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(INDIANAPOLIS) — Just 2% of Indiana adults have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19

so far — but the vaccine may be having an effect already.

Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in Indiana have turned sharply downward. Hospitalizations are down by one-third from the peak six weeks ago, and the number of new cases is down by nearly half. 41 counties rated high-risk on the state’s weekly assessment dropped out of that category this week. And the statewide positivity rate has dropped by a third in just 10 days.

Governor Holcomb and state health commissioner Kristina Box say there are many reasons for the

improvement. Box says getting past the one-two-three punch of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New

Year’s travel and gatherings is likely a major factor. Holcomb says he’s hearing from more and more businesses who have figured out ways to operate safely. And both say tighter limits on mass gatherings imposed in November may be helping.

But Holcomb speculates the hope the vaccine has created for an end to the pandemic has

encouraged more people to wear masks, wash their hands, and avoid potential superspreader

events, recognizing they can reach the finish line faster. And Box says because nursing homes have

been at the front of the vaccine line, it’s possible the shots may be reducing numbers there, though

she cautions it would take a closer look at the statistics to confirm that theory.

Holcomb cautions that while a return to normal is finally in sight, it’s critical to continue precautions,

not relax them. Even with the recent improvement, the number of Hoosiers hospitalized with

COVID-19 is triple where it was in September before the fall surge. And the positivity rate is still more than double the 5% level classified as low risk.