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Indiana Governor’s Virtual Press Conference Recap

Virtual Press Conference 4-16-20

  • Governor Holcomb ​began by honoring the life and sacrifice of the late IMPD Officer Breann Leath. Department of Corrections will rename the nursery  at the Indiana Women’s Prison after Officer Leath. Praised National Guard for their continued assistance. Minnesota, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan are officially working together to slowly reopen the economy safely. Sent a letter out today to various industry stakeholders seeking input by next Wednesday on changes they will make in the workplace that will give their employees a sense of safety. Will continue to make data driven decisions. Holcomb is looking at early May right now to slowly begin reopening but didn’t provide a date certain. 
  • Indiana Department of Health reported 611 new cases and 41 new deaths. 51,000 Hoosiers have been tested to date. Still have 45% of ICU beds available and 76% of ventilators still available. Statistics have remained very steady and pleased to see it. Reported that 80 offenders at Westville Correctional Center have tested positive and testing other facilities as we speak. Correctional facilities are ripe for COVID-19 to spread. Tested over 1300 people at the drive thru test sites over the last three days. Will provide data  in the next few days. 
  • Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced further recommendations to the Indiana Elections Commission. The Commission meets tomorrow at Noon to finalize recommendations. These recommendations come after many discussions with major political parties and local officials. May 21 is the deadline to request an absentee ballot. Over 70,400 voters have requested an absentee ballot as of this morning. About a week away from having an online absentee ballot application. Early in-person voting starting May 26 until Saturday June 1. Applying for $7.9M federal grant to pay for PPE and other necessities to distribute to counties. Limited In-person voting on June 2 as well. Will use federal and state money to communicate deadlines to voters and attempt to attract high school students, college students and the recently unemployed to work the polls. 
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne reported seeing 118,184 new claims filed in Indiana over the last week. From April 1 to April 15 his agency paid out 432,740 payments.  Our greatest challenge remains the high call volume–​so far we have seen 800,000 phone interactions from April1 to April 14. Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) payments were scheduled to begin the week of April 20. From 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm will take Uplink offline in order to implement the PUC system. Will begin disbursing payments  tomorrow a few days ahead of schedule. Building a new system to administrator the payment for independent contractors, self-employed and gig workers. Expect to open the system to applications on April 24. A little further behind on the disbursement payments with a target date on May 4. Stressed these are just target dates and could change.  Planning virtual regional job fairs–visit website for a list of upcoming events. 
  • OMB Director Cris Johnston provided an update on the Education Stabilization Fund.  Three main buckets of funding: (1) K-12; (2) Higher Ed and (3) Governor’s emergency fund ($ 61M). The third bucket can be used across the spectrum on K-12 and higher ed. Looking at how to leverage the money to enable and promote remote learning. Have not filed for the application yet.

Virtual Press Conference 4-15-20

  • Governor Holcomb announced Connie Lawson will be attending tomorrow to provide an update on the upcoming elections. The Indiana Election Commission is meeting Friday, April 17 via zoom. Allowing the data to drive the decision on re-opening the economy. Looking at how to track past positive COVID-19 confirmed cases–willing to fund an army if needed. CDC recently released guidance on contact tracing. It will be a rolling re-opening and will not be like turning a light on. Reached out to surrounding states to work on a plan, working closely with Ohio and Kentucky. Will provide an update to the stay at home order..
  • Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box ​provided an update on health care equipment availability:  45.6% of ICUs available and 74% of ventilators available. Received USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approval for a Disaster Household Distribution (DHD) Program effective April 15, 2020 through May 14, 2020.  This programming will further assist Hoosier households in need of food assistance. Please find the press release here. Clarified that the state is not ordering any transfers of longterm care residents nor is the state requiring facilities to become dedicated COVID-19 facilities. Any transfers or dedicated facilities must be started by the facility.  A total of 681 longterm care residents have tested positive or 1% of the population that live in facilities. Longterm care residents account for about 7% of the total cases in Indiana and 27% of the deaths in the state. This is heartbreaking but not unexpected due to their age  chronic health conditions and close living quarters. Pushed out PPE to facilities and continue to send the strike team. 
  • Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett (R) honored the life of a local fire fighter who recently passed away from COVID-19. Highlighted local community response to COVID-19. Moving forward with building the convention center. 
  • Valparaiso Mayor Matt Murphy (R) reported that his community is working together to address and limit the impact of COVID-19. Received 10,000 masks from sister city in China that are ready to be donated when ready. Valparaiso School Corporation has provided over 27,000 meals to date. 

