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Indiana coronavirus updates for Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022

The latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic for Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022.

INDIANAPOLIS — Here are Tuesday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic, including the latest news on COVID-19 vaccinations and testing in Indiana.

Registrations for the vaccine are now open for Hoosiers 5 and older through the Indiana State Department of Health. This story will be updated over the course of the day with more news on the COVID-19 pandemic.

RELATED: Here's everything we know about the COVID-19 vaccine

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Judge blocks Navy from acting against 35 COVID-19 vaccine refusers

A federal judge in Texas has granted a preliminary injunction stopping the Navy from acting against 35 sailors for refusing on religious grounds to comply with an order to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The injunction is a new challenge to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's decision to make vaccinations mandatory for all members of the military. The vaccination requirement allows for exemptions on religious and other grounds, but none of the thousands of requests for religious waivers so far have been granted.

There was no indication that the order would affect service members beyond the 35 sailors who sued Austin and the Navy.

US reported more than 1 million new COVID cases on Monday

New COVID-19 cases per day have more than tripled over the past two weeks, reaching a record-shattering average of 480,000. The number of new cases recorded on Monday topped 1 million. This figure may reflect a backlog held up by reporting delays over the holiday weekend, an increase in people getting tested before the holidays and new testing requirements at workplaces and businesses. 

The true number of infections is likely much higher because at-home tests aren't added to the official tally and long waits at testing sites have discouraged people from getting tested. 

But experts say case numbers yield a less useful picture of the pandemic amid the spread of omicron because, although it's highly transmissible, it hasn't caused as severe of symptoms. Experts believe the focus should instead be on COVID-19 hospital admissions, which aren’t climbing as fast. 

Hospital admissions averaged 12,700 per day last week, well short of the peak of 16,500 per day a year ago, when the vast majority of the U.S. was unvaccinated. 

ISDH update

The Indiana State Department of Health reports there were 172 more COVID-19 deaths and 8,533 new cases. The deaths include cases confirmed dating back to Dec. 19. A total of 18,605 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19.

The state also reported 3,422 more Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday. The total number of people vaccinated in Indiana is now at 3,564,896.

 There were 12,473 booster doses administered Monday, bringing the total number to 1,410,652.

Notre Dame reinstates mask mandate amid COVID-19 surge

The University of Notre Dame has reinstated a mask requirement for all students, staff and campus visitors as the omicron variant fuels a surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. 

As of Jan. 1, masks were required indoors for all students, staff and visitors to the South Bend campus. School officials say that mandate will continue until 90% of the campus community has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and also received a booster shot. 

The South Bend Tribune reports the university is also requiring its students and employees to receive and verify the status of a booster vaccination by Jan. 21. 

Notre Dame's spring semester classes begin Jan. 10.

Reports: Biden to double purchase of Pfizer COVID-19 pills, US will buy 20 million

The Biden administration plans to double the U.S. government's order for Pfizer's antiviral COVID-19 pill, with the new order set up for 20 million treatment courses, according to reports. 

The updated purchase was first reported by Fox News and later confirmed by the Wall Street Journal. Both reports cited a senior administration official with knowledge of the decision. The initial report from Fox News said Biden is expected to double the order sometime Tuesday and accelerate the delivery of the treatments.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month granted emergency authorization for Pfizer's antiviral tablets — called Paxlovid-nirmatrelvir  —and ritonavir tablets as a dual-medicine oral antiviral treatment for COVID. 

The two tablets, which were authorized to help people suffering from mild and initial COVID symptoms, were the first approved oral treatment. 

In November, before they were formally approved, the Biden administration said it would commit to securing 10 million treatment courses once they passed the FDA's screening process. The administration paid around $5.3 billion for the first 10 million courses.  

Military assists IU Health 

Officials are giving an update Tuesday on the U.S. Navy's support at IU Health and Riley Children's hospitals with the surge in COVID-19 cases. 

There are 553 COVID-19 patients in IU Health's 16 hospitals. The system said it sees an average of six COVID-19 deaths per day currently.

The surge in cases is also leading to staffing issues with workers being out sick or because of exposure.

A team of 20 U.S. Navy personnel began arriving in Indianapolis before Christmas. The military doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists will serve 30-day deployments and be integrated into medical units in "areas of greatest need" within the hospital, according to IU Health in a statement released at the time.

