Good day to be a Cole Cub
Plus, Lafayette’s hospitals can’t catch a break as overflow capacity is … well, overflowing, as COVID cases continue, even before Omicron (officially) arrives
Thanks this morning goes to the Long Center for the Performing Arts for its ongoing support of the Based in Lafayette reporting project. The Long Center recently announced its “100 Years of Film” series, to mark the theater’s anniversary, first opening as the Mars Theatre in 1921. For more scroll to the bottom of today’s edition.
GOOD DAY TO BE A COLE CUB
What a great story relayed by Cole Elementary Principal Mike Pinto in the closing days before the winter break.
And what a great day it was for an all-school photo on Tuesday.
Pinto often tells about how Stockwell and the rest of southeastern Tippecanoe County look out for Cole and its students. Recently, he said, he received a call from “someone in the community who watches this school from afar” with a specific offer to help.
Julie Boyce, a real estate broker who grew up in Clarks Hill and lives a few miles from Cole, said she noticed a social media post earlier this fall, just as it was getting colder, reminding parents to send kids with hats for recess and for before and after school.
“I told Mr. Pinto that was something I thought I could help with,” Boyce said Wednesday.
Pinto sent her an image of the Cole cub mascot. Boyce said she shopped around until she could find a supply of stocking caps in Cole’s Kelly green color and had 325 – enough for every kid and every staff member at the TSC elementary – done up through The Athlete in Lafayette in time for the end of the semester.
The hats were delivered Tuesday.
“I appreciate community and caring,” Pinto said. “The offer was from the heart. … The children wore their hats with pride, and the teachers had the wherewithal to put their names on the tags before handing out. It was a good day.”
HOSPITALS FEEL THE STRAIN, BEFORE OMICRON (OFFICIALLY) ARRIVES
As of Wednesday, Tippecanoe County hadn’t reported any COVID-19 cases tied to the omicron variant, a strain of the virus spreading in other parts of the country and the world, scuttling sporting events and forcing some colleges and universities to consider online or hybrid options to start spring semesters. (No movement on that front from Purdue, at this point, university spokesman Tim Doty said Thursday morning.)
But at a time where Lafayette’s two hospitals already are at capacity – over capacity, actually, for one facility that doubled critical care beds and still filled them – Dr. Jeremy Adler, Tippecanoe County’s health administrator, said there’s not much doubt that Omicron is already here.
“The state department of health continues to conduct genomic surveillance testing for the Omicron variant across the state,” Adler said Wednesday. “With last week's confirmation of an Omicron case in Indiana and the recent CDC announcement that 73% of U.S. cases are now Omicron, it is very likely at this point that Omicron is here.”
The latest numbers, released by the state Wednesday, show Tippecanoe County with a seven-day average of 128 new cases a day. That includes 132 new cases in Wednesday’s report – the last update the Indiana State Department of Health is expected to release until Dec. 27, given a long Christmas weekend.
According to the CDC, the Omicron variant “likely will spread more easily than the original” COVID virus. “How easily Omicron spreads compared to (the Delta variant) remains unknown,” the CDC reported on its web page. CDC officials said anyone with the omicron variant “can spread the virus to others, even if they are vaccinated or don’t have symptoms.”
Adler rolled out these stats for all COVID-19 cases in Tippecanoe County:
COVID-19 infections are 65% unvaccinated/35% vaccinated.
COVID-19 hospitalizations are 80% to 90% unvaccinated/10% to 20% vaccinated.
COVID-19 deaths are 74% unvaccinated/26% vaccinated.
“Local hospitals are at capacity and need everyone's help to reduce the burden on health care providers,” Adler said. “Vaccination remains one of the best weapons we have in the fight against COVID-19. If you're not yet vaccinated, please do so, if you are eligible. … If you are vaccinated, getting a booster will help protect you from the Omicron variant.”
The scene at Lafayette-area hospitals, already strained as the latest, pre-Omicron surge started a month ago, wasn’t too pretty.
