Is it almost over?
People across Indiana might be wondering how close the state is to completely reopening its economy and lifting pandemic-related restrictions, now that more than 1 million Hoosiers have received at least one vaccination shot and COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths are at their lowest point in months.
State health officials on Wednesday said the picture is definitely brightening, but it’s too early to declare “mission accomplished” on the pandemic.
The state still needs to vaccinate millions more people, and that will take an untold number of weeks, said Dr. Kris Box, Indiana state health commissioner.
“We’re not going to be able to call this pandemic over, with mutations and the other things that are happening with this virus, until we’ve protected more of our population—and really decreased our cases and kept them down,” she said during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s weekly press briefing, in response to a reporter’s question.
She said it’s possible that people will need to get booster shots in the fall to protect themselves against variants of the virus that are sweeping the globe.
Scientists are still working to learn more about the variants to better understand how easily they might be transmitted and the effectiveness of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines against them, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
“But the really, really important thing to remember is that all of these vaccines prevent hospitalizations incredibly well and have prevented death,” Box said. “And that’s really our goal.”
More than 1.03 million Hoosiers—or about 15% of Indiana’s population of about 6.7 million—have received at least one dose, according to numbers posted Wednesday on the state’s vaccine dashboard. More than 608,000 Hoosiers are considered fully vaccinated.
Holcomb hinted it might be necessary to be vaccinated on a regular basis against the coronavirus.
“We get the flu every year, and people get vaccinated (against the flu) every year,” he said.
He quickly added that numbers are showing a steady improvement, in terms of lower hospitalizations and deaths.
The state health department on Wednesday reported nine new deaths due to the coronavirus, marking the first time since Jan. 31 that deaths have fallen to single digits in the daily report. Reported deaths due to COVID-19 have exceeded single digits in 141 of the past 143 days.
Statewide hospitalizations due to COVID-19 dropped from 765 on Monday to 731 on Tuesday, the lowest number since Sept. 12. The high mark was 3,460, set on Nov. 30.
“When you look at previous surges, we didn’t have a vaccination to bring down those hospitalization rates and those deaths,” Holcomb said. “Now we do.”