Editorial Roundup: Indiana

Updated 12/28/2021 2:00 PM

KPC News. Dec. 26, 2021.

Editorial: State leaders should condemn baseless allegations


In a stunning 47-second video clip from an interview with a northern Indiana TV outlet, Attorney General Todd Rokita tweeted a baseless statement Thursday alleging that Indiana's COVID-19 numbers are fake.

Rokita could have given reasonable answers to justify his personal belief and the state's official legal opinion that a federal vaccine mandate for employers is an unconstitutional overreach of power.

But when asked in the interview with Michiana's WSBT 22 about leading Indiana's effort to fight a federal vaccine mandate even while the vast majority of Hoosiers ending up in hospitals from the virus are unvaccinated, Rokita said: 'First of all, I don't believe any numbers any more. And I'm sorry about that. But they're politicized, this has been politicized since day one.'

Rokita thus undermined the credibility and integrity of the Indiana State Department of Health - a department run by fellow Republicans - as well as that of every hospital, doctor's office and COVID-19 testing site and lab in the state.

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Rokita provided absolutely no evidence to back up his claim - we assume because he has absolutely none to provide - before moving on to his next set of statements of questionable accuracy.

'I think we have to focus on whether or not people are dying anymore,' Rokita said. 'And the fact is the omicron variant is a much milder variant.'

OK, we can do that.

Within the past week, Indiana has been averaging nearly 50 deaths per day from COVID-19, the second-highest rate since March 2020, only exceeded by the November/December/January spike last winter, when deaths from COVID-19 peaked at over 100 per day.

We also know that more than 80% of those people dying from COVID-19 are Hoosiers who opted not to get vaccinated.

In mid-July 2021, before the highly infectious delta variant arrived in the state, Indiana's average daily COVID-19 deaths numbered just two per day. Our state is currently a far cry from those record lows.


Those facts have little bearing on Rokita, however, because we know from five seconds earlier in the interview that his baseline position is one of unsubstantiated disbelief and denial of that data as gathered and reported by the state government he serves.

Rokita then goes on to claim: 'The reasons hospitals are filling up is because their own health care workers won't come to work because of the mandates put on them.'

This appears to conflict with reality.

In September, Indiana University Health, the state's largest health care system, reported that it had lost 125 employees who opted not to comply with the network's self-imposed mandate that employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.

While 125 employees may sound like a lot, IU Health employs approximately 36,000 workers across the state. That amounted to 0.34% of the network's total employee base.

Locally, Parkview Health recently informed the public that it has as near-record-high capacity, driven by high numbers of both COVID-19 patients (more than 80% of whom are unvaccinated) as well as unusually high numbers of non-COVID patients. When asked about the staff, Parkview leaders noted that workers are burned out and disappointed by another surge that the chief quality and safety officer classified as 'preventable suffering,' but there was no mention of practitioners, nurses and workers quitting in droves because of vaccine requirements.

Other systems may be facing more opposition to vaccine mandates affecting their workforce, but the statement that hospitals are full because workers aren't showing up due to vaccine mandates seems far-fetched.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box and the CEOs of every hospital system in this state should condemn and respond to Rokita's baseless allegations.

Rokita is right about one thing, though.

It is hard to believe how politicized the pandemic has become.


Terre Haute Tribune-Star. Dec. 17, 2021.

Editorial: Now is a good time to discuss social media actions with children

There is no shortage of uneasiness in the world. The last thing Americans need right now is a campaign of rumors about threats to schools.

A national social media trend this month involved students threatening violence at school or spreading rumors of such dangers. The trend appeared to have originated on TikTok as a quest for students to skip school on Friday, Dec. 17. TikTok is a social media platform popular with teens, among other age groups.

The trend escalated into rumors that violence would occur in schools that day. Several posts went viral on social media platforms.

As a result, multiple schools in Florida, for example, operated under lockdowns this week, The Associated Press reported Friday. The threats heightened anxieties at schools across the country, as well. Districts in several states closed schools Friday.

A statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security urged schools to be watchful, but saw no proof of verifiable threats. 'DHS is aware of public reporting that suggests possible threats to schools on December 17, 2021,' Homeland Security said in the statement, posted on Twitter Friday morning. 'DHS does not have any information indicating any specific, credible threats to schools but recommends communities remain alert.'

TikTok started deleting the posts from its platform Friday afternoon, CNN reported. The platform labeled the posts as misinformation.

Like elsewhere, the threats concerned schools, teachers, staff, students and parents in the Wabash Valley, too. The Vigo County School Corp. and Paris Union School District 95 were among districts advising the public that they were aware of the rumored threats and would investigate any such rumor to determine its validity.

The local school districts also offered advice to parents and students concerning young people's activities online.

The stresses of 2021 hardly need enumerated here, but clearly the COVID-19 pandemic, persistent spates of actual gun violence in schools and public settings, upheavals at work, and political animosity have driven anxiety higher. As weary as Americans are from coping with such turmoil, the recommendations offered by the schools and mental health counselors should be shared by parents with their kids, once again.

Families should discuss healthy social media activity with children, helping them 'realize the ways in which spreading rumors or participating in those trends can cause disruption and panic,' the VCSC advised. It also encouraged families to remind students to report suspicious behavior to a school staff member, or to alert the school district through the StopIt app in VCSC secondary schools.

At Paris District 95, parents and guardians were reminded the Safe2Help Illinois helpline allows students to share school safety concerns and offers ways to get help and encouragement. The helpline phone number is 844-472-3345. District 95 also urged families and students to avoid promoting social media rumors and instead report credible threats to the district.

Perhaps the most crucial recommendation was for families to be aware of who is connecting with their children online. Based on that information, rules can be set concerning social networking, instant messaging, emails, online gaming and use of webcams.

Those conversations with kids may be difficult, as is the setting of such boundaries. Those steps are essential in 2021. The efforts will make kids, their classmates, teachers and school staffs safer. We all need fewer worries, not more.


The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. Dec. 23, 2021.

Editorial: State should back health measures

Public health officials like Stephenie Mellinger are frustrated at Indiana's persistently low vaccination rates.

'If I knew what it took to get more people in this county vaccinated, I would have implemented that by now,' Mellinger, the administrator for the Madison County Health Department, told The Herald Bulletin.

She was responding to Indiana's recent ranking by the website WalletHub on its handling of the coronavirus. The website ranked Indiana dead last among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Like the rest of the state, just over half of Madison County's population is fully vaccinated.

Mellinger's staff is offering COVID vaccines at its offices six days a week. It also operates a mobile van it takes to remote locations around the county.

Still, Mellinger says most of the folks coming in for vaccines these days are already vaccinated. They're coming in for booster shots.

In the meantime, hospital beds across the state are filling up, and many of this state's leaders seem to think the appropriate response is to undercut the efforts of businesses trying to ensure a safe working environment.

House Bill 1001 sets up financial repercussions for employers looking to comply with a pending federal vaccine mandate. Employers would be directed to pay for any required testing, and they would be precluded from parting ways with workers who refused to get a vaccine.

Naturally, employers don't much like the measure.

'Please stay out of our business operations,' Kevin Brinegar, president and chief executive officer of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, told a legislative committee last week. 'Hoosier employers are in the best position to determine what is the best vaccine policy for the safety of their employees, customers and patients.'

Testimony at that seven-hour hearing illustrated the challenge facing anyone trying to navigate the rough waters of this pandemic.

Kokomo cardiologist Donald Westerhausen, president of the Indiana chapter of the American College of Cardiology, pushed back against the misinformation he had heard from some of the witnesses.

For example, he said, there's no truth to the claim that the so-called natural immunity you get from a mild case of the virus is stronger than the immunity you get from a vaccine. He cited three scientific studies that found the opposite to be true.

'These are facts,' he said. 'Facts are stubborn and hard.'

As they consider the measure, lawmakers should take into account the state's woeful ranking in comparison to other states.

They won't help that ranking by embracing conspiracy theories and casting doubt on proven public health measures.

What they should do instead is look for ways to get more vaccines into the arms of Hoosiers. That's the best thing any of us can do to stop this virus in its tracks.


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