IU Health is following updated CDC guidelines on isolation only being five days if they are fever-free and improving, along with a negative COVID-19 test.

IU Health officials said they currently have four times as many children admitted than in any other wave of COVID. Additionally, more of them are being admitted into the ICU and going on ventilators than in the past.

Riley Hospital for Children will get assistance from the Indiana National Guard to help with clinical operations and other areas. The hospital is at about 87% capacity with only a few beds available in areas needed for COVID patients.  Nine of the patients at Riley are maternity patients (pregnant women). 

IU Health Methodist medical officials said it had to work to add 35 additional ICU beds to meet the demand during the surge in cases.

To this point, the majority of the cases affecting patients and staff at IU Health are from the delta strain.

With a major event like the College Football Playoff National Championship coming up, doctors are asking people who feel sick to stay home, get vaccinated, get boosted, get tested and wash hands frequently.

CDC signs off on Pfizer booster shots at 5 months, instead of 6

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has signed off on two measures to increase access to additional doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

The CDC on Tuesday recommended shortening the recommended interval of time between when people who had an initial series of Pfizer vaccinations and when they receive a Pfizer booster shot, from six months to five months.

The agency has not changed the recommended booster interval for people who got other vaccines. The Johnson & Johnson booster interval is two months and the Moderna vaccine can be given six months after initial doses.

The CDC also recommended that kids ages 5 to 11 with moderately or severely weakened immune systems receive an additional dose 28 days after their second Pfizer shot. Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is recommended for that age group.

State making changes to COVID-19 testing due to rapid test kit shortage

The Indiana State Department of Health is making changes to its testing operations as cases surge and people face a national shortage of the rapid test kits.

Health leaders are extending the hours of the testing and vaccination clinic outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The hours will now be noon to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays. The extended hours will be in place through Jan. 22.

Appointments for rapid tests previously scheduled for Jan. 4 will be honored while testing supplies last. Rapid tests kits at state and local test sites will only be available for the following individuals going forward: individuals aged 18 and younger and symptomatic individuals aged 50 and older. The reason for that is to help keep children in school and to fit the prescribed window for Hoosiers needing a monoclonal antibody treatment.  

The two-dose Pfizer pediatric and adult vaccines, as well as the two-dose Moderna vaccine, are also available at the clinic.

People can click on the testing map at www.coronavirus.in.gov to find a testing location. They can also visit ourshot.in.gov to find a vaccination site.

Latest US, world numbers

There have been more than 56.19 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States as of 4:00 a.m. Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 827,700 deaths recorded in the U.S.

Worldwide, there have been more than 292.56 million confirmed coronavirus cases with more than 5.44 million deaths and more than 9.21 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.

Children's Museum offering vaccination clinic Thursday

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is hosting a vaccination clinic along with Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. 

The clinic will run Thursday, Jan. 6 from 4-8 p.m. at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

The specific vaccinations provided include:

  • Pfizer shots for children 5-11 years old
  • Pfizer shots for adolescents and adults 12 years old and older
  • Pfizer booster shots for anyone eligible 12 years old and older
  • Influenza (flu) vaccine for anyone 6 months and older

The walk-in clinic is free, and then, people can visit the museum's $6 First Thursday Night.

FDA expands Pfizer boosters for more teens as omicron surges

The U.S. is expanding COVID-19 boosters as it confronts the omicron surge, with the Food and Drug Administration allowing extra Pfizer shots for children as young as 12.

Boosters already are recommended for everyone 16 and older, and federal regulators on Monday decided they’re also warranted for 12- to 15-year-olds once enough time has passed since their last dose.

But the move, coming as classes restart after the holidays, isn’t the final step. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must decide whether to recommend boosters for the younger teens. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC’s director, is expected to rule later this week.

The FDA also said everyone 12 and older eligible for a booster can get one as early as five months after their last dose rather than six months.

Vaccines still offer strong protection against serious illness from any type of COVID-19. But health authorities are urging everyone who’s eligible to get a booster dose for their best chance at avoiding milder breakthrough infections from the highly contagious omicron mutant.

Children tend to suffer less serious illness from COVID-19 than adults. But child hospitalizations are rising during the omicron wave — most of them unvaccinated.