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Health care workers are pleading for help as Indiana is seeing record numbers of hospitalizations, but one of the state’s top elected officials said he doesn’t believe it.
In reference to Rokita's ongoing lawsuits against the federal vaccine mandates, WSBT's Todd Connor asked, "How do you rationalize trying to stop people from having to get the vaccines, but yet so many in the hospital are the unvaccinated?"
"Well, you know, first of all, I don't believe any numbers anymore," Rokita said. "And I'm sorry about that, but this has been politicized."
"From your state health people, huh?" Connor asks.
"This has been politicized since day one," Rokita continues.
Last week I had the opportunity to discuss vaccine mandates with @WSBT while I was in the Michiana area. It is important that Hoosiers individual liberties are protected in this debate about vaccine mandates. pic.twitter.com/ksNS4tHoCK
— Todd Rokita (@AGToddRokita) December 22, 2021
Surging COVID hospitalizations in Indiana
Indiana reported nearly 3,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 on Dec. 21, the latest date for which data is available on the Department of Health dashboard. This latest surge has surpassed the numbers seen in the fall delta surge, and it is nearing the levels reached last winter.
Indiana University Health, the state's largest hospital system, has requested help from the Indiana National Guard. At IU Health Methodist Hospital, a 23-person U.S. Navy team will be deployed to relieve exhausted health care workers.
On Sunday, health care workers at IU Health, Community Health Network and Eskenazi Health put out a full-page ad in the IndyStar, with a simple message, urging Hoosiers to get vaccinated: "We can't do this alone."
"The situation is dire ... it's a daily challenge to treat incoming COVID-19 patients, as well as those who suffer from strokes, heart attacks, car accidents, cancer and appendicitis."
Rokita's interview took place just one day after state lawmakers heard public testimony on House Bill 1001, a bill that would discourage private employers from imposing vaccine mandates.
In the public testimony, IU Health's Dr. Gabriel Bosslet warned lawmakers that if current trends continue, by Christmas Eve, Indiana will have more patients hospitalized with COVID than at any other time in the pandemic.
"Our hospitals are bursting," he said. "We are tired. We have been able to scale up ICU beds and ventilators, but we have not been able to scale up people. There are no more of me."
In the WSBT interview, Rokita explains away overwhelmed hospitals with vaccine mandates:
"The reason hospitals are filling up is because their own health care workers won't come to work because of the mandates that have been put on them," Rokita said. "A year ago, we are calling them heroes, and now they're some kind of villains."
WSBT's Connor pushes back, "Well, many are calling themselves burnt out because of all the work they've been having to do and that's why they left. Not because of the mandate."
"Mas o menos," Rokita replied.
In October, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that just 5% of unvaccinated adults said they left a job due to an employer's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Nearly 1 in 5 health care workers have left their jobs since the pandemic began, Morning Consult, a data and market research company, previously reported, but the reasons are complicated.
Morning Consult reported that the exodus has been "driven largely by pandemic, insufficient pay or opportunities and burnout." Another survey by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses found that 66% of critical care nurses have considered leaving the profession due to their experiences during the pandemic.
The reasons cited by the majority included "afraid of putting their family's health at risk" and that "patients who are unvaccinated undermine nurses' physical and mental well-being."
Rokita concludes the interview by saying, “I think the best advice is don't listen to politicians.”
When the interviewer asked him who people should listen to, he replied, “Listen to your doctor.”
Bosslet called Rokita's comments in the interview "absolutely insane."
"I try to avoid being political," Bosslet tweeted, "but hospitals are on fire with #covid19 ... This is leadership malpractice."
If I’m honest about my feelings here this hurts and makes me sad.
We need support from those elected to lead us.
At the very least we need them not see us as enemies.
Words matter when you are a leader. And these words hurt. https://t.co/svjWe153YG
— Gabriel Bosslet (@gbosslet) December 23, 2021
He went on to talk about the emotional toll of the crisis.
"If I’m honest about my feelings here this hurts and makes me sad. We need support from those elected to lead us. At the very least we need them not see us as enemies. Words matter when you are a leader. And these words hurt."
IndyStar reporters Kaitlin Lange and Shari Rudavsky contributed to this report.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: COVID-19 in Indiana: Todd Rokita doesn't believe his state's numbers