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COVID-19 surge not deterring push to end Indiana public health emergency

A House committee is set to vote Thursday on House Bill 1001, which would eliminate Holcomb's state of emergency.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana's ongoing spike in COVID-19 illnesses isn't deterring state leaders, who are determined to bring an end to the official statewide public health emergency.

The Republican-dominated state legislature started its 2022 session Tuesday, planning to quickly take up actions that Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said will allow him to drop the emergency declaration first issued in March 2020. 

Holcomb said it would take three statutory changes for him to lift the public health emergency:

  1. The continuation of enhanced federal matching funds for Medicaid expenditures
  2. The continuation of the enhanced benefit for those receiving federal food assistance
  3. Extend the ability to efficiently vaccinate 5- to 11-year-olds.

A House committee is set to vote Thursday on House Bill 1001, which would eliminate Holcomb's state of emergency.

The bill includes the three administrative actions sought by Holcomb, along with provisions forcing businesses to grant broad exemptions to any workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

As it is currently written, there has been opposition to the bill from leaders in both the healthcare and business communities.

Health officials have expressed concern about the fast-spreading omicron variant further stressing Indiana healthcare facilities that are already struggling with unprecedented patient counts. 

Beds are full in intensive care units at virtually every hospital right now. Even hospitals in neighboring states are requesting transfers because they're maxed out in critical care.

Members of the U.S. Navy are currently helping staff at Methodist Hospital and the National Guard will deploy to Riley Hospital for Children this week.  

As of Tuesday at noon, there were 553 COVID-positive patients at IU Health's 16 hospitals. Doctors say most of those seriously sick in the ICU are unvaccinated and an average of six people are dying each day.

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