Virtual Press Conference 4-14-20

  • Governor Holcomb praised Hoosiers for continuing to step up to the plate to help flatten the curve. The next four or five days will be critical for all Hoosiers.  Might consider shortening the increments of the stay at home orders (right now extending in 2 week time periods) depending on what the data shows this weekend. Does not anticipate a need for a special legislative session at this time.
  • Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported the death of an inmate today and has been working with the Department of Corrections to prioritize testing for inmates. Long term facilities continue to be the focus of the strike team. Issued an order today that will  allow transfer, discharge or otherwise relocation of residents in accordance with Department of Health guidelines. This will allow facilities to protect residents that are not infected and develop COVID-19 dedicated facilities. This order supersedes any local orders.  Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary and Sellersburg drive thru services conducted 465 tests yesterday. Expanding who can be tested at the drive thru services tomorrow to those who live with health care workers, first responders and essential workers and are symptomatic.
  • U.S. Senator Todd Young provided a summary of federal relief packages. SBA has approved 23,500 small businesses loans  in Indiana totaling around $5.8M to date. Authorized a full $350B for small business loans and the vast majority of the money will be forgivable loans. Working directly with the state to implement the provisions of the unemployment program that applies to conventional unemployed workers as well as gig economy, self-employed and contractors.  PPE remains a topic of conversation at the federal level. $100B dedicated to ensuring our healthcare providers have access to the tools they need to makes sure they and Americans are safe. Recently learned that the money being sent to individuals might be subject to creditors. Working with team to look at it further.

Virtual Press Conference 4-13-20

  • Governor Holcomb praised the sacrifice of Hoosiers to flatten the curve. Reiterated that an effective defense is allowing us to move to a productive offense quicker than most. We can see the clearing ahead. Still in the mitigation phase (first quarter). Second quarter is about surveillance, tracing people who are infected and their contacts. Third quarter is when we are all working but will be a “new” normal under certain conditions (masks ect.). On Friday, will look at tweaks to the Stay at Home Order that expires on midnight on Monday depending on the data. COVID-19 has spread to all 92 counties across the state. Stresses that we may be in better shape than most due to our quick reactions. Senator Young will provide an update on CARES Act and implementation of it (small business loans) here in Indiana tomorrow. Details being negotiated with both major political parties on June 2 primary—Indiana Elections Commission meets April 22. In weekly talks with surrounding states on what re-opening the economy in a safe manner would look like. 
  • Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box provided an update on the impact of COVID-19 with 7 new deaths and 331 new confirmed cases. Numbers are a lower but do not read too much into that with the holiday weekend. Expect the numbers to tick back up. Highlighted the new data and interactive functions of COVID-19 website (racial stats). 44% ICU beds available and 73% of ventilators are available. Most concerned about the surge capacity of Indiana healthcare system. Social distancing has pushed projected surge to end of April (likely to hit Indianapolis first). We cannot relax our guard and social distancing is crucial to our healthcare capacity as a state. Conducted 900 tests in Merrillville in one week, saw about 12% of those tests came back positive. Launched additional drive thru testing in today around the state. Gave a shout out to Merrillville Superintendent for the help with the drive thru testing. Indiana received 100 ventilators  from the Strategic national stockpile. Removed requirement that providers have to put a reason why they want to test someone. 
  • Secretary of Commerce Schellinger and Chief of Staff Luke Bosso provided an overview of IEDC’s efforts towards PPE procurement throughout the state. Purchased 1.9M of PPE equipment from 15 Indiana companies to supply the PPE. Distributed over 200,000 pieces of PPE to date and expect to receive another 150,000 pieces this week with daily distributions. Secured commitments of 2.6M pieces of PPE. Hoosiers that want to donate PPE should contact IEDC. Highlighted partnerships with local companies. 
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne​ commented on the number of unemployment filings. Has been over 120,000 a week and don’t expect that number to go down anytime soon. Still have high call volumes and issues associated with the demand. 

