While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for January 28

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State health officials work to expand vaccines to Hoosiers 65 years and older. More than 470,000 Hoosiers have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Wednesday. During a weekly briefing, state health officials said they are working to expand appointments and vaccine sites.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said she hopes eligibility will open up to people ages 65 and up within the next week.

“For now, we want to ensure we get Hoosiers ages 70 and older appointments as quickly as possible. We are just as anxious to expand eligibility criteria,” she said.

The Indiana State Department of Health says they have heard from eligible seniors who cannot get an appointment until after March 1. ISDH has identified about 4,500 people age 70 and older whose first dose appointment is scheduled after March 1. Partners at 2-1-1 will be reaching out to those people to help them schedule an earlier appointment.

Kroger, Walmart and Meijer to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines in Indiana. Kroger, Walmart and Meijer will begin administering the COVID-19 vaccine across Indiana with the guidance of the Indiana State Department of Health, officials announced Wednesday.

The stores’ pharmacies will follow the eligibility guidelines set by the Indiana State Department of Health, which currently offers vaccinations to any Hoosier age 70 and older, long-term care residents, first responders who have in-person contact with the public and healthcare workers who have in-person contact with patients or infectious material in any healthcare setting.

Kroger and Meijer are using their own online systems to sign up for the vaccine. Walmart is using the state system through ourshot.in.gov or by calling 2-1-1.

Kroger says when more vaccines are available, the plan will “consist of a combination of large-scale vaccine events and appointments at pharmacies within Kroger and Pay Less store locations.”

Madison County prepares for major boost in COVID-19 vaccines. After President Joe Biden announced a series of measures aimed at increasing COVID-19 vaccine allocation and distribution on Tuesday, Madison County health officials said they are preparing for an increased shipment as early as next week.

“We’re doing 140-150 vaccines per day the way it is,” said Stephenie Grimes, administrator with the Madison County Health Department. “But I kept saying we can double it. We can double it. With existing staff, we can easily double it.”

Grimes said beginning February 2, the county health department will receive 2,000 doses of vaccine, compared to their usual 500 doses.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” said Grimes. “I have no doubt that staff can handle and will be happy to handle the increase.”

Federal government unseals states’ secret coronavirus reports. The Biden administration has released the once-secret COVID-19 State Profile Reports for all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The weekly reports published on Sunday were released Wednesday. These reports have been providing governors and state health officials a snapshot in time of the state of the pandemic, focusing on different metrics like cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

Until Wednesday, these reports were not seen by the public, except in a few rare instances. Last summer, the Center for Public Integrity, received a leaked copy of the weekly report showing 18 states in the “red zone” for COVID-19 cases.

WHO research team in China to begin probe in pandemic origins after being cleared from quarantine. A World Health Organization team emerged from quarantine in the Chinese city of Wuhan on Thursday to start field work in a fact-finding mission on the origins of the virus that caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

The researchers, who were required to complete 14 days in quarantine after arriving in China, left their quarantine hotel and boarded a bus in the midafternoon.

The mission has become politically charged, as China seeks to avoid blame for alleged missteps in its early response to the outbreak. A major question is where the Chinese side will allow the researchers to go and whom they will be able to talk to.

Yellow barriers blocked the entrance to the hotel, keeping the media at a distance. Before the researchers boarded, workers in full protective gear could be seen loading their luggage onto the bus, including two musical instruments, a dumbbell and four yoga mattresses.

Hotel staff waved goodbye as the researchers boarded the bus, possibly headed to another hotel. The bus driver wore a full-body white protective suit. The researchers wore face masks.

Earlier this month, former WHO official Keiji Fukuda, who is not part of the team in Wuhan, cautioned against expecting any breakthroughs, saying it may take years before any firm conclusions can be made on the virus’s origin.

“This is now well over a year past when it all started,” he said. “So much of the physical evidence is going to be gone. The memories of people are imprecise and probably the physical layout of many places are going to be different than they were and how people are moving about and so on.”

Among the places they might visit are the Huanan Seafood Market, which was linked to many of the first cases, as well as research institutes and hospitals that treated patients at the height of the outbreak.

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