WL mayor: Don’t be one of those ‘unvaccinated a--holes’
Don’t like masks, don’t want anything approaching a shutdown as the Delta variant ramps up COVID-19? Don’t be an ‘unvaccinated a—hole,’ Mayor John Dennis suggests
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A recent rise in COVID-19 cases, more than four times the weekly average in Tippecanoe County from the start of the summer thanks to a more-contagious Delta variant, doesn’t have county health officials ready to request capacity restrictions in restaurants and limiting events, the way they were at the height of the pandemic through much of 2020.
And Tippecanoe County commissioner were clear that they weren’t interested in pursuing those, now that they had a formal say in any sort of mandate – whether masks, vaccines or restaurant capacity – under a new state law.
But during the first county update on the COVID-19 pandemic in months, an hour of community health leaders pleading with 44% of eligible, unvaccinated county residents to get shots as the surest way to slow the spread of the virus and help relieve pressure on at-capacity hospitals, West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis didn’t mince words.
“Unvaccinated assholes,” Dennis said, referring to people who insist the pandemic is fake or “doesn’t have any impact on their life at all.”
“They could not be more wrong,” Dennis said. “Nobody likes to revisit the negative past. But we need to be acutely away of what we went through a little over a year ago, when the leadership of this community had no other choice but to start closing things down – when a lot of the freedoms we enjoy were restricted. And it was based on people making choices that weren’t in the best interests of themselves or families or friends or their community.”
Dennis said the local economy couldn’t take another shutdown.
FROM WEDNESDAY NIGHT: TSC board rejects stricter mask rules as schools open
“I don’t think that this brief period we’ve had of presumed freedom – freedom from masks, freedom from other restrictions, freedom from COVID – needs to become a boilerplate for further resistance,” Dennis said. “It’s important that we listen to our local doctors and respect their advice.”
The advice from Dr. Jeremy Adler, Tippecanoe County health officer, and other doctors assembled Wednesday was simple: The sooner Tippecanoe County gets beyond 70% vaccination rates – the low-end threshold for herd immunity, Adler said – the better.
“The concern is that without an adequate number of people vaccinated than what we’re seeing now, this Delta variant will just repeat itself over and over again – that a new variant will come along and there’ll be another surge,” Adler said. “We really need the vaccination rate to be much higher if we're going to get this pandemic under control and put this pandemic behind us.”
In the reprise of weekly updates from the early days of the pandemic, here were some of the takeaways about what doctors are seeing.
COVID rates, vaccinated or not: Between March 11 and July 31, 93% of Tippecanoe County’s COVID-19 cases were among the unvaccinated, Adler said. Of the other 7% -- or 217 “breakthrough” cases of those fully vaccinated – patients tended to have milder symptoms that didn’t last as long as those found in cases among the unvaccinated.
The caseloads: The CDC’s COVID tracker lists Tippecanoe County’s transmission rate as “high.” As of Wednesday, the seven-day rolling average was 37 cases, which compares to an average of eight a week in the early summer. On Wednesday, Tippecanoe County’s positivity rate was at 9%, which is up from 3.4% at the end of June and the highest it’s been since January, according to state numbers. “We suspect these numbers will continue increase,” Adler said.
Vaccine rates so far: As of this week, 93,748 Tippecanoe County residents were fully immunized, with another 1,731 with their first doses, according to county figures. That is 56% of the county’s 12-and-old population eligible for the vaccination. And it’s 47% of the overall population. During the late winter and early spring, after vaccines were available to the general public, the county’s clinic was giving between 300 and 400 shots a day, Adler said. By June, that number was down to 20 or 30 a day on some days in June. Khala Hochstedler, the county health department’s administrator, said a mobile vaccine clinic has been doing well stationed at the county fair, Mosey Down Main Street events, church gatherings and in rural towns outside Lafayette and West Lafayette. “We’ve recently seen an increase in the vaccine,” Adler said. “In our clinic, they’re informally polling people. Many of them say that’s because of the Delta variant.” How long would it take to get to 70% vaccination rate at that pace? “I haven't done the math on that,” Adler said. “But I think it would take quite some time.”
