While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for February 23

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic you may have missed overnight.

Here’s a look:

Nursing home deaths. A COVID-19 dashboard by AARP ranks Indiana number one in the country for highest death rate in nursing homes.

The dashboard looks at five categories, including nursing home resident COVID-19 deaths – per 100 residents — personal protective equipment and staffing shortages.

The AARP Public Policy Institute, in collaboration with the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Ohio, created the AARP Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard to provide four-week snapshots of the virus’ spread into nursing homes.

According to the website, the goal is to identify “specific areas of concern at the national and state levels in a timely manner.”

As of Monday, Indiana was ranked number one for resident COVID-19 death rate. The chart is a collection of data from the CMS Nursing Home COVID-19 Public File. That file includes data reported by nursing homes to the CDC’s NHSN system.

Vaccine alarmism. Some Hoosiers are skeptical about getting the COVID-19 vaccine because they would still be recommended to wear masks and socially distance afterwards.

But local doctors are advising that the vaccine is the best route to going back to normal.

Dr. Paul Calkins of IU Health says in order to have enough people immune to the virus where we can change our behaviors and not wear masks — people need to get vaccinated.

Vaccines for school staff. The Indianapolis City-County Council is calling for teachers and school staff to be prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine.

Right now, Indiana is doing an age based approach to distribution. At the council meeting Monday night, counselors adopted two proposals urging policymakers to provide teachers and bus drivers the vaccine as soon as vaccine supply permits.

“Teachers and school staff have faced enormous personal risks to get in-person education going again,” said Councillor Crista Carlino, “and more than 12,000 Indiana educators and school personnel have tested positive for COVID-19. Getting back to in-person instruction full-time is critically important to our economy and to our local families, which means we need to do everything we can to protect our teachers and staff.”

500K deaths. The United States topped more than 500,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths Monday as the country continues to grapple with the issues with vaccine distribution and backlog.

John Hopkins University reported the deaths Monday as more than 28 million Americans have contracted the virus nationwide. The U.S. previously topped 400,000 deaths from the virus on the eve of President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Jan. 19, 2021. It took the United States less than five weeks to rise from 400,000 to 500,000. The first cases of coronavirus in the United States were reported on Jan. 21, 2020.

Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff led a national moment of silence at sundown from the White House. They each lit a candle to mark the half-million deaths.

In Indiana, Governor Eric Holcomb is directing flags across the state to be flown at half-staff in memory of the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.

COVID-19 relief bill. The House of Representatives Budget Committee Monday approved a bill with $1.9 trillion in COVID-19 relief, advancing a top priority of President Joe Biden toward a full House vote on passage expected later this week.

This was the first major vote for the 591-page package, as Democrats continue to debate issues such as raising the minimum wage and how much aid to funnel to struggling state and local governments; the measure passed the panel on a largely party-line vote of 19-16.

Democrats hold a thin 10-vote House majority, which leaves little room for defections in the face of solid Republican opposition to the legislation. They have none in a 50-50 Senate, where the party’s control lies with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

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