According to Wednesday’s state report, intensive care unit bed availability at Lafayette region hospitals was at 7.6%. COVID patients were using 54.4% of those ICU beds, according to state figures.
Quick sidebar … Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita posted that he didn’t believe the numbers from the state, questioning saying “they’ve been politicized since Day 1.”
“I think we have to focus on whether people are dying anymore,” Rokita said. “And the reason hospitals are filling up is because their own health care workers won’t come to work because of the mandates that have been put on them”
Here’s the clip, from an interview he gave South Bend TV station WSBT:
Anyhoo … here’s where things stood at Lafayette’s hospitals, as of Wednesday afternoon, where they were caring – staff shortages or no staff shortages, for whatever reason – for triple the number of patients seen just before Thanksgiving.
At IU Health Arnett: The hospital on Veterans Memorial Parkway East had 65 COVID patients, according to Jeanine McGill, the hospital’s director of communications. That compared with 22 the week of Thanksgiving and the low-40s during the first week of December. The IU Health system also had 10 additional cases, combined, at its hospitals in Frankfort and Monticello. For IU Arnett, COVID patients accounted for more than one-third of the hospital’s 191 beds.
During the recent surge, IU Arnett doubled its intensive care unit beds, from 14 to 28, McGill said. As of Wednesday, 26 of those 28 beds will filled. IU Arnett also added 35 “surge space” beds, including a nine-bed emergency department expansion in an ambulance bay and additional inpatient beds in perioperative and invasive outpatient units, she said.
McGill did not have updated totals on vaccination rates among the COVID patients at IU Health Arnett, though 80% of those hospitalized a week earlier, on Dec. 16, were unvaccinated.
“We are also seeing record-setting volumes in our Urgent Care centers and increasing primary care patients in need of same-day/next-day care,” McGill said Wednesday.
Across IU Health’s statewide system, the hospitals were averaging 6.3 COVID-related deaths a day in December. The only greater number during the pandemic for the hospital system was 7.2 COVID-related deaths a day in December 2020, at the height of the first and biggest surge. That came just before the first rounds of vaccinations were being rolled out to the general public.
At Franciscan Health Lafayette: At three local Franciscan hospitals – Lafayette, Crawfordsville and Rensselaer – two beds out of 193 were open, as of Wednesday, Lisa Decker, vice president of communications, said. That’s 1% available beds. Of those, 75 – or 38.8% – were being used to care for patients with COVID or suspected COVID cases.
Of the 49 confirmed COVID cases at Franciscan’s hospital on Creasy Lane, 83% were unvaccinated. And 10 of those patients were on ventilators.
Decker’s assessment: “Not good.”
Testing, testing: McGill said the hospitals encouraged people who suspect they may have COVID-19 get tested at one of the free community testing sites across the state. For a list of sites in Tippecanoe County and across the state, along with ways to make appointments, go to: https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/2524.htm
For vaccinations: The Tippecanoe County Health Department’s vaccine clinic, 1950 S. 18th St. (the old YMCA, behind the old Durgan Elementary, for those of you who have been around for a while) is open with a holiday schedule: noon-5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 23; 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 28; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 29; and noon-5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 30. Walk-ins are welcome for anyone 16 or older. For appointments – including at other vaccine locations – go to: ourshot.in.gov.
THE SHOT … AND THE REBOUND, AT PURDUE
And if you really want to go down a vaccination rabbit hole, check the comments on this post from Purdue basketball, which was touting that the team and staff was fully boosted. The point, reiterated by the team’s social media managers as the conversation took a turn, was: “Because we don’t wanna go on pause during what could be a historic season.” For the responses … enter at your own risk. (See also: The attorney general’s COVID numbers/politicized comments.)
Thanks, again, to the Long Center for the Performing Arts. For details about the theater’s new “100 Years of Film” series, complete with pre-show performances on the Long Center’s Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ, click on a movie below.
CLOSING NOTE … THANKS FOR GETTING IT
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