ANDERSON — On Thursday, WalletHub released its updated rankings for “safest” states during the COVID19 pandemic. Indiana ranked 51, classifying it as the least safe state — including the District of Columbia.

The rankings were based on state’s vaccination rate, positive testing rate, hospitalization rate, death rate and estimated transmission rate.

In Indiana, which was ranked 48 out of 50 for vaccination rate, just 52% of Hoosiers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. About 57% of the population has had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccination.

According to Stephenie Mellinger, administrator for the Madison County Health Department, just 52% of the population in Madison County is fully vaccinated.

“If I knew what it took to get more people in this county vaccinated, I would have implemented that by now,” she said.

The county health deparmtnet is offered COVID-19 vaccinations six days a week at its downtown building and also utilizes its mobile unit to administer shots to those who cannot make it to the building.

Mellinger noted that most of the people who are coming in for vaccinations are coming for the booster shot.

“I am open to whatever strategies or whatever conversations we need to have to increase our vaccination rate,” she said.

In terms of hospitalization rate, Indiana ranked 46 out of 50, meaning it has one of the highest COVID-19 hospitalization rates.

On Dec. 8, MSN released an article about which six states accounted for about 60% of the country’s increasing COVID-19 hospitalizations. Indiana is one of them.

Local hospitals are becoming overwhelmed due to these high numbers of hospitalizations.

“Community Hospital Anderson’s COVID census is as high as it’s ever been, even in the worst part of the initial pandemic, with 90% of these patients being unvaccinated,” Thomas Short, emergency medicine specialist, said in an email to The Herald Bulletin.

Ascension St. Vincent Anderson also has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients, starting in late November, said Regional President Margie Johnson.

“It’s unscientific, but obviously every time you have a holiday, you can just watch the trend numbers go up.”

After Thanksgiving, COVID-19 hospitalizations went up, but Johnson said that over the past few days, it’s decreasing some,. Still, she anticipates the numbers to go back up after Christmas.

While Madison County is still at an orange advisory level for COVID-19, Mellinger said it could potentially be red before Christmas. She also said that after reaching red, it could possibly stay red for a week or two, just like the county did last year.

“It’s incredibly frustrating that we’re in the same place (as last year), but we have vaccination as another tool,” Mellinger said.

In Indiana, 95% of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated, according to Mellinger.

To reduce the spread of COVID-19, Mellinger, Short and Johnson all encourage people to be vaccinated.

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to avoid hospitalization, severe disease and even death,” Short said in his email.

Aside from getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, social distancing and frequent hand washing are all steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of COVID-19.
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