Indianapolis officials still are evaluating the Marion County COVID-19 numbers and have not yet made a decision on whether to lift additional restrictions by July Fourth, Marion County Public Health Department director Dr. Virginia Caine said Tuesday.
While in the past Caine had mentioned thresholds she’d like to see the county achieve before fully reopening, Tuesday she said she will focus on the overall picture in addition to specific numbers.
“It’s less about the goal posts and more about determining a level of protection that will keep our community safe and prevent outbreaks,” she said. “We’re not quite there yet in terms of making that decision today.”
For now, many of those numbers look good.
A little jab’ll do ya:A chance at Colts season tickets enough to get more vaccinated? Marion Co. offers perks
The county’s positivity rate has been below Caine’s gold standard threshold of 5% since May and is currently 2.4%. Cases have fallen to an average of around 36 per day. Deaths have dropped significantly, as have hospital admissions. Emergency departments currently see about 23 people a day for COVID-19-related complaints.
But the picture turns less rosy when health officials look at vaccination rates.
About 39% of all Indianapolis residents have been vaccinated, Caine said. About two months ago, Caine said she’d like to see half the population vaccinated before reopening.
Now, she said she will also consider how many people enjoy so-called natural immunity to the virus because they have had a recent infection.
“Herd immunity is not a switch, it’s a gradient,” Caine said, adding ultimately the decision about whether to reopen is not about one metric but whether the level of population’s immunity can prevent significant virus spread.
What else we learned
Vaccine incentives. Both Caine and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett exhorted residents who have not done so already to get vaccinated. People who are vaccinated before July 2 will be entered to win one of a variety of prizes, including Colts or Pacers tix, or admission to the Children’s Museum or the Indianapolis Zoo.
People can get free transportation to get their free vaccines through IU Health by calling 1-888-IUHealth. They can get free childcare through a national program (see https://www.vaccines.gov/incentives.html for more information) and can register to win other prizes at various companies.
Another incentive, Hogsett said, is the protection the vaccine affords. Fewer than 0.1% of those who have been vaccinated have become infected, Hogsett said, adding that if vaccinated people do become infected they have a 100 times lower risk of hospitalization.
The Delta variant
This strain, of which there have already been around 100 cases detected in Indiana, is estimated to be 40% more contagious than the original strain, Caine said. In the United Kingdom, 12- to 20-years-old have been falling ill with it.
Health officials expect this variant to soon become the dominant one circulating in the United States.
Given this, Caine urged parents to consider having their eligible vaccinated.
“To many it feels like a risk but I can tell you with certainty it’s far more of a risk to leave your child unprotected in the face of this deadly virus than to give them a vaccine that has been rigorously tested and studied,” she said.
Indy 500 numbers
Nearly a month after the Indy 500, which had 135,000 spectators at 40% capacity, Caine said that there have been 19 cases among Indiana residents who attended the race. None of the 19 people resides in Marion County.
Marion health officials will be targeting certain groups that have seen lower rates of vaccine uptake with social media campaigns, Caine said.
While 39% of white Marion residents are fully vaccinated, only 23% of Black Marion residents are. Rates for Asian and Latino residents are 31% and 30%.
The discrepancies are far greater by age. While 80% of Marion residents ages 70 to 74 are fully vaccinated, only 20% of those 16 to 19 and 11.5% of those 12 to 15 are.
Contact IndyStar reporter Shari Rudavsky at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter: @srudavsky.
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