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State Officials Sound Alarm On COVID-19 Delta Variant, But Plan No More Restrictions

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box, left, said there have been recent outbreaks of COVID-19 associated with the delta variant in four nursing homes, causing at least seven deaths. (Brandon Smith/IPB News)

Indiana health officials say they’re not planning any more statewide COVID-19 restrictions – even as they sound the alarm about a rise in cases related to the virus’s delta variant.

Indiana’s COVID-19 positivity rate was reported at its lowest level since the pandemic began just over a week ago. Since then, the rate has jumped 52 percent. That coincides with what State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box called a “significant increase” in the delta variant.

“This is important because these mutations of the virus have been shown to be more infectious – more easily transmitted – and to potentially cause more severe illness than the original strain,” Box said.

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

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Box said the state is starting to see that play out in nursing homes, where there have been four recent outbreaks, causing at least seven deaths. Those facilities are in Allen, Fulton, Gibson and Howard counties.

Indiana ranks middle of the pack nationwide for the percent of its long-term care facilities residents who are fully vaccinated at 79 percent. But the state is 10th worst in the country for the percentage of long-term care staff who are fully vaccinated – just 49 percent.

Box said the state is not, however, planning any new or renewed statewide restrictions.

“But individual communities and schools in consultation with their local public health may decide to make different decisions based on the level of infection at that time,” Box said.

Box said the best defense against the virus and its variants is to get vaccinated. She also said unvaccinated people should still wear masks in public settings.

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith is excited to be working for public radio in Indiana. He has previously worked in public radio as a reporter and anchor in mid-Missouri for KBIA Radio out of Columbia. Prior to that, he worked for WSPY Radio in Plano, Illinois as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. His first job in radio was in another state capitol, in Jefferson City, Missouri, as a reporter for three radio stations around Missouri. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.