INDIANAPOLIS — Wednesday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest news on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in Indiana. Registrations for the vaccine are now open for select groups through Indiana State Department of Health. This story will be updated over the course of the day with more news on the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rental assistance program now accepting applications
The state's rental assistance program is now accepting applications.
Eligible Hoosiers can get help with up to 12 months of rental and utility bills.
You can apply online here or by phone at (317) 800-6000.
State update on response
Gov. Holcomb and state leaders are giving an update on the vaccination effort and response to COVID-19.
The state has now surpassed the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases with the number of people who have been vaccinated.
More than a million Hoosiers have now received the vaccine. Vaccination rates:
- Age 80+: 72 percent
- Age 70-79: 73 percent
- Age 60-69: 60 percent
- Age 50-59: 37 percent
Even if you are vaccinated, the Indiana State Department of Health advises you still need to wear a mask when at church, the grocery store and other indoor places where you are around people that might not be vaccinated.
The state's positivity rate now stands at 3.1 percent. For the first time since July, there are fewer than 700 Hoosiers hospitalized due to COVID-19. There are 61 Indiana counties now in blue, and all the rest except one are in yellow. No counties are in red.
The state is advising long-term care centers to allow visitations of up to 8 hours during the week and then hours on the weekend.
The state will be extending eligibility to educators beginning on Monday. Those eligible include:
- Teachers and staff in pre-K through high school, childcare centers, Head Start and Early Start programs.
- Licensed childcare providers, including center-based and family care providers
- Classroom aides, bus drivers, janitors and counselors
- Administration staff, cafeteria workers, and substitute teachers
The state has extended vaccine eligibility to Hoosiers with the following conditions:
- Intellectual and developmentally disabled individuals receiving home- or community-based services
- Early childhood conditions that are carried into adulthood:
- Cystic Fibrosis
- Muscular Dystrophy
- People born with severe heart defects, requiring specialized medical care
- Severe Type I diabetes, requiring hospitalization in the past year
- Phenylketonuria (PKU), Tay-Sachs, and other rare, inherited metabolic disorders
- Epilepsy with continuing seizures, hydrocephaly, microcephaly, and other severe neurologic disorders
- Severe asthma, requiring hospitalization in the past year
- Alpha and beta thalassemia
- Spina bifida
- Cerebral palsy
- Hoosiers with the following conditions:
- People who require supplemental oxygen and/or tracheostomy
- Pulmonary fibrosis, Alpha-1 Antitrypsin
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, combined primary immunodeficiency disorder, HIV, daily use of corticosteroids, use of other immune weakening medicines, receiving tumor necrosis factor-alpha blocker, or rituximab
Testing site opening at Indianapolis International Airport
Travelers will soon be able to get tested for COVID-19 at the Indianapolis International Airport.
The airport is teaming up with JFI Medical to open a COVID-19 testing site Thursday, March 11 that will be exclusive to individuals traveling through the airport and badged employees.
The testing site is optional for travelers, and it is not part of TSA screening. It will be located in the baggage claim area and open Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from 4-8 a.m. and 2-8 p.m. Tests can also be scheduled around those times as an airline requires. Pre-registration is required.
The airport will offer two types of tests — a PCR test for $135 yielding results in 24 hours and a rapid test for $95 yielding results in one hour. If a traveler or employee would like both tests, they can be purchased for $200. Health insurance providers may cover the costs of the tests.
The state is reporting 863 new cases of COVID-19 for a total of 669,164 confirmed cases since the pandemic began.
There were also 16 additional deaths bringing the state death toll to 12,350.
Reports: Biden to announce plans to order 100 million more Johnson & Johnson vaccines
President Joe Biden on Wednesday is expected to announce plans to purchase another 100 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses during an event with the CEO of the company, according to NBC and the New York Times.
Two senior administration officials informed the news outlets about the U.S. acquiring the additional doses of the single-shot vaccine, which would be more than enough to vaccinate the country's population, according to NBC.
The New York Times said the new shipment of vaccines could be delivered sometime in the second half of 2021.
The White House on Tuesday evening said Biden will host an event at 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday with the CEOs of Johnson & Johnson and Merck, the rival company who is helping produce the vaccines. However, specific plans for the meeting have not been officially announced.
Last week, Biden said the United States would have enough coronavirus vaccines for every single American adult by the end of May.
More high-risk patients now eligible for vaccine in Indiana
The Indiana State Department of Health has expanded eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine to several more high-risk health conditions.
Patients with chronic conditions like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, epilepsy and cerebral palsy are now eligible to be vaccinated. Also added to the list are people with severe asthma, those who need supplemental oxygen and people with HIV.
Individuals who are eligible under the new guidelines will receive a unique registration link or can call 211 after receiving the notification.
Latest US, world numbers
There have been more than 29.09 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 3:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 527,000 deaths in the U.S.
Worldwide, there have been more than 117.57 million confirmed cases with more than 2.61 million deaths and 66.62 million recoveries.
The real number of people infected by the virus around the world is believed to be much higher — perhaps 10 times higher in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — given testing limitations and the many mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognized.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.
House plans to vote Wednesday on COVID-19 relief
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up the Senate's version of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, which includes a third round of stimulus checks, on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office said Tuesday.
The Senate passed its COVID-19 relief bill on Saturday, with a party line 50-49 vote, with several changes compared to what the House originally passed. Instead of $400 weekly emergency unemployment checks, the Senate bumped it down to $300. It also removed the push for a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour.
In both versions of the bill, individual tax filers making up to $75,000 per year will get $1,400 stimulus checks. Couples making up to $150,000 will get $2,800. There will also be $1,400 tacked on for each dependent in the household.
Under the Senate bill, the amount for stimulus checks would be gradually reduced until it reaches zero for people earning $80,000 and couples making $160,000. Those ceilings were higher in the House version.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday that the House would vote on the legislation "Wednesday morning at the latest," according to Reuters. She said it only depends when the Senate sends the legislation.
Texas lifts statewide mask mandate, expands business capacity beginning Wednesday
Texas is lifting its statewide mask mandate and allowing businesses to operate at 100 percent capacity beginning Wednesday, March 10.
Gov. Greg Abbott announced the changes last week at a press conference and said conditions had improved in the fight against COVID-19 to the point where he felt businesses could open to full capacity. Some businesses were previously only allowed to open to 75 percent capacity.
He also said Tuesday, March 2 had the lowest positivity rate in Texas for COVID-19 cases in four months. Cases had been dropping in recent weeks since a spike after the winter holidays.
Abbott said that while he is removing the statewide mask mandate, he encouraged businesses to create their own policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccine available to anyone in Alaska age 16 and up
Most anyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccine in the state of Alaska now can get one.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Tuesday that effectively immediately, the state is removing all eligibility requirements to get a COVID-19 vaccine. There remains a minimum age requirement, however, based upon the Food and Drug Administration's Emergency Use Authorization for each vaccine.
One still has to live and work in the state, too, but officials no longer are focusing on older or high-risk populations.
The two-dose Pfizer vaccine is available to people age 16 and older, while the two-dose Moderna shot and single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine are available to those age 18 and older.