At a time when more than 19,000 Hoosiers have died with COVID-19, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Tuesday issued a plea to the vaccine-hesitant.
"If you haven’t been vaccinated, I encourage, I plead, I even beg you to speak to your doctor and do so," Holcomb said Tuesday during his 2022 State of the State Address to a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly.
"I say this even if you’ve disagreed with every position I’ve taken. I just want us both to be around to continue to have those disagreements."
On Tuesday, COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new record in the state.
The Indiana Department of Health reported that 3,467 Hoosiers were hospitalized as of Jan. 10, 2022. The previous record was on Nov. 30, 2020, when 3,460 people were hospitalized.
More than half of the 6.8 million people in Indiana are not fully vaccinated. The coronavirus pandemic is surging in the state.
"We know that people who are getting vaccinated and booster overwhelmingly stay out of the hospital, stay out of the ICU and don’t die," Holcomb said.
"The number of ICU beds in use is almost at an all-time high, and it's difficult to find one around the state," Holcomb said.
Holcomb praised Indiana's health care workers, whom he said have been "operating on overdrive for two years."
"No words, salary or earthly rewards will ever be enough to repay you for the lives you've cared for and saved," Holcomb said. "The ultimate judge will be kind to you for living your love for your neighbor."
He thanked the more than 3.5 million Hoosiers who have been vaccinated, calling them a "big reason our hospital network hasn't collapsed."
While COVID-19 loomed large, Holcomb spent much of his speech touting Indiana's healthy economy, low unemployment and strong prospects.
"Despite our challenges, this is a time of unprecedented Indiana growth, connections, momentum and opportunity for all Hoosiers," Holcomb said. "This is our time to build an even stronger Indiana, not just for today but for decades to come."
Holcomb touched on other topics in his State of the State, including:
- The strong Indiana economy with "nine straight honestly balanced budgets since 2005."
- A 24% reduction in debt from June 2017 to June 2021.
- Indiana is one of just 13 states with a Triple A credit rating from all three major rating agencies.
- 2021 closed with $3.9 billion in reserves; $1.1 billion of which went to teachers' pensions and $545 million back to Hoosiers as an automatic tax refund.
- Indiana's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew from $353 billion in 2017 to $415 today, outpacing border states Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Kentucky.
- Indiana's population grew 300,000 since 2010, far outpacing neighboring states.
- Business and job numbers have also grown in the last four years, setting new records with $8.7 billion in capital investment; more than $1.8 billion in new payroll; and 31,700 new job commitments with an average wage of more than $28 an hour.
In rebuttal, House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne, credited much of Indiana's recent economic success to President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan and other efforts by Democrats in the federal government.
“While billions remain in the state surplus the household debt of average Hoosiers ballooned by over $8 billion," GiaQuinta said. "Indiana is often in the national spotlight for poor public health outcomes, environment and other quality-of-life rankings."
GiaQuinta said Holcomb is hoarding the state's the surplus when some of the reserves could fund programs to help struggling Hoosier families.
“Hoosiers can’t wait for another budget session, nor should they have to," GiaQuinta said. "The people’s money should be invested in a way that improves their lives and our state. It would be a mistake to take our foot off the gas while Hoosiers continue to struggle.”
Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at email@example.com or on Twitter: @vicryc.