While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for February 25

Coronavirus

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

Here’s a look:

Public health order extended. “We are trending in the right direction … but this is not a mission accomplished moment,” Governor Eric Holcomb said during Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing. “From where we were a month ago to where we are today is remarkable.”

Holcomb continued to tout the state’s progress in positivity and hospitalizations, but said the world will be watching Indiana as we head into March Madness.

He announced the extension of the color-coded county restrictions and current public health emergency executive order for another month as March Madness approaches. 

Vaccines to the ineligible. On Wednesday, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said ISDH had been made aware of some instances in which clinics were specifically set up for groups that are not currently eligible.

A spokesperson for ISDH said these cases are independent of any waiting lists.

Only Hoosiers 60 and older, as well as first responders and health care workers, are able to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Box said when ISDH learns about a clinic that has departed from eligibility guidelines they try to find out why and reeducate them about the importance of following the state’s priority list.

J&J vaccine in Indiana. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced on Wednesday that Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine meets the requirements for emergency use authorization. On Friday, a panel will meet to make the recommendation.

“I think with this approval or the authorization of Johnson and Johnson we will have a much bigger supply of vaccines,” said IU Health’s Methodist Hospital, Medical Director for Infection Prevention, Dr. Lana Dbeibo.

Johnson and Johnson has committed to providing 20 million shots upon the initial rollout and 100 million by summer. Each dose counts for one person.

New variant found. A new coronavirus variant that could be more transmissible and intractable than the traditional strain is on the rise in New York City, researchers said on Wednesday.

Two studies — one from Columbia University and another from the California Institute of Technology — identified the new variant as B.1.526. Outside experts have reviewed neither study.

The new variant, which shares similarities with that of one discovered first in South Africa, was first identified in samples collected in New York in November. By mid-February, it represented about 12% of cases, researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons said on Wednesday.

Vote for third stimulus check. The House of Representatives plans to vote Friday on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans.

On Monday, the budget committee held 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.

As of now, Americans who received a check in the last round of direct payments would get one with this potential third round. While that could change as the measure makes its way to the full House and then over to the Senate, the current plan keeps income thresholds at the same mark for those $600 payments.

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