Editorial Roundup: Indiana

KPC News. Sept. 12, 2021.

Editorial: Without mandate, how else to boost vaccine rates?

This week, President Joe Biden announced that companies with more than 100 employees will be required to mandate vaccines for COVID-19.

It was a striking step from the federal government to force vaccines to more than 100 million Americans who work at larger companies.

No one likes the government stepping in to tell people what to do. But at the same time, vaccines have been available for more than eight months and still millions choose not to get it.

Gov. Eric Holcomb — who weekly sat before Hoosiers discussing the state’s COVID-19 response but hasn’t conducted a public presser in nearly a half year since — weighed in after the mandate was announced.

“I believe the vaccine is the number one tool that will protect us and our loved ones against COVID-19. It is the tool that will end the pandemic. However, I strongly believe it’s not the state or federal government’s role to issue a vaccine mandate upon citizens and private businesses,” Holcomb said.

“I believe it is fundamentally a citizen’s right to choose whether or not to get the vaccine. While I wish everyone would get the vaccine, we are a country built on this exact type of freedom,” he added.

Unfortunately for Holcomb, wishing doesn’t produce results, at least in this state.

As of Friday, about 45% of eligible Hoosiers age 12 and older still haven’t become fully vaccinated. Weekly vaccine numbers haven’t changed substantially in months.

That’s been the case despite the state seeing its second-largest-ever surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The reality is that the vast majority of that new activity has come from the half of the state that’s not vaccinated. Breakthrough cases among the state’s vaccinated do happen, but more than 90% of the most serious impacts are being suffered by those who choose to — or in many cases adamantly refuse to — get vaccinated.

Unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely than unvaccinated Americans to die of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control reports.

On Friday, Parkview Health’s chief quality and safety officer Dr. Jeff Boord noted that the region’s facilities are filling and impacting service to everyone.

“As our hospital census has increased, it has put increasing strain on our health care system and we are also seeing unprecedented numbers of patients arriving at our emergency departments and walk-in clinics related to the current COVID-19 surge,” Dr. Boord said.

We know vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness and death. We also know that serious adverse effects from vaccines are extremely rare. And we know that leaving the vaccine decision up to Hoosiers has resulted in about half of them not making it.

What we know, too, is that vaccine mandates are effective at getting people immunized.

As of the end of August, Purdue University reported that 90% of faculty members are vaccinated, along with 87% of students living in university housing. Overall, 80% of people at West Lafayette’s campus are vaccinated, putting the campus ZIP Code in the top 3% of the state.

Numerous vaccines are required for children to be able to attend K-12 schools or universities. Some employers, notably in healthcare, require certain vaccines among staff members as a condition of employment. International travelers may be required to get updated vaccinated before heading overseas.

Vaccine mandates do smack of nanny state policy, but it’s clear that COVID-19 primarily continues to pick off those who opt not to protect themselves.

That puts ongoing strain on the state’s health care system. Illness, hospitalization and death cost the Hoosier economy in terms of lost productively and impacts the education of students. And the state continues losing people to a disease that is now highly preventable.

After eight months of asking nicely and bombarding people with facts up, down and sideways, Hoosiers may not like vaccine mandates, but at this point, what other choice is left to put an end to this pandemic?

Those who oppose mandates haven’t exactly stepped up to the plate with better alternatives.

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Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. Sept. 12, 2021.

Editorial: Businesses get a shot of notoriety

Brad Altevogt isn’t one to run from a challenge.

The 66-year-old owner of Three Rivers Running Company on North Clinton Street started running in seventh grade and hasn’t stopped, according to a biography on the store’s website.

He’s now among dozens of Indiana employers celebrating high COVID-19 vaccination rates for workers and encouraging others to get shots.

Three Rivers Running Company is one of about 160 businesses taking part in COVID Stops Here, a campaign from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. The initiative offers businesses with at least a 70% vaccination rate special designations – platinum for 100%; gold for 90%; silver for 80% and bronze for 70%.

All of Altevogt’s 17 employees are vaccinated.

“In our little corner of the world, we try to do what we can,” said Altevogt, adding he learned of the campaign from an Aug. 29 editorial in The Journal Gazette “... We’re trying to keep everyone healthy and safe. Everything we do is geared toward keeping everyone healthy and safe.”

Only about 54% of Indiana residents eligible are fully vaccinated.

The number of participants in COVID Stops Here has doubled since it was announced last month and also includes Fort Wayne businesses Complete Wellness Solutions and Trentadue CPA Firm.

“We do have people who believe it is individual choice and not a business decision,” Jennifer Pferrer of the Chamber’s Indiana Wellness Council wrote in an email. “With that said, I believe businesses need to do their part to encourage vaccinations especially as we monitor the impact the unvaccinated are having on our health care system.”

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Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Sept. 9, 2021.

Editorial: Teacher leads the way in serving kids’ mental health

The mental health of school children should have been made a priority decades ago. The fact that it wasn’t — along with its partner, bullying — is more than disappointing; it’s unconscionable.

That we’ve finally begun to recognize mental health support is critical, enough so to implement programs and awareness campaigns, seems to be nothing short of a miracle (considering how long it’s taken).

Not only do school districts no longer have tolerance for harassment among students, but they’ve included social and emotional learning components as vital parts of instruction.

The major role players in these efforts? They include the people school children come in contact with every day: teachers and counselors.

One such person was honored Tuesday for her efforts that focus on the social and emotional needs of her students and for helping her colleagues in the Vigo County School Corp. navigate these needs in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rio Grande Elementary counselor Hillary Eup developed ways to help teachers and counselors connect with students during remote learning. A resource for staff across the district, she facilitated workshops on creating virtual offices and student courses.

In addition, this spring Eup developed a new way to run her school’s career fair in response to COVID-19 protocols, reported Sue Loughlin in a story published Wednesday. She also filled out a grant for a garden at Rio Grande and has been working all summer training the school’s new therapy dog, Fonzie.

In recognition of her efforts, she was named a 2022 Indiana School Counselor of the Year Top 10 finalist by the Indiana School Counselor Association.

Mental health initiatives are important in “normal” times. But during the ongoing pandemic they’ve become even more of a blaring siren needing attention.

Eup has found her role during the pandemic as “huge. Mental health is a top priority right now. ... We are seeing a growing number of kids who need these services. They have a lot of anxiety and mixed emotions; they need a place they can come to and feel safe just to let out all those worries,” she said.

Eup is correct. About three in 10 parents of school-aged children report their child has experienced mental health or behavioral problems due to the pandemic, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. And we have a feeling the numbers are much higher.

Luckily, people like Eup are among us.

She was surprised when receiving the honor, reported Loughlin. “I had no idea — I wasn’t expecting this at all … (school counselors) are in the trenches every day and we have no idea that people recognize the work we do,” she said.

Well, Ms. Eup, we do. And you deserve the gratitude of the Vigo school community and beyond for your investment in the mental health of our children. We’re sure you’ve already made a difference that will have a lasting impact. We hope others follow your lead.

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