INDIANAPOLIS – Allen County is among four counties with an outbreak in a long-term care facility as the state sees the COVID-19 delta variant rise.
But state Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said Friday no new state restrictions are on the way and Indiana won't mandate masks in schools – even for those who can't be vaccinated.
It was the first briefing on COVID-19 in about two months.
She noted that the state's positivity rate has risen from 2.1% in late June to 3.2%, and hospitalizations are increasing as well.
On Friday, the state reported 400 new cases and five new deaths. Allen County added 36 new cases.
The state is running random samples to identify strains present in the state. Overall, the alpha variant, first detected in the U.K., remains dominant. But the new delta variant out of India made up 56% of the samples from June 11 to July 8.
Dr. Lindsay Weaver, chief medical officer for the Indiana Department of Health, said the delta version is more infectious and possibly more severe.
That could be a reason the state's nursing homes are facing challenges again – with outbreaks in four facilities in Allen, Fulton, Gibson and Howard counties. Those outbreaks account for 27 cases and seven deaths since mid-June. Most are in unvaccinated residents or those only partially vaccinated.
No specific information on the Allen County outbreak was provided.
According to data submitted to the federal government, about 79% of all long-term care residents in the state are vaccinated. That is about mid-pack among the states. But only 48% of the staff are vaccinated – 10th worst in the nation.
Box said she is disappointed by the state's overall vaccination rate – 49% of those eligible have been fully vaccinated.
She said one barrier for people is that the immunizations are still under an emergency use authorization, and she thinks the U.S. Food and Drug Administration giving them full approval would help some adults who have safety concerns.
“It is by far the most studied vaccine in the history of the world,” Box said.
Weaver also addressed concern among parents about the possibility of kids developing cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart. She said a possible 56 to 69 cases of myocarditis – which is easily treated – could occur in young boys but that is outweighed by 5,700 COVID cases prevented and more than 200 hospitalizations.
“As a parent I will take those odds,” she said.
Last year. Gov. Eric Holcomb mandated masks in schools for students and teachers but this year is leaving the decision to local school boards. The CDC said Friday that vaccinated teachers and students don't have to wear masks.
But kids younger than 12 – about 1 million in the state – can't get a vaccination.
Box said even if masks aren't required, kids can and should still wear them if they are unvaccinated.
“We do know masks work,” she said.
At a glance
Fully vaccinated residents by county
Adams: 9,605 (34.2%)
Allen: 153,566 (48.8%)
DeKalb: 14,796 (40.3%)
Huntington: 14,739 (47%)
Kosciusko: 25,122 (37.5%)
LaGrange: 7,185 (23%)
Noble: 14,411 (39.5%)
Steuben: 13,264 (44%)
Wabash: 10,345 (38.4%)
Wells: 9,482 (39.9%)
Whitley: 12,679 (43.8%)
Source: Indiana Department of Health