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STATEWIDE–The Delta variant of the coronavirus is still the dominant variant in Indiana. But, state health commissioner Dr. Kris Box said in a COVID update Wednesday afternoon that she expects that to change soon, and that the Omicron variant will likely become what is causing the most infections.

The surge that has been happening since early November has caused the state’s health systems to be overwhelmed and the Indiana National Guard is helping, said Box. The state’s hospitals have more patients than any time in the past five years.

LISTEN: A portion of the COVID update from Wednesday

“Omicron is very easily transmitted and infects and multiplies 70 times faster in the major airways of the lungs of an infected individual,” said Box. “So, people infected with Omicron have a lot more virus in their throats, waiting to be expelled when the exhale or cough or sneeze.”

Box and Holcomb continue to push for more Hoosiers to get the vaccine. Right now, about 54 percent of Hoosiers have gotten both shots and about 1.3 million people have gotten the booster in Indiana.

Box said that the state’s health care workforce is depleted both physically and mentally, but that help from the National Guard has already been deployed. Those teams can help for two weeks, with two-week extensions, and are doing so in about a dozen hospitals across the state.

The briefing included no mandates, but Holcomb did say he is extending his emergency health order to help the state be assured federal resources.

He also addressed comments made recently by Indiana Atty. Gen. Todd Rokita, who said he did not believe the data and the numbers gathered and published on hospitalizations and COVID numbers.

“Folks should have a high level of confidence the data the state of Indiana puts out is accurate,” said the governor at the outset of the news conference. “If I have erred, if we have erred, we’ll own it. We’ll admit to it. We’ll fix it and we’ll move on.”

Later in the news conference, Holcomb directly addressed Rokita’s remark.

“If there is a thread of evidence, he needs to take that to the state’s inspector general,” he said.

Rokita said in a response that his original remarks were misinterpreted.

“I did not say this was some kind of Indiana government failure as several of the dying, agenda-driven mainstream media have claimed. The reporter interrupted my response to his earlier question mid-comment and interjected the state health department as the culprit. I continued by finishing my answer to the original question. This problem is international in scope and somewhat natural given how quickly the China virus was thrust on the world,” he said. “Of course, these reporting irregularities do not discount the lives that have been affected by the virus. But I encourage everyone to be critical consumers of information and apply common sense to statistics, just like my office and I advise regarding any consumer protection issue.”