Nearly a quarter of Hoosiers 16 and up vaccinated for COVID-19

INDIANAPOLIS — Nearly a quarter of Indiana residents age 16 and older are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, state health officials said Wednesday.

A total of 1,291,190 Hoosiers — 23.7% of Indiana’s residents who are at least 16 — have been fully vaccinated, while 1,827,696 first doses of vaccine have been administered statewide, according to the Indiana Department of Health’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard.

Indiana officials made all state residents age 16 and older eligible for COVID-19 vaccines on March 31. People fully vaccinated have received a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the single dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

The state health department on Wednesday reported 1,260 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 15 more Indiana deaths from COVID-19. Those deaths raised Indiana’s pandemic toll to 13,099 confirmed or presumed coronavirus-related deaths.

Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and new coronavirus cases are continuing to see slow increases after reaching recent lows in mid-March, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

The dashboard listed a seven-day average of 1,020 new infections as of Tuesday, up from an average of about 800 two weeks ago. Hospitalizations were at 789, after falling below 600 for several days in mid-March. But Indiana’s new infections are down about 85% from their December peak and hospitalizations are down about 77% from their December peak.

Indiana’s statewide mask mandate and other business restrictions meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus ended Tuesday after Gov. Holcomb signed orders last week lifting those limits.

Indiana man pleads guilty in crash that killed his 2 children

HARTFORD CITY — An eastern Indiana man charged in the crash deaths of his two young children has pleaded guilty to charges that he had drugs in his system when his pickup truck was involved in last year’s fiery crash.

Robert W. Cook, 37, of Montpelier pleaded guilty Monday to two counts each of causing death when driving with a controlled substance in his system and possession of methamphetamine, and a single count of dealing in a narcotic drug, the Star Press reported.

A Blackford Circuit Court judge who will decide whether to accept Cook’s guilty pleas tentatively set his sentencing for May 3. Under Cook’s plea agreement, prosecutors would dismiss 10 other charges, including two counts of reckless homicide, he faces in the deadly October 2020 crash.

Authorities said Cook’s pickup truck was eastbound on Indiana 18 when it collided head-on with a westbound semi-tractor trailer and caught on fire. Justin Wayne Cook, 6, and Raelynn Michelle Cook, 5, died, while Cook was hospitalized for a lacerated liver and spleen, burns and other injuries.

According to court documents, blood tests showed Cook had amphetamine — a test result that can indicate meth use — and marijuana in his system at the time of the crash. Authorities reported finding meth, narcotics including hydrocodone, digital scales, drug paraphernalia and marijuana in Cook’s home.

Woman pleads guilty to striking protesters in Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS — An Indianapolis woman has pleaded guilty to criminal recklessness for driving her minivan into several people protesting the death of George Floyd last year.

Under a plea agreement, Diane Goebel, 69, must pay more than $2,600 in restitution to two people who were injured, plus $185 in court costs, perform 48 hours of community service and serve 361 days on probation. She entered the plea Tuesday.

The incident occurred June 8 on Monument Circle during a demonstration over the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Indianapolis police shooting deaths of Dreasjon Reed and McHale Rose.

Video footage from nearby businesses showed Goebel attempting to “move forward through a narrow gap in the pedestrians,” an affidavit said. Two pedestrians then walked in front of the minivan and appeared to “bend backward” as the vehicle moved forward slowly.

More protesters then approached the minivan and started beating on its hood, prosecutors said. The minivan accelerated while several protesters were in front of it. Goebel drove off before stopping nearby to call 911.

Former vice president Pence memoir set for 2023 release

NEW YORK — Former Vice President Mike Pence has a book deal. His autobiography, currently untitled, is scheduled to come out in 2023.

“I am grateful to have the opportunity to tell the story of my life in public service to the American people, from serving in Congress, to the Indiana Governor’s office and as Vice President of the United States,” Pence said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the outstanding team at Simon & Schuster to invite readers on a journey from a small town in Indiana to Washington, DC.”

According to Pence’s agent, David Vigiliano, “all major publishers” competed for the book, and the deal was worth “well into seven figures.” A top editor from a rival publishing house confirmed that amount. The editor was not authorized to discuss negotiations and asked not to be identified.

Simon & Schuster announced Wednesday that it also signed Pence to a second book but did not immediately provide details. Pence is the first major Trump administration official to have an announced deal since the president left office in January, although former White House advisor Kellyanne Conway and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are among those reportedly working on books.

At this time in 2017, former President Barack Obama; former first lady Michelle Obama; former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill Biden; and former Secretary of State John Kerry were among the recently departed Obama administration officials who had agreed to book deals. Several top publishing executives have told The Associated Press that they were not interested in a Trump memoir, citing the siege of the US Capitol on Jan. 6 by Trump’s supporters. Publishers also have expressed wariness about other members of the Trump administration, worrying about a backlash from readers, authors and employees.

A Pence memoir will likely be subject to similar tensions the former Vice President has faced since he refused then-President Donald Trump’s demands that he help overturn the election results. Among Democrats and others who opposed Trump, Pence is widely seen as Trump’s loyal and complicit ally. Meanwhile, Trump supporters, and Trump himself, denounced him for not intervening Jan. 6 in Congress’ formal certification of Biden’s presidential victory.

The certification — which Pence had no power to change — was delayed for hours after hundreds of Trump supporters, some chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Simon & Schuster Vice President and Publisher Dana Canedy said that Pence’s book would be “revelatory,” without specifically saying whether he would address the events of Jan. 6.

“Vice President Pence’s life and work, his journey as a Christian, the challenges and triumphs he has faced, and the lessons he has learned, tells an American story of extraordinary public service during a time of unrivaled public interest in our government and politics,” Canedy said. “His revelatory autobiography will be the definitive book on one of the most consequential presidencies in American history.”

A Simon & Schuster spokesperson declined comment on what Pence planned to say about Jan. 6, and referred back to Canedy’s statement.

The signing of Pence comes three months after Simon & Schuster dropped a book by Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who had supported the rally in Washington which preceded the overrunning of the Capitol. Simon & Schuster has published several anti-Trump books over the past two years, including former National Security Advisor John Bolton’s “The Room Where It Happened” and niece Mary Trump’s “Too Much and Never Enough.” Its other authors have included Trump supporter Sean Hannity; the candidate Trump defeated in 2016, Hillary Clinton, and Trump himself.

Pence’s book deal continues the former vice president’s re-emergence since January. On Wednesday, he launched an advocacy group, Advancing American Freedom, which will promote the Trump administration’s record and could serve as a springboard for a Pence presidential run in 2024. The advisory board includes anti-abortion rights advocate Marjorie Dannenfelser and Ed Meese, who was President Ronald Reagan’s attorney general, and such former Trump administration officials as Conway, economic adviser Larry Kudlow and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

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