IN Focus: COVID cases rise as Holcomb slams Rokita for doubting official numbers

Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS – As coronavirus cases rise across the country, health officials are sounding the alarm over new concerns that may be emerging in the weeks ahead with the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The CDC also updated their guidelines for quarantines, shortening the minimum amount of time someone has to isolate from the public.

“The concern on the part of the CDC was that if we have such an overwhelmingly large number of people infected, it could seriously interfere with the functioning of our societal infrastructure,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told our Washington bureau in an interview this week.

Meanwhile, Governor Eric Holcomb and Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita engaged in another war of words over COVID-19’s impact.

This latest skirmish began when Rokita cast doubt on the official COVID numbers, with Rokita stating that he felt state officials were focusing too much on the overall case counts, rather than the number of Hoosiers dying from the virus.

“Well first of all, I don’t believe any numbers anymore,” Rokita said in an interview with WSBT in South Bend. “This has been politicized since day one. I think we need to focus on whether or not people are dying anymore…”

Those comments were met with major pushback from Gov. Holcomb and state health officials.

In his first briefing on COVID-19 in more than two months, Gov. Holcomb said he was “stunned” and “blindsided” by the Attorney General’s remarks. Expressing dismay at AG Rokita’s views, Gov. Holcomb said he’s taking questions about legitimacy very seriously.

“It’s quite serious when you accuse or insinuate anyone of inflating numbers,” Holcomb said. “If we make an error, we own it, we admit it, and we fix it.”

Gov. Holcomb reiterated his trust in the data, saying that the entire public health process would be fraudulent otherwise.

“We take this very personally, not just professionally,” Gov. Holcomb said.

It all comes as lawmakers at the statehouse are continue to craft legislation ending Indiana’s public health emergency. It’s expected to be one of the hot-button issues the General Assembly will debate in its 2022 session.

The bill, in its current version, would force businesses who have a vaccine mandate to also provide, at their expense, a testing option for its employees. Republican lawmakers say it’s a good way to protect Hoosier workers, while Indiana Democrats say it’s an unfair burden on business owners. State Rep. Ryan Hatfield (D – Evansville) shares those concerns, saying that employers should be allowed to make their own decisions.

“I’d like to see employers off the hook for… paying for the testing,” Rep. Hatfield said. “Some of these companies have estimates that it will cost $6 million.”

Republican leadership, like House Majority Leader Matt Lehman, say their side is working to address those concerns before the bill is put up for a vote.

Watch more from this week’s edition of IN Focus in the video above.

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