While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for November 18

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

Here’s a look:

Rapid test approved. The first COVID-19 diagnostic test that can be used for self-testing at home was approved Tuesday night by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The rapid results test created by Lucira was approved using an Emergency Use Authorization. According to the FDA, it’s made for those 14 and older who are suspected of having COVID-19 by their health care provider. It will be authorized for prescription use only.

“The FDA continues to demonstrate its unprecedented speed in response to the pandemic. While COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been authorized for at-home collection, this is the first that can be fully self-administered and provide results at home. This new testing option is an important diagnostic advancement to address the pandemic and reduce the public burden of disease transmission,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. in a statement.

According to Lucira’s website, the COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is first inserted by putting a swab in your nose and stirring into a sample vial.

The device takes 30 minutes or less to provide a result of the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

According to the company’s website, the test is “intended to cost less than $50” and is manufactured in the U.S.

It’s unclear how accurate the test is, but the FDA says “negative results do not preclude an individual from SARS-CoV-2 infection,” and if someone still experiencing COVID-like symptoms, they should follow up with their health care provider.

Plea for help. There is an urgent call for Hoosiers to help front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19.

Indiana established a healthcare workforce reserve back in March, and now it has started a second callout.

After the state sent out its first survey for reserves, 15,000 Hoosiers stepped forward. Late last week, Indiana sent out a second survey as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations reached levels like never before during the pandemic.

“We are happy we had reinforcement, but we need more,” said Hannah Maxey, director of Bowen Center for Health Workforce Research and Policy.

The Bowen Center is tasked with collecting information from potential healthcare volunteers. They then share that information with hospitals or long-term care facilities in need of more staff.

As of Tuesday, Maxey said more than 3,800 people have signed up during the second callout.

“Our hospitals were having more patients coming in their doors, and we were hitting our next wave,” said Maxey. “We knew we needed more reserves.”

Since March, Maxey said more than 130 facilities have requested workforce help. She explained roughly 40% of those requests came in just the last week and a half.

Governor in quarantine. Gov. Eric Holcomb is in quarantine after several members of his security detail tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced.

In addition to the governor, Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box has advised First Lady Janet Holcomb to quarantine as well. Both Gov. Holcomb and First Lady Holcomb are considered close contacts and will be tested later this week.

The Indiana State Department of Health will perform contact tracing for the Holcombs and the security detail.

Holcomb’s office says Dr. Box and Dr. Lindsay Weaver will lead Wednesday’s weekly COVID briefing, and the governor will join by phone.

School challenges. As the coronavirus spreads, more teachers and substitute teachers are either catching the virus themselves, having a high-risk exposure or needing to care for a child who’s been exposed.

The lack of healthy educators is forcing some schools to move temporarily move students to online learning.

“Kids need to be in school, it’s clear,” said Dr. Scott Robison, superintendent of Zionsville Community Schools. “You can pick up any publication and you’ll see that social and emotional issues for folks that have this discontinuity, not to mention obviously the biggest reason is continuity of learning is hugely important. They don’t get those days back of that social interaction in the classroom certainly, but the interaction with a teacher who is helping them grow every day. These are precious days and we can ill afford to lose them for our youth.”

Students in grades pre-K through 4th grade at Zionsville Community Schools are still attending in-person classes. The 5th through 12th graders are on a hybrid schedule. Tuesday, Robison was subbing for a teacher who was out.

“The teacher I served for today, she taught all day,” Robison said. “I mean she’s working really, really hard and she had beautiful lessons that she supplied via Zoom. A lot of us pitched in to make it work.”

In a normal year, school districts tell us they have trouble finding substitute teachers. But the pandemic has made that issue worse. Donna Petraits, executive director for the Indiana School Public Relations Association, said that is likely due in part to the age of those who sub.

“Typically, the substitute teachers that you get are people who work part-time, just want something to do,” Petraits explained. “But more often than not, they’re retired people or semi-retired people which of course then immediately puts them in the high-risk category.”

School districts would love to have help from substitute teachers. If you would like to apply for your permit, please visit www.doe.in.gov/.

Danville Community Schools said many of their substitutes are retired teachers who do not feel comfortable working in the pandemic. They also have subs and teachers who are quarantined or gotten ill. They are looking forward to the help from college students they lined up to sub during their winter break.

Muncie Community Schools said they host monthly trainings for people interested in subbing. They average 5 to 10 people participating each month. You can visit muncie.k12.in.us for more information.

Lebanon Community Schools moved their high school students to 100% virtual learning through at least Thanksgiving break, not because of positive cases but because there is not enough staff to cover the classrooms.

Tighter restrictions. The deadly rise in COVID-19 cases across the U.S. is forcing state and local officials to adjust their blueprints for fighting the virus, with Republican governors adopting mask mandates — skeptically, in at least one case — and schools scrapping plans to reopen classrooms.

The steps face blowback from those who question the science behind mask wearing and social distancing and fear the new restrictions will kill off more jobs and trample on their civil liberties.

In Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds had pushed back against a mask mandate for months but imposed a limited one Tuesday, becoming the latest GOP holdout to change course on face coverings. At the same time, she claimed “there’s science on both sides” about whether masks reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

With Thanksgiving coming up next week, public health officials are bracing for a holiday-fueled surge. Doctors are urging families to stick to small gatherings.

Governors in Ohio, Maryland and Illinois imposed restrictions on business hours and crowd sizes Tuesday, and their counterparts in Wisconsin and Colorado proposed economic relief packages. Los Angeles County, with a population of 10 million, ordered similar business restrictions.

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