State officials announced during a Feb. 3 virtual press briefing they will send face masks, rapid COVID-19 tests and other supplies to Indiana schools to help slow the spread of the disease.
More than 1 million KN95 masks, which filter significantly more particles and aerosols than cloth or paper masks, will be sent to schools, enough for 10 masks each for all teachers, administrators and staff, state officials said. Another 600,000 masks will go to children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Hand sanitizer will also be sent to schools.
BinaxNOW cards will be sent to schools, allowing them to quickly test for positive cases on location. Schools will receive an initial 120 tests and can order more if needed. An estimated 256,000 tests will be shipped to schools the week of Feb. 8.
State health officials said data indicates COVID-19 spread in classrooms has been limited throughout the pandemic.
“One school district in southern Indiana reported that nearly 98 percent of more than 1,900 students who were quarantined never became ill and that nearly three-fourths of staff quarantines were due to exposures that occurred outside of the school setting,” Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box
Box said the limited spread of the virus in close quarters indicates reduced spacing has not resulted in increased cases in schools. She also said 14-day quarantines have placed an ongoing burden on schools, students and families, so beginning Feb. 8, Indiana will no longer require quarantine or contact tracing if students and teachers remain at least 3 feet apart and are wearing a mask all the times classrooms.
Quarantine rules still apply to exposures that occur at lunch, athletics, band, choir or any other school setting, or if teachers and students have removed their masks.
The Indiana Dept. of Health also now recommends three quarantine options first outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for schools. The department still recommends a 14-day quarantine, but the department now says students and teachers may commit to a 10-day quarantine as long as they have no symptoms and wear a mask at all times, or a seven-day quarantine if they receive a negative PCR nasal swab test on Day 5, 6 or 7 of their illness, or a negative rapid antigen test upon returning to school on Day 8.
In addition to supporting schools, state officials announced a portal link at coronavirus.in.gov will be opened to supply critical infrastructure businesses with KN95 masks and hand sanitizer. Industries eligible to receive the supplies include law enforcement, public safety, first responders and more. Visit the website for a full list of applicable industries.
State officials said residents with co-morbidities will be considered for COVID-19 eligibility.
So far, Indiana has opted to vaccinate its oldest residents first. Hoosiers 65 and older, along with health care workers, long-term care residents and first responders who are regularly called to the scene of an emergency to render medical assistance, are now eligible to receive vaccinations.
“There are millions of people going to work every day who want to get vaccinated, and we want them to be vaccinated,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said during the briefing. “So, the faster that we get (more doses), and the more that we get, the more we will (open eligibility).”
Box said when all eligible Hoosiers can schedule appointments, the state will weigh factors other than age when considering the next group who will be granted eligibility.
“Unfortunately, we also have millions of Hoosiers who have underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, or dialysis, that puts them at a greater chance of severe illness from COVID,” Box said. “We start to look at those comorbidities, and as we continue to move down with that age-group, we will be adding comorbidities so that we are including those individuals.”
Box said the state’s vaccine allocation advisory committee will determine when people with comorbidities who are younger than eligible age groups can receive vaccinations. State officials indicated teachers and critical infrastructure personnel would likely not be prioritized in the next group because the state does not anticipate receiving enough vaccine.
“So, so much depends on how much vaccine we receive and the response of eligible Hoosiers,” Box said.
To schedule an immunization appointment, visit ourshot.in.gov or call 2-1-1.