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Contact tracing continues as COVID cases rise and events happen

“Mask up, get vaccinated. We're not through this yet."
COVID-19
Posted at 10:12 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-19 12:15:25-05

INDIANAPOLIS — From sporting events to holiday gatherings, people are coming together in large groups, and it is no secret the coronavirus continues its hold as cases and hospitalizations rise in Indiana.

“We noticed, you know, the same tick up during Thanksgiving and obviously with the holidays around it gets colder. As the weather happens, ebbs and flows and goes up and down, you track that for one and you track large gatherings. My chief concern is to make sure people know that we have the supply to get folks vaccinated before they end up in the hospital,” Governor Eric Holcomb said.

Downtown Indy said conversations over COVID-19 concerns with businesses are on a case-by-case basis now and each venue has its own guidelines.

“Mask up, get vaccinated. We're not through this yet. So just following the guidelines of each venue is very important. You know, respect what they are hoping to accomplish in their specific venue and just respect those around you. But, you know, we remember what things were like a year ago right now. So the fact that we can even gather in person at all is just so exciting. So follow the guidelines,” Downtown Indy's Allie Moffett said.

On Saturday alone, Indianapolis and Marion County will see thousands of sports fans downtown as the Colts face the Patriots at Lucas Oil Stadium and the Crossroads Classic tips off at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Big events like these cause concern when it comes to COVID-19.

From early on, we learned contact tracing serves as an important tool for local and state health departments.

“Even though we know COVID is pretty widespread right now, a lot of times people just don’t think people have been affected or exposed unless someone tells them that they had,” IUPUI’s Shandy Dearth said. She heads the contact tracing program for Marion County.

When it comes to big events, Dearth said her team is often pulled into planning. She adds her team of 55 will identify any positive cases and see where clusters may form.

While Dearth expects COVID-19 numbers to rise in the coming weeks, she says it will be challenging to differentiate cases stemming from holiday gatherings versus mass events. Her advice is to get vaccinated, mask up.

“I really encourage people to mask up at this point. I know it’s not a mandate, but it’s the smart thing to do at this point,” Dearth said.

Dearth said the focus for the program now is on those under 30, particularly school-aged children. Contact tracing in Marion County will continue at least through the spring.

The Marion County Health Department released this statement:

“The Marion County Public Health Department continues to join CDC in strongly recommending the COVID-19 vaccine for everyone who is eligible. COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalizations, and death. Scientists are currently investigating Omicron, including how protected fully vaccinated people will be against infection, hospitalization, and death. CDC recommends that everyone 5 years and older protect themselves from COVID-19 by getting fully vaccinated. CDC also recommends that everyone ages 18 years and older should get a booster shot at least two months after their initial J&J/Janssen vaccine or six months after completing their primary COVID-19 vaccination series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna.

MCPHD is offering the vaccine at its district health offices, as well as at clinics located at two Indianapolis Public Library locations (Martindale-Brightwood, College Avenue branches) and the IndyGo Transit Center downtown. (Listed on OurShot.IN.gov)

Wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high community transmission, such as Marion County, regardless of vaccination status, is also an important step in addressing COVID-19.

Vaccination and masks, along with other steps such as staying home when feeling sick, washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes, are essential in slowing the spread and impact of COVID-19 in the community.

MCPHD works closely with large venues such as the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium and Gainbridge Fieldhouse to provide guidance and recommend COVID-19 protocols to help keep attendees safe.”

The Indiana Department of Health released this statement. A spokesperson said Dr. Weaver and Dr. Box were unavailable for interviews:

“We urge all Hoosiers to follow the CDC’s holiday guidance, which can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/ [cdc.gov].

We know that the fall and winter are times when people are typically indoors more and when respiratory viruses can spread more easily. We continue to urge Hoosiers to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID and other viruses such as the flu. That includes getting vaccinated, practicing social distancing, frequently washing their hands and wearing a mask when in public.

The Indiana Department of Health is following CDC guidance and strongly recommends that Hoosiers over the age of 2 wear masks in public indoor settings in areas of substantial or high transmission of COVID-19, regardless of their vaccination status. Ultimately, Indiana is a home rule state, and decisions about protocols rest with local leaders, including local health departments and elected officials.”

Pacers Sports & Entertainment released this statement:

“For all our shows and events, we follow Marion County Health Department and CDC requirements and then work with the schools or event promoters on any additional parameters they require. For Crossroads, we will be following MCHD and CDC requirements, so masks are recommended regardless of vaccination status. All of our staff and volunteers working on event level will be both masked and vaccinated, and all staff working the event will be wearing masks. All media will need to be masked when not actively eating or drinking.”

The Indianapolis Colts wrote this in an email to WRTV:

“There are no changes to fan protocols at present time. Masks are recommended, as they have been all season long.”