rose for the first time in three months to 5.8 million, the government said, from 5.5 million. That suggests that some companies have sharply pulled back on hiring.
All told, more than 19 million people are still dependent on some type of unemployment benefit. And unless Congress acts soon, nearly half of them will lose that aid in just over two weeks. That's when two jobless aid programs that the federal government created in the spring are set to expire.
Indiana reinstating surgery limits amid COVID-19 surge
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is reimposing restrictions on hospitals from performing elective surgeries to free up hospital capacity with the state’s steep recent increases in serious COVID-19 illnesses.
Holcomb announced Wednesday that hospitals were being directed to postpone all non-urgent in-patient surgeries beginning Dec. 16 through Jan. 3.
Holcomb said Indiana is “on fire” with coronavirus spread.
The state halted elective medical procedures in April to help preserve hospital equipment and protective gear. Holcomb said he was extending the statewide mask order and toughening restrictions on crowd sizes that he reinstated last month.
Marion Co. COVID-19 update scheduled for 2 p.m.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine will provide an update regarding Marion County's current COVID-19 data on Thursday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m.
WTHR will stream the news conference live here and on Facebook.
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine faces last hurdle before US decision
Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine faces one final hurdle before an expected decision to greenlight the shot for use in millions of Americans. Food and Drug Administration advisers meet Thursday to scrutinize the company's data for any red flags or oversights.
The public review comes as U.K. regulators investigate two apparent cases of allergic reaction to the vaccine. Safety will be top of mind for the panel of medical experts, who will vote on whether to endorse the vaccine.
They will also address unknowns about the vaccine's effectiveness in certain groups. A final FDA decision and the first shots could follow within days.
Latest US, world numbers
There have been more than 15.3 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of 3:30 a.m. ET Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 289,400 deaths and 5.88 million people recovered.
Worldwide, there have been more than 68.9 million confirmed cases with more than 1.57 million deaths and 44.4 million recoveries.
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.
Carmel tests wastewater to predict COVID-19 spikes
The City of Carmel continues to test its wastewater to determine the prevalence of Covid-19 infections within the community. These studies can show an increase of the virus in the community up to 10 days ahead of a possible spike in positive cases. Wastewater samples are collected at the Carmel Wastewater Treatment Plant at 96th St. and the White River, then analyzed for the virus.
Mayor Jim Brainard said the city is taking this extra step to help local hospitals respond to a growing number of Covid-19 patients. Test data will allow hospitals to anticipate staffing needs and allocation of pharmaceuticals, along with scheduling elective procedures.
To test for COVID-19, copies of viral RNA (DNA) are pulled from the wastewater and quantified so that researchers may trend the numbers and determine if there are spikes or decreases in the wastewater concentrations.