Jefferson and Switzerland counties in Indiana have both improved enough to move into the “yellow” metric in terms of COVID-19 infection rates while, Carroll County is in the “orange” and Trimble County is still in the more serious “red” based on the latest updates in Kentucky.
Indiana reported six new cases of the caronavirus and three new deaths in Jefferson County, bringing the county’s totals to 2,911 cases and 70 deaths since the pandemic began last March. So far 14,552 Jefferson residents have been tested — including 24 in the most recent update — and the county’s seven-day positivity once again showed improvement to 5.4% with a unique individual positivity of 12.8% and a county metric of 1.5.
Switzerland had no new deaths but seven deaths total and only one new positive case with 748 overall out of 3,762 tested. The county’s positively rate has improved to 7.9% and the 15.4% unique positivity rating has moved the county into the “yellow” metric.
While the data is handled slightly different in Kentucky, the state still uses colored metrics to identify which counties are hardest hit by the coronavirus. Carroll County, with 868 total cases and 10 total deaths, has a statewide incidence rate of 21.5% while less populous Trimble, with a total of 607 cases and five deaths, is at 27.0% — putting Carroll in the “accelerated” designation and Trimble in the “critical” zone in terms of community infection rates.
Meanwhile, Indiana posted data showing 44 new deaths and 11,989 overall and 1,080 new positive cases and 653,235 overal. There have been 7,683,034 COVID-19 tests in Indiana — 32,422 of those most recently — for a 4.4 seven-day positivity and 11.3% unique positivity.
Kentucky has now reported 292,729 cases overall and 4,373 deaths with a 21.374 statewide incidence rate.
Meanwhile, the winter storm that coated Indiana with heavy snow disrupted thousands of coronavirus vaccine appointments and delayed the state’s timeline for expanding shots to additional populations.
More than 80 clinics around the state closed due to the weather — Jefferson County for the most part remained open — and upwards of 43,000 vaccine appointments will need to be rescheduled, the state health department’s chief medical officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver announced.
Most clinics did not remove vaccines from their freezers ahead of the winter weather, which spared doses from being wasted, Weaver said.
Vaccine shipments to Indiana were also interrupted, health officials said. By midweek, the state still had not received its weekly allocation of Moderna vaccines.
As a result, Indiana won’t yet expand vaccine eligibility beyond those aged 65 and older. Health officials said they hope to make shots available to the next age group — the state’s 432,000 60- to 64-year-olds — as early as next week, once shipments get back on schedule.
“We will see how the weather continues to impact our shipments, but hopefully we will be able to expand as soon as sometime next week,” Weaver said, emphasizing that the state will need a “large influx” of vaccine before further widening eligibility to the 858,000 Hoosiers aged 50 and above.
There is still no timeline in place for Indiana’s teachers and other essential workers to become eligible for COVID-19 shots, however.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said Indiana should be getting a “small increase” in vaccine doses moving forward, although he expressed concerns about vaccines that will soon be provided to federally qualified health centers and community health clinics within Indiana.
Holcomb said health officials want to be able to monitor “need and supply” with the state’s current system, in addition to tracking who is getting vaccinated.
“We’re never going to turn away more doses, we love that,” Holcomb said. “But we want to know where the doses are going.”
Weaver said more than 60% of the state’s eligible populations have already been vaccinated or have appointments to get shots.
That total includes about 57% of Hoosiers 80 and older, 65% of Hoosiers aged 70, and older, and 56% of Hoosiers aged 65 to 69. The number also includes about 68% of eligible health care workers and first responders, in addition to nearly 98,000 doses that have been administered to residents and staff in long term care facilities, Weaver said.
To date, about 17,000 out of state residents have received vaccine who live in neighboring states but work in Indiana.
Weaver maintained the state’s vaccine wastage “has been minimal,” noting that of the more than 1.3 million doses Indiana has received so far, only 172 doses have been lost.
Elswhere, Kentucky plans to open 28 more COVID-19 vaccination sites in preparation for the time when vaccine supplies will be much more plentiful, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.
More than 555,000 Kentuckians have received at least their first dose of vaccine, but the state’s ability to provide shots still far outpaces available supplies, the governor said.
Kentucky’s network of inoculation locations will grow to 291 with the new openings, which include regional centers in Albany, Cadiz, Campbellsville, Hartford, Marion and Maysville, according to the governor’s office. New sites opening in partnership with Kroger include Bardstown, La Grange, Lebanon, Louisville, Madisonville, Morehead, Mount Sterling, Owensboro, Somerset and Walton.
Other new sites are scattered across the state.
“There is a provider that has vaccine close to where everybody lives in the commonwealth,” Beshear said at a news conference. “There are some areas where you might have to drive just a little bit further, but we continue to build this out.”
Kentucky is set to receive another 29% increase in COVID-19 vaccine supply from the federal government starting next week, Beshear has said. Recent increases haven’t kept up with demand, which means providers have limited supplies as the buildup of vaccination sites continues, he said.
“We don’t have nearly what we could put in people’s arms,” Beshear said. “And every time we add sites, and we add them for convenience, it does split up the pie in more and more amounts.”
Meanwhile, Kentucky is relaxing coronavirus-related restrictions at some of its long-term care facilities. Indoor visitation will resume at non-Medicare-certified facilities that have been through the COVID-19 vaccination process, Beshear said. Group activities, communal dining and visitations among vaccinated residents will resume, he said.
Included in the updated protocols are assisted living facilities, personal care homes, intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities and independent living centers, Beshear said.
“It’s been a long journey and it’s exciting to be able to relax some restrictions,” said state Cabinet for Health and Family Services inspector general Adam Mather.
People will be expected to schedule their visits with the facility, and up to two visitors from the same household can visit a resident at one time, state officials said.
Visitors will need to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the visit. The new protocols will take effect today.