Wabash Valley school children are now feeling the consequences from a significant number of adults being influenced by political rhetoric and rampant misinformation on social media.

Businesses are being adversely affected, too.

COVID-19 vaccinations have proven to save lives and reduce the chances of being hospitalized with the virus. Although “breakthrough” cases — those involving fully vaccinated people — have increased since the virus’ delta variant began surging through states with low vaccination rates, breakthroughs still comprise just 0.4% of all COVID-19 infections. Drs. Kris Box and Lindsay Weaver, who lead the state Department of Health’s response team, recently shared those real numbers.

The doctors also cautioned Hoosiers that the pandemic’s latest wave will get much worse if residents reject using face masks and getting vaccinations.

They were right. School districts are now scrambling to update their plans to prevent further spread through their classrooms. The Metropolitan School District of Shakamak recently shifted to remote learning for a 14-day period because of an outbreak affecting its entire elementary, middle and high school student body and employees — 660 students, 50 teachers and 90 support staffers.

The Southwest Sullivan School Board met in emergency session earlier this month and approved a mask mandate for all students and staff that began two days later. Officials had learned Sullivan County was about to move into the state’s red-level — the highest category for positivity rates.

Some high school football games were postponed due to outbreaks.

Elsewhere, at least 15,000 students in a dozen Central Indiana school districts — 10% of their schools’ total enrollment — have quarantined in just the first month of classes, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Gov. Eric Holcomb has not wavered in his strategy of leaving vaccine mandate decisions to local school boards, governments and employers, but says he supports any entities that issue such requirements. Holcomb also recently expressed exasperation with the state’s weak vaccination rate of 53.2% of eligible residents ages 12 and older.

Holcomb, whose emergency powers to implement public-health restrictions were diluted by the General Assembly last spring, said this approach is apparently what the public wants. ”(I) fully support it, understand it,” he said in a recent statewide news conference.

But then he elaborated on the effect of that. He focused on school kids, short-handed employers and people believing social media hearsay and political bluster instead of medical experts.

“It’s regrettable that so many of our kids are out of the classroom on any given one day,” Holcomb said. “It’s not just regrettable, it’s avoidable. And to the skeptics or unbelievers or deniers, I just plead to look at the facts, to look at the numerical data that shows we can all stay safe it you get vaccinated.

“And that truly is my appeal, is to get vaccinated. This is what is interfering with our supply chains. This is what is holding parts of our economy back. This is what is pulling our kids out of school. And while we have 3.1 million some who are vaccinated, the balance leaves a lot to spread. And that is having an adverse effect on others, not just potentially yourself, but others, and our economy, and our kids’ education.

“So, I would just ask to think beyond yourself.”

Terre Haute Tribune-Star

 

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