Gov. Holcomb, state officials relay positive vaccine news but caution ‘work is far from over’

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INDIANAPOLIS (WXIN) –Governor Holcomb and state health officials shared good news as far as vaccine distribution and county positivity rates, but cautioned that “we’re not out of the woods yet.”

Holcomb said some of the good news came from our federal partners this week. The Biden administration announced Tuesday an additional 16% in vaccine supply–equating to almost 13,000 extra doses a week–is on the way to Indiana.

The governor said he’s been in contact with all the governors and President Biden’s White House COVID Task Force. Holcomb said it seems that Indiana, “tends to rank in the top three in the nation, in terms of getting our allocation and getting our shots in arms.”

In other good news, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box announced that Meijer, Kroger and Walmart will begin offering vaccine appointments in Indiana to eligible residents. 

She said Hoosiers will still need to schedule an appointment and be age 70 or older, and noted that Meijer and Kroger will use their own websites to sign up people. 

Dr. Box said 2-1-1 can not make appointments for you at Meijer and Kroger, for example. Walmart will reportedly use Indiana’s system and can be scheduled through OurShot.In.Gov or 2-1-1.

When asked about details of Meijer, Kroger and Walmart’s planned vaccine administration, ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said there will be no charge. She said these sites will collect insurance information, but those that don’t have insurance will still get the vaccine at no charge. 

Dr. Weaver made another big prediction about the state’s vaccine plan. She said “hopefully next week” the state will expand vaccine eligibility to ages 65 to 69. Holcomb later clarified that “soon” is more accurate, but saying, “days, not weeks, is what we’re looking at.”

More than 1 million appts have been scheduled since December, she said. “We are working to make appointments as easy as possible,” and added that 2-1-1 has received over 173,000 calls. 

Dr. Box also reported that 477,000 Hoosiers have seen their first vaccine dose as of Wednesday, and 113,00 have received both doses and are fully vaccinated. Indiana is expanding appointments and vaccination sites so all eligible Hoosiers can get it as soon as possible, she said.

She also echoed Holcomb’s point, saying the county map is signaling that Indiana is moving in the right direction but said, “Our work is far from over. We continue to see Hoosiers lose their lives to this disease.”

FSSA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Rusyniak reported outbreaks and deaths at long-term care facilities are declining thanks, in part, to the response from the Indiana National Guard. 

Dr. Rusyniak said starting January 31, and to be completed by March 15, Guardsmen will begin transitioning to other missions or coming off duty. He offered his enthusiastic thanks to all the men and women who assisted with various duties to stop the spread amongst our most vulnerable. 

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne reported Indiana’s unemployment rate is at 4.3%, the lowest of the MidWestern states, and continues to trend in a positive direction.

He did say, however, that Indiana has increasingly become targets of fraudsters and scammers in the workforce system. These scammers are targeting the system in different ways, including identity theft from information gathered on the dark web used for filing of benefits. 

Passwords have also been stolen from social sites and have been used to file for unemployment, and a fake web page was set up as Indiana Dept Workforce Developments (with an added “s”) in which people engaged and shared information. 

Payne said his team is combating this fraud by continuing to develop tools and technology.

Holcomb attributed these overall positive trends to the tenacity of Indiana residents. “We’re seeing Hoosiers stepping up and saying they want their lives back,” he said, adding that Indiana will continue to move forward with our county-by-county, data-driven plan to continue to drive the numbers down. 

He explained a new order will be signed Sunday, which sets some capacity limits at social gatherings and events based on a county’s color-coded metric. As of this week, most counties in the state are in “orange” right now–a major improvement over the past few weeks.

“We know what works in any environment, in any situation,” Holcomb said while explaining Hoosiers need to continue to physically distance while wearing face coverings.

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