Virtual Press Conference 4-10-20

  • Governor Holcomb opened daily press conference with a tribute to Breann Leath, an Indianapolis Police Officer killed in the line of duty last night responding to a domestic violence call.  Encouraged to see nearly 12,000 Hoosiers volunteer to help in various ways.
  • Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported new 55 new deaths for a total of 300 deaths in Indiana. A total of 24 residents of a long-term care facility in Madison County have passed away. Will continue to have strike team focus on these facilities. Will add racial data to dashboard on Monday. Infection total: 18.5% African American population, 50% of white, 3% Hispanics—However, missing about 50% of the data because labs haven’t been recording information. Expanding drive thru testing to Clark, Vanderburgh and Allen Counties to test symptomatic first responders, essential workers and  healthcare workers. 41% ICU beds are available in the State. 69% of ventilators available. Moving dashboard updates from 10:00 am to Noon to give more time to capture more data.
  • OMB Director Cris Johnston spoke on the states revenue collections and projections. March missed projections by $63M. April and June are typically the state’s largest revenue months. This will not be the case this year. Significant pressure on budget by delaying income tax collection and COVID-19. The drop  will be steep and rapid and don’t know the pace of the recovery. Five stages to managing the crisis: (1) managing public health; (2) deploying federal assistance; (3) guiding a safe return to economic activity; (4) adapting business and government operations in a post-COVID-19 world; and (5) lessons learned for the future. State received $10.6M from first federal package for health care costs.  State is expected to receive around $3 billion through the CARES Act. About $250M dedicated to existing programs. Expecting $500M through the Education Stabilization Act that will be distributed through a formula with a small amount discretionary—still waiting on guidance from the US Dept. of Education. K-12 formula will be based on relative share of Title 1 funding. High Ed will be based on mix of students that have pell grants and those that do not.  The State will receive $2.4 Billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and cannot be spent on normal state budget items—awaiting additional guidance from US Treasury. Will be conferring with legislators on how this money is spent and does not want to create expectations of funding past available federal funding.
  • Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger introduced Indiana’s Economic Relief and Recovery Team and the advisory committee members include Becky Skillman (former LG), Luke Kenley (Former Senator and Appropriations Chair); Al Hubbard (Assistant to President George W. Bush for Economic Policy); Ryan Kitchell (OMB Director) and Jim Marcuccilli (Fort Wayne Banker).  Will be administrator and account manager for Indiana relief funds for state and local government cost of operations, for businesses and individuals. Will give more guidance on how funds will be distributed once guidance from federal government is released.

Virtual Press Conference 4-9-20

  • ​Governor Holcomb released guidance for places of worship. Drive-in service may only be conducted under these conditions: (1) Attendees must remain inside vehicle at all times; (2) Attendees should not interact physically with clergy, staff or participants in other vehicles; (3) Vehicles should contain only members of a single household; (4) Vehicles must be placed the equivalent of every other parking spot or approximately 9 feet apart and (5) No one may exit a vehicle at anytime. Get the word out and get home! Enforcement task force has started issuing warnings to non-essential businesses that aren’t closing or following the “no customers in the store” provision. Looked into 214 complaints. 134 were deemed essential. Will follow up with cease and desist orders for those that refuse to follow the various executive orders. Waiting for Election Commission to decide how best to carry out June primary and November general election. Next meeting is April 22. 
  • Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box ​reported 42 new deaths in the last 24 hours. 75% of these deaths have occurred since Sunday. The strike team collected 500 specimens yesterday and the Lake County drive thru testing conducted 225 tests from first responders, healthcare workers and essential workers. Will continue the service through until next Tuesday. Still working on expanding drive thru testing throughout the state and will likely start next week (delayed a week). Starting tomorrow all labs must report both positive and negative cases in order to establish a baseline. Additional guidance for labs coming tomorrow. Gave a shoutout to the Colts for the donations of PPE. Will do more tests in SE Indiana where Decatur County has one of the worst per-capita infection rates in the country. 
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne ​provided an overview of Hoosier unemployment claims (below). While the number is slightly down, it still representing the 2nd highest in Indiana history. Reiterated that self-employed and contractors will continue to get denied until DWD has the system built and did not provide a date certain for when this would happen. These people will be eligible for the $600 when the system gets built and will be retroactive to March 29.  Holding a virtual job fair in Fort Wayne on April 23. 
    • Indiana Unemployment Claims:
      • Week Ending March 14: 2,596; 
      • Week Ending March 21: 59,755; 
      • Week Ending March 28: 139,174; and
      • Week Ending April 4:​ 133,639​
  • OMB Director Johnson responded to a question about education funding. More information coming out tomorrow regarding how Indiana is going to leverage federal monies coming from the Education Stabilization Fund. Directs governors office and DOE to look at schools most directly impacted by COVID-19 and how best to expend the resources. 

