With the surge in COVID-19 cases in Indiana from the omicron variant expected to continue in the coming weeks, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce announced new partnerships on Thursday to provide on-site vaccine clinics and access to COVID-19 testing for employers.
Through its Wellness Council of Indiana, the chamber is partnering with the Franciscan Health Immunization Department to offer free Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinics on site to employers in all 92 counties.
Both the vaccines and boosters will be available at no charge in most cases. The only requirement is that 15 people in total receive services at one location—that can be employees and their dependents, or two small employers can join together. If the 15-person threshold can’t be met, there is a $50 travel fee.
For employers needing to test multiple employees because of a suspected COVID-19 outbreak, the chamber also has partnered to create a testing pipeline with Patients Choice Laboratories.
The company provides PCR COVID testing statewide with results 24 hours after receipt. The test kits can be shipped to employers anywhere in the state with instructions for employees on how to do the collection. Patients Choice Laboratories will pick up the tests to analyze.
Those in the central Indiana area can also go to the Patients Choice facility on the northwest side of Indianapolis for curbside testing.
The new on-site vaccine clinics and testing partnerships are part of the chamber and WCI’s expanded COVID Stops Here campaign. Although it is against federal vaccine mandates for large employers, the chamber has been encouraging businesses to urge their workers to get vaccinated.
“It has become increasingly clear that a vaccinated workforce is absolutely vital to Indiana’s future economic health,” Indiana Chamber President and CEO Kevin Brinegar said. “Many Hoosier businesses can’t afford to have another COVID outbreak or temporarily close.”
Brinegar was joined by the Indiana Hospital Association and other hospital and business officials from around the state during the press conference on Thursday to also address dire situations with hospitals filling up and workplace shortages.
IHA President Brian Tabor said he wanted Hoosiers to understand that strained hospitals statewide will affect everyone, whether patients need care for COVID-19 or another illness. As of Wednesday, the state reported only 9.2% of ICU beds were available, and 38% were filled by COVID-19 patients.
“This is really requiring a lot of innovation nimbleness on their part with those numbers to do everything they can to find spaces to treat patients, in hallways, conference rooms, anywhere they can,” Tabor said. “We’re not able to serve people in the way that we would like to, so we’re just here today to ask everyone to do their part and understand how these capacity constraints affect everyone.”
On the business side, Brinegar noted Indiana has seen economic recovery in terms of business attraction and new investments, but COVID-19 is still straining the workforce. Brinegar said he spoke with a number of businesses from telecommunications to manufacturing who are struggling with staffing shortages from employees out sick with COVID or in quarantine.
“The reality is, we haven’t recovered as much, and our economy is not producing as much as it could,” Brinegar said. “If we didn’t have all these folks, all these employees out with COVID and that has contributed to lower workforce. Participation rates are about 4% or 5% lower, and that doesn’t necessarily sound like a lot, but when you multiply that four times our entire workforce, that’s thousands and thousands of employees.”