At the hospitals: Last week, doctors at Lafayette’s two hospitals told about how the new COVID-19 run-up was taking beds, wearing out their staff and forcing them to dust off contingency plans made during the last surge. “Our staff is stressed,” Dr. Jim Bien, chief medical officer at IU Health Arnett Hospital in Lafayette, said. “This witness to suffering of this magnitude for 16 to 18 months is wearing people out.” IU Health Arnett had 16 COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, after having 21 the day before, Bien said. Of those, seven were in the intensive care unit. At the start of July, the hospital was dealing with an average of five to eight a day. At Franciscan Health in Lafayette, the hospital had 17 positive cases and six potential cases waiting for test results, Dr. Daniel Wickert, vice president of medical affairs, said. Of those 13 were in the ICU, and eight were on ventilators. He said the hospital was at capacity, with nowhere to transfer non-COVID patients needing more acute case, because other Indiana hospitals were in similar situations.
At Purdue: On campus, where students and employees have the choice of showing they’ve been vaccinated or submit to random COVID-19 testing, 65% of students have been fully vaccinated, Dr. Esteban Ramirez, chief medical officer at Protect Purdue Health Center, said. About 66% of employees have been vaccinated, he said. “We’re hoping we can surpass 70% at some point soon,” Ramirez said. “Obviously not optimal, but definitely, I think, not a bad place to be, at least to start.” Purdue starts classes Aug. 23.
County commissioner on restrictions: Tippecanoe County Commissioner Tom Murtaugh said he “wasn’t there, yet” on the idea of mask mandates or other restrictions. (Earlier in the day, Commissioner Tracy Brown told the county health board something similar, according to a WBAA report.) “It’s probably not the right point to move forward with a community mandate,” Murtaugh said. “But I think the message today was very clear – that we need folks to get vaccinated. The vaccines are safe, they’re effective and that’s the only way that we’re going to possibly prevent going back to a mandate.”
How to get a COVID-19 shot: To schedule an appointment or find pharmacies and other locations offering the vaccines, go to ourshot.in.gov. The county’s COVID immunization clinic, 2577 Maple Point Drive, is open Monday-Friday.
This and that …
REDISTRICTING HEARING FRIDAY IN LAFAYETTE: Don’t expect to see proposed Congressional or Statehouse district maps Friday when the Indiana General Assembly’s two-day, statewide redistricting tour kicks off at 10 a.m. Friday at Ivy Tech Community College’s Lafayette campus. House and Senate Republicans in charge of the once-a-decade redistricting work will take public comment on the process, but actual mapping work won’t start until Aug. 16, when the U.S. Census Bureau releases the pertinent population data. The new districts, once drawn, will be in play for the 2022 elections. The legislature, which is technically still in session to take care of a redistricting vote in September, has resisted calls in recent months and years for an independent panel to have a say in the process, in hopes to blunting any attempts to draw district lines to protect incumbents, tilt the field to help the GOP in Congress or shore up supermajority power in the Indiana House and Senate. State Rep. Tim Wesco, a Republican from Osceola and chairman of the House Committee on Elections and Apportionment, is scheduled to chair the meeting in Lafayette. Wesco said in a release of the public hearing schedule in July: “Hoosiers can be confident that we'll continue to meet all of our statutory and constitutional requirements." I’ve touted this before, but I’ll tout it, again: For coverage about how questions about redistricting and gerrymandering have played out in recent months, The Indiana Citizen, a nonprofit advocate for redistricting reform, has been on top of it. Check the coverage here. The Lafayette public hearing – part of hearings conducted in each of Indiana’s nine congressional districts – will be 10 a.m.-noon Friday, Aug. 6, at the Ivy Tech Community College Lafayette campus, 3101 S. Creasy Lane.
Thanks today sponsor, Purdue Convocations, for helping make this edition possible. Check Convos’ new fall 2021 season offerings announced Monday.
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