Hello, readers. It's Joe Tamborello back writing this newsletter after taking a couple of weeks off for the birth of my first child, Benjamin.
It's been an exhausting, nerve-racking and amazing experience. Going through all this during a pandemic surely changed many aspects of our hospital experience, but I'm thankful to have a healthy baby boy making noise a couple of rooms away from where I write this newsletter.
One tradition I couldn't partake in was cutting the umbilical cord. But I'm happy that I was able to be by my wife's side in the operating room.
Here's a photo of me and Ben chilling on the couch together. Now, onto the latest news. And sadly, it does not start off well.
Indiana passes 20,000 COVID-19 deaths as omicron surge continues
On Tuesday, Indiana passed 20,000 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Right now, the number stands at 20,296.
Cases and hospitalizations recently hit an all-time high for the state as the omicron variant continues to spread.
What does 20,000 Hoosiers look like? It's roughly 2,000 more people than the population of Avon. It exceeds the capacity of the Pacers' home, Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Read more in Shari Rudavsky's story.
COVID in Indiana schools: More than 100,000 COVID cases reported in Indiana schools this year
Free N95 masks are on the way to pharmacies
"Tens of thousands" of retail pharmacies and community health centers will soon have N95 masks you can pick up for free.
The government is distributing 400 million masks to locations across the country. Meijer stores have already begun to hand them out. Read through locations where you'll be able to get up to three masks per person.
An omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine?
Pfizer and BioNTech plan to test an omicron-specific COVID-19 vaccine on adults 18-55.
Three shots of the existing vaccine provides some protection from the omicron variant, but it's not as effective as it has been against earlier strains. Read more.
Indiana COVID statistics
Here are the latest numbers of fully vaccinated Hoosiers, total positive cases and deaths reported by the state health department. View detailed maps and track cases across the U.S. here.
Total of fully vaccinated Hoosiers: 3,631,349
Total positive cases: 1,574,807
Newly reported cases: 5,536
Newly reported deaths: 129
Total deaths: 20,296
More stories you should know about
Wash your hands and get vaccinated,
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: State passes 20K deaths | Free N95 masks