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Indiana Chamber and Indiana Hospital Association address newest COVID surge

With the surge in COVID-19 cases from the Omicron variant expected to continue in the coming weeks, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and Indiana Hospital Association (IHA) are making renewed pleas for everyone to do their part so health care facilities can operate as needed and businesses can avoid shutdowns. The Indiana Chamber also announced new partnerships regarding on-site vaccine clinics and access to COVID-19 testing for employers.

“We have never had this many total patients in our hospitals and we will soon match or surpass the greatest number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic,” says IHA President Brian Tabor. “Serious staffing shortages persist throughout the health care system and our capacity is extremely strained. The vast majority of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 in Indiana are unvaccinated.”

While individual well-being is obviously top of mind, there are severe business and economic consequences related to Indiana’s low vaccination rate (43rd) and rising hospitalizations.

“It has become increasingly clear that a vaccinated workforce is absolutely vital to Indiana’s future economic health,” asserts Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar. “Many Hoosier businesses can’t afford to have another COVID outbreak or temporarily close. Everyone has been through a lot the past two years and we all want the pandemic to be behind us but that is simply not the case yet. We have to remain vigilant and work together to ensure workplaces are as safe and virus-free as possible and remain in operation.”

What’s more, Brinegar notes how workforce shortages due to COVID-19 are directly impacting the supply chain, compounding those issues and contributing to rising inflation.

While the Indiana Chamber does not support government mandates for COVID-19 vaccinations and believes such an action should be exclusively an employer’s choice, the organization continues to encourage businesses to urge their workers to get vaccinated for their own health and that of their workplace.

And now, they are making that connection easier. Through its Wellness Council of Indiana (WCI), the Indiana Chamber is partnering with the Franciscan Health Immunization Department to offer free Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine clinics on site to employers in all 92 counties. Both the initial vaccines and boosters are available. The only requirement for the complimentary service is that 15 people total be at one location – that can be employees and their dependents, or two small employers can come together. If the 15-person threshold can’t be met, there is a nominal $50 travel fee.

For employers that find themselves with a suspected COVID-19 outbreak and testing of multiple employees is needed, the Indiana Chamber also has secured a vendor pipeline via Patients Choice Laboratories. The company provides RT-PCR COVID testing statewide with results 24 hours after receipt.

The test kits can be shipped to employers anywhere in the state with instructions for employees on how to do the collection. Patients Choice Laboratories will pick up the tests to analyze. Those in central Indiana also have the option of going to their facility on the northwest side of Indianapolis for curbside testing.

“With at-home rapid tests in such scarce supply, this is a viable and available alternative to help stem the spread of the virus,” Brinegar explains. “We know there is capacity at Patients Choice Laboratories. The state of Indiana also has a database of additional testing resources at www.coronavirus.in.gov that can be helpful for employers and their workers.”

The new on-site vaccine clinics and testing partnerships are part of the Indiana Chamber and WCI’s expanded COVID Stops Here campaign. That initial effort focused on recognizing employers leading the fight against COVID-19 and playing a role in improving the state’s vaccination numbers. Companies with at least a 70% vaccination rate can receive the designation. Next month, on January 19, the two groups are hosting a webinar for employers on the very latest with vaccines, boosters, testing and mandates. All COVID Stops Here offerings are available at www.indianachamber.com/stopcovid.

Tabor acknowledges the coming weeks will be especially trying for many of Indiana’s medical professionals and praises all their efforts to date.

“We applaud Indiana’s frontline health care heroes who have battled valiantly throughout the pandemic. Our members are working to develop innovative partnerships like these across the state with their local employers during this critical time,” he says.

Tabor urges everyone who has not been vaccinated – or who is eligible to receive a booster – to do so immediately to ensure a hospital bed is available for all in need.

“Not only will it dramatically reduce your own risk of serious illness, you will be far less likely to take a hospital bed away from a family member, friend or neighbor.”