Indiana Senate backs narrow bill to end health emergency

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The Indiana Senate has approved a bill taking administrative steps that Gov. Eric Holcomb has said are needed in order for him to end the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency.

Senators voted 34-11 in favor of the bill Thursday. The Republican-dominated Senate’s proposal is limited to those administrative actions, while House Republicans have pushed through a bill that would also severely limit workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements.

The actions sought by Holcomb would allow the state to keep receiving about $40 million a month in enhanced federal funding for Medicaid and for about 200,000 households to continue receiving an additional $95 a month in federal food assistance. The bill would also let the state health commissioner continuing issuing a standing doctor’s order for the administration of COVID-19 vaccinations to children ages 5 to 11.

Health experts object to the move to end the public health emergency that Holcomb first declared in March 2020. They point to the state’s ongoing high levels of COVID-19 illnesses and hospitalizations.

State health department tracking shows that Indiana’s hospitals were treating about 3,000 COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday—seven times higher than last summer.

The state has averaged more than 50 COVID-19 deaths a day since mid-December, and the pandemic death total has topped 20,000 people.

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