97 dead in Gary, 2,922 infected with COVID-19

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Mayor and health commissioner plead for residents to stay home during Thanksgiving

By Erick Johnson

A total of 97 Gary residents have died from COVID-19 and 2,922 have been infected with the virus in the city since the outbreak began in March, according to Gary Health Commissioner Dr. Roland Walker.

Walker delivered the information during Mayor Jerome Prince’s press conference on Monday, November 23. Walker said Gary’s rolling seven-day average of new COVID-19 is 56 cases.

“That is a very high number,” Walker said. “We head into the holiday season, I’m begging you, please [have] small groups in your households. Zoom communication. Telephone communication. Facebook communication. This is the way we should communicate with our families. We want to be close to our families, but we don’t want to spread this virus to our families.”

During his press conference, Prince said he and Walker last week visited with 30 club and bar owners, reminding them to limit their occupancy to 50 percent and to close at midnight. Prince said that may be a challenge during the holiday season, when people are more socially active and less concerned about staying safe and healthy.

“This is a big week for them, and I know that they’ll have many patrons, but they’ll be especially vulnerable to contracting virus,” Prince said. “I ask they make public safety their top priority right now.”

Prince noted that violators will be fined up to $2,500 on the first offense. Violators will be fined $75 on subsequent offenses.

Houses of worship are also limited to 50 people, who must wear masks and practice social distancing of at least six feet. Gatherings at private residences should be limited to 25 people, who must also wear masks and practice social distancing.

Prince noted that Governor Eric Holcomb designated Lake County a red county because it has the toughest restrictions in the state.

“This disease is serious, and we have seen huge numbers of Gary residents die from this disease,” Prince said.

As of November 23, 5,067 Indiana residents have died from COVID-19 and 300,913 have been infected with the virus, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Nationwide, 257,549 Americans have died from disease and 12.4 million people have been infected with the virus.

The Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention is urging residents not to travel or participate in large family gatherings during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. But on Friday November 20, some 1,019,836 people went through the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) checkpoints at airports across the country, according to data from the agency.

That same day, pharmaceutical drug maker Pfizer and its German collaborator BioNTech submitted a formal request to the Food and Drug Administration for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine after announcing the drug is 95 percent effective against the coronavirus.

The FDA will meet on December 10 and reports say the vaccine will be available to distribute two days later. However, the vaccine will only be immediately available to first responders. The vaccine will be available to Americans during the Spring.

Moderna, which also has a vaccine that’s 95 percent effective against COVID-19, is reportedly expected to send in its application for FDA approval by December 4.
In contrast, the Pfizer inoculation needs to be shipped and stored at a brisk -94 degrees Fahrenheit to remain stable for longer than five days. It is not possible to reach temperatures that low in a normal freezer, which means that special ultra-cold freezers are necessary. While many hospitals have access to these colder freezers, they cost upwards of $10,000 each, which poses a major challenge to any smaller sites hoping to distribute the vaccine.

After Pfizer’s formal request to the FDA, President Donald Trump claimed credit for the development of Pfizer’s new COVID-19 vaccine on behalf of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed program. Trump then accused Pfizer of waiting to announce the success of their Phase III vaccine trial until the day after the presidential election to avoid helping him.

On Monday, November 23 a third drug maker, London-based AstraZeneca said that late-stage trials showed its COVID-19 vaccine is 90 percent effective. The results are based on an interim analysis of trials in the U.K. and Brazil of a vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured by AstraZeneca. No hospitalizations or severe cases of COVID-19 were reported in those receiving the vaccine.

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