For nearly two months, the Indiana State Health Department’s (ISDH) COVID-19 county metrics had placed Wabash County in the red, the highest level.

Last week, though, that designation was finally lowered to orange, the second-highest level.

But, this week, Wabash County, along with almost every other county in the state, was raised back to red.

Meanwhile, the ISDH reported five additional local COVID-19 deaths over the past week. On Friday, Jan. 7, the ISDH reported two more local COVID-19 deaths, bringing Wabash County’s total to 133. On Tuesday, Jan. 11, the ISDH reported two more local COVID-19 deaths, bringing Wabash County’s total to 135. On Wednesday, Jan. 12, the ISDH reported one additional COVID-19 death, bringing Wabash County’s total to 136.

At the national level, the Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job, according to the Associated Press.

“I am relieved to see that Supreme Court has blocked Joe Biden’s unconstitutional vaccine mandate for private businesses. If it had been allowed to go into effect, the mandate would have further weakened our fragile supply chains, kept shelves empty, and worsened our already critical labor shortage,” said Indiana Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer, on Thursday, Jan. 13. “As the general counsel of the RNC, I am proud of our team for filing one of the lawsuits challenging the reckless Biden Administration. We will continue to stand up and fight for workers and businesses.”

The court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court’s orders Thursday, Jan. 13 came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant.

The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

In December, Senator Braun led the Senate in a vote on the rule, with all 50 Senate Republicans and two Democratic Senators voting to overturn the vaccine mandate rule.

“President Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employees is unconstitutional and wrong. I was proud to lead the vote to overturn this illegal mandate in the Senate, and the Supreme Court blocking this mandate is a win for the liberties and livelihoods of millions of Americans,” said Braun, on Thursday.

Last month, Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Indiana, filed an amicus brief alongside more than 180 fellow Congressional Republicans urging SCOTUS to stay this mandate. In the brief, they argued that Congress did not give OSHA the authority to impose a vaccine mandate.

“I am relieved the U.S. Supreme Court rightfully has struck down President Biden’s unconstitutional mandate on workers and job creators, protecting Americans’ fundamental rights,” said Congresswoman Walorski. “The administration’s mandate on private employers clearly trampled on Americans’ liberties, and it would have been a disaster as we face mounting inflation, supply chain, and workforce crises. Northern Indiana is home to a robust manufacturing and small business community that feeds and powers our nation. Today the Supreme Court upheld these Hoosiers’ vital right to work and provide for their families,” said Walorski, on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Jan. 5, the ISDH announced that Hoosiers aged 12 to 15 who received their second dose of the Pfizer vaccine at least five months ago are now eligible to receive a booster dose following approval from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA.

The FDA amended the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine on Monday to allow a single booster dose for people aged 12 to 15. The CDC endorsed the recommendation Wednesday.

The FDA also expanded the Pfizer EUA by shortening the time between the completion of the primary vaccination series from six months to five months and allowing certain immunocompromised children aged 5 to 11 to receive a third primary series dose. The CDC authorized those changes Tuesday.

Booster doses have been shown to increase protection from hospitalization and death against the highly infectious Omicron variant, which is fueling a surge in cases across the country. Data out of South Africa and the United Kingdom show that two doses of a Pfizer vaccine provide approximately 35 percent protection against the Omicron variant but that a booster dose increases that protection against infection to 75 percent.

The Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine approved for individuals younger than age 18. Hoosiers seeking a booster for a child aged 12 or older can go to www.ourshot.in.gov and look for a location that carries the Pfizer vaccine, designed by PVAX, or call Indiana 211 (866-211-9966) for assistance. Appointments are recommended, but many sites also accept walk-ins.

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.