Coronavirus: State Breaks Records For Cases, Lilly Makes EUA Request For Antibody Drug
The Indiana State Department of Health reported 115 additional confirmed deaths over the last week, bringing the state’s total to 3,562 – the largest reported in a single week since the first week of June.
In the last week, the state has also reported nearly 10,000 new COVID-19 cases, with nearly 135,000 total confirmed cases. The state has reported more than 1,000 cases 10 of the last 14 days – including Friday, Saturday and Sunday with more than 1,500 new cases each day.
Along with the surge of new cases, Indiana’s seven-day rolling average for people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased for the last 19 consecutive days. Sunday’s reported hospital census was the highest since May 19.
Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box says Indiana’s latest COVID-19 numbers are concerning.
The governor’s on-going position is that it’s the responsibility of all Hoosiers to help mitigate the virus’s spread.
Indiana’s rate of positive cases versus people tested has increased significantly in the last couple of weeks. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 are at their highest level in four months.
But Box said much of the state is still in a low-risk position. And so she said the state is focused on talking with local governments and health departments where the spread of the virus is getting worse.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Woody Myers said it’s “imperative” for Indiana to reverse course on its COVID-19 restrictions.
Myers said the state still has time to avoid an “apocalyptic” spread of the virus that some are predicting for the fall.
Holcomb lifted almost all COVID-19 restrictions two weeks ago. Myers said he would impose a mask-wearing mandate that includes enforcement and reimpose COVID-19 restrictions – like capacity and gathering limits – across the state, with those restrictions stricter in some areas than others.
Lilly’s request comes after the company’s second round of the antibody drug trials showed a lower hospitalization rate for those who had been treated after testing positive for COVID-19. These patients also showed lower levels of the virus in their systems after the combination antibody treatment. After 11 days, patients’ viral load was significantly reduced.
The company plans to request a EUA for a combination antibody treatment in November as well. This will depend on clinical trial enrollment, accumulation of additional safety data and a sufficient supply of the drugs. The combination treatment is similar to part of the treatment President Donald Trump received.
A federal judge Tuesday temporarily halted a ruling that would have forced Indiana to count mail-in ballots that were postmarked by Election Day.
The temporary halt will give time for a federal appeals court to consider the case.
Indiana law says a ballot must physically arrive at the county election administrator’s office by noon on Election Day. Judge Sarah Evans Barker ruled last week that deadline unconstitutionally threatened people’s right to vote.
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The judge halted her ruling for seven days to give the appeals court time to consider the case. And she urged voters to get their ballots in well ahead of time.
The hopes of Hoosiers who wanted Indiana to expand vote-by-mail for this fall’s election are all but buried after a federal appeals court ruling Tuesday.
A group of Indiana residents sued the state, trying to force it to allow any registered voter to cast a mail-in ballot for the 2020 general election. The state expanded vote-by-mail in the primary but Republicans refused to do so for the fall.
A federal district court judge already denied that request last month. And now, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has done the same. In a unanimous decision, the appellate court said it’s the pandemic, not the state, that’s to blame if voters choose not to cast a ballot this year because of fears around COVID-19. The court’s decision said Indiana has no constitutional duty to expand vote-by-mail.
It’s likely only the U.S. Supreme Court could now force Indiana to expand vote-by-mail for this year’s election – and such a move is unlikely.
The state does allow some people to vote by mail, if they qualify under about a dozen reasons provided by state law.
Researchers at Purdue University hope to use smartwatch data to help detect early signs of COVID-19. The study could help perfect ways of using already available fitness-tracking data.
The study is based on what researchers already know can signal a viral infection: changes in heart and breathing rates. Craig Goergen facilitates the study and is an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering. He said a watch will never tell a wearer they have COVID-19, but it could offer information that could lead to preventative action, which is especially huge if a person is asymptomatic.
“An increased heart rate or respiration rate means something different if it increased while you were resting as opposed to running, but most smartwatches have difficulty distinguishing that. So it is really recovery and resting periods that we are focused on with this approach,” Goergen said.
Though smartwatches and similar devices, like fitness trackers can be used to help detect abnormalities in a person’s heart-rate or respiratory rate, Goergen stresses this study does not aim to replace diagnostic testing.
More than 100 workers in live events and entertainment rallied in Indianapolis last week to demand more federal government relief through the pandemic. It comes as local theater unions across the country push for the return of an additional $600 of unemployment benefits.
With rallying cries like “Save Our Stages!” a crowd of event workers rallied on the step of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. They say thousands of Hoosiers are still struggling with a lack of work and income as live entertainment and events remain mostly canceled.
Joanne Sanders is the vice president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. She said more than 80,000 people in Indianapolis alone rely on tourism and events for a paycheck. More than half of them are still unemployed.
“We are the invisible workforce because we are behind the scenes,” she said. “Most people don’t even recognize what it takes to put live entertainment together. They go, they’re happy, and they leave.”
Schools are starting to take advantage of new flexibility from a law passed earlier this year, that allows schools to apply for waivers to bypass certain state requirements if they can prove it will benefit students.
Lawmakers created the law before the pandemic, as a way for schools to find relief from a number of state regulations and reporting requirements that have added up over the years.
In the first round of applications considered by the State Board of Education last week, about a dozen school corporations requested waivers of some kind. Many focused on loosening requirements for certain teacher or staff training, the number of days in the school year, and reporting requirements.
Brown County Schools Superintendent Laura Hammack says COVID-19 has made the need for flexibility more urgent. Her corporation's application would change how they calculate instructional time, allowing schools to count instructional hours, not days.
"Quite simply, flexibility through the waiver process is needed now more than ever," she said.
The Indiana State Board of Education has released 2020 school accountability grades, but they don’t reflect the most recent data about what’s happening in schools – largely because there isn’t enough or the state can’t use it.
The cancellation of spring testing because of the COVID-19 pandemic means the state didn’t have new ILEARN data to calculate this year’s grades. However, the state did use some college and career readiness data, including graduation rates, to help grade high schools.
Most school corporations – about 75 percent – are in the A and B categories, with just fewer than two-thirds of individual schools receiving A or B grades.
Gov. Eric Holcomb is looking to future economic opportunities as a partial solution to businesses closing around the state during the pandemic. A conference Wednesday in Indianapolis highlighted companies around the world looking to make future investments.
Hundreds of people attended the virtual conference hosted by the U.S. Department of Commerce focused on continuing to bring together advanced manufacturing and technology companies around the world.
Holcomb said while it’s concerning and tragic that some businesses around the state have and will close due to the pandemic, this conference gives a potential path forward for the state.