Virtual Press Conference 4-8-20

  • Governor Holcomb began by noting the BMV started in-person meetings with people in need of CDLs. Over 200 appointments have been scheduled. Holcomb described the state as being “in the first quarter of the basketball game” regarding the pandemic and continues to preach the importance of social distancing. Spent considerable time highlighting community efforts happening around the state. State is tracking congressional action before acting on hazard pay for healthcare workers. He expressed desire to increase public health funding. He also highlighted the Executive Order he signed last night designed to encourage retired emergency medical services personnel to join the fight to flatten the curve. 
  • Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box began with good news, stating Indiana received 15 quick – testing machines that can test about 150 people, awaiting new cartridges for further testing. More info coming soon on more testing sites. Continues to emphasize efforts to care for elderly, particularly long-term care facilities. Out of the 735 long-term care facilities, 200 facilities have been tested. 170 long-term care facilities have had confirmed cases, 31 deaths in total. A directive went live this morning requiring directors of long-term facilities, jails, prisons, etc. must report to ISDH within 24 hours if they become aware of a known or suspected case of COVID-19, if an individual dies, or if an employee tests positive. Dr. Box was pressed on why Indiana testing numbers are behind neighboring states – she said we initially struggled with resources, but now Indiana is running about 3,700 tests per day.
  • State EMS Director Dr. Michael Kaufmann highlighted the special services and challenges EMS workers must prepare for. EMS has waived more than 13 different rules to meet demands, in addition to help from executive orders. 75% of EMS providers have adequate PPE, the other 25% still have the capacity for services. Desires those who call 911 to note if they are running a fever or have a respiratory illness, and meet EMS professionals in open, ventilated areas. Less than 1% of public health workforce has tested positive for COVID-19. Partnered with National Guard to move stable patients from intensive care to more suitable locations.​
  • FSSA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak is the state point person for long-term care facilities and elaborated on how long-term facilities are the perfect storm for the virus because of asymptomatic individuals working with high-risk individuals. In total, there are 11 long term care “strike teams” around the state. 600 individuals have been tested by these teams. Many requirements have been waived to increase staffing of long-term care facilities, such as out-of-state workers and professionals providing different services. His team is working with the facilities to create COVID-19 facilities to help deal with those recovering from coronavirus that cannot or should not yet return home.

Virtual Press Conference 4-7-20

  • Governor Holcomb implored Hoosiers to understand this is not like the flu and we need to continue to take this as serious as possible. What we are doing today will determine how big of an impact this pandemic will have on our state and businesses. Indiana averaged 154 deaths over the last 5 years. 173 deaths from COVID in the last three/four weeks. He gave a shout out to BME/BPAG client IndianaPork for their generous donations.
  • Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box announced 34 deaths reported in the last 24 hours bringing the total death rate to 173 Hoosiers and 5,507 confirmed cases. Important to note there is a delay in reporting so these deaths occurred between April 4 and April 6. A total of 26,191 tests have been reported to Department of Health. Offering drive thru testing at Merrillville High School in Lake County for healthcare workers, long-term care workers, first responders and essential workers who are symptomatic due to limited supplies. Will offer same services in Clark and Vanderburgh Counties next week.
  • Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner McGuiness announced the winners of the Community Crossings matching grant fund (winners attached). In total, 