Originally published December 1, 2020 by TheStatehouseFile.com

As soon as the Food and Drug Administration gives its approval, a coronavirus vaccine will be distributed to healthcare workers who have the greatest potential for exposure to the disease, as quantities of the vaccine will be very limited.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration issued the release aimed at healthcare professionals, which outlines considerations for the vaccine distribution which could happen before the end of the year. 

The document, by FSSA Chief Medical Officer Lindsay Weaver, noted that selected healthcare workers will receive a letter with a link to the scheduling platform. Because the vaccine is two doses, workers will need to sign up a second time. The vaccine is free, but insurance information will be required. 

News that a vaccine will soon be available shows there is a light at the end of the pandemic tunnel as hospitalizations continue to rise. The state hit another high Tuesday at 3,460. Indiana has the second most COVID-19 hospitalizations per capita in the nation, at 50 hospitalizations per 100,000 Hoosiers.

As of Tuesday, 5,518 Hoosiers were newly diagnosed with COVID-19 and there were 142 new deaths. A total of 344,373 Indiana residents have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 5,598 have died of the virus since the onset of the pandemic.

Daily cases appear to be decreasing, but the trends also depend on when Hoosiers are tested.

The volume of cases by day is directly related to when people are likely to be tested, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Testing volume is typically highest on Monday and Tuesday and lowest Saturday and Sunday, causing cases to increase most around mid-week through Saturday.

State-run testing sites were closed on Thursday in observance of Thanksgiving. On the holiday and in the days following it, the state has seen daily case numbers that are lower than the previous trend.

As the pandemic continues to batter the economy, Attorney General Curtis Hill joined 48 attorneys general in asking Congress to extend funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act until the end of 2021. The initial legislation ends funding on Dec. 30, but the letter says that the deadline now seems unreasonable because the pandemic will continue to challenge communities well beyond that date.

“With COVID-19 cases rising daily in much of the country and many states still under a health emergency declaration, we urge Congress to amend the CRF program to allow state and local governments to spend the funding at least until December 31, 2021,” the letter said.

The state received $2.4 billion in CARES Act funds and had spent $1.7 billion as of Oct. 15, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal, leaving $70 million to be spent.

As the number of cases continues to mount, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday extended the public health emergency for an additional 30 days. This is the ninth renewal of the public health emergency by Holcomb since the initial declaration on March 6. 

There has been pushback against the governor’s emergency orders. On Nov. 18, Organization Day, Rep. John Jacob, R-Indianapolis, and Curt Nisly, R-Milford, filed a resolution to end the public health emergency order. The resolution said Hoosiers have been educated on how to keep themselves safe from COVID-19 and the state of emergency is no longer necessary. They were also the only legislators without masks on the House floor that day.

Hill, like the two legislators, has also called into question the governor’s actions during the pandemic. In July, he issued an advisory opinion that said Holcomb did not have the authority to create a mask mandate with a criminal penalty. Holcomb dropped the penalty provision but has kept the mask mandate in place.

Taylor Wooten is a reporter at TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

TheStatehouseFile.com is a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.