Coronavirus Southern Indiana

Southern Indiana health leaders are cautioning Hoosiers about the risk of spreading COVID-19 during year-end holidays.

COVID-19 cases have increased in recent weeks with the emergence of the omicron variant. Health officials in Southern Indiana are worried that could worsen after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel said it’s important that people avoid gatherings if they feel sick. He recommended virtual meetings and phone calls with family and friends instead of physical gatherings, when possible.

“A lot of times there’s flu or other things going around this time of year, and people kind of suck it up and still go to Christmas, or try to still go out on New Year’s, and I mean, this just isn’t the year to do that,” Yazel said.

Only 5% of ICU beds in Southern Indiana are currently available. About 42% of ICU beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients.

Clark and Floyd counties are both in the orange on Indiana’s color-coded COVID-19 map for community spread. That’s the second-highest category.

The combined moving average for daily COVID-19 cases for both counties is 84. Louisville and Indiana identified their first omicron cases this week.

Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris said the best way to prevent a surge in cases in the coming weeks is vaccination.

“We know that this is safe,” he said. “We know it’s effective. We know that it works, especially even with the new omicron variant. It looks pretty consistently like, if you’ve had the primary series and a booster, that that’s going to be very protective.”

Harris said the lowest vaccine uptake has been among people ages 20 to 40, at about 18%. He said about 13% of people ages 5 to 11 have been vaccinated since the shot was approved for that age group at the end of October.

John Boyle is a reporter and editor at WFPL news focused on Southern Indiana. He is a corps member with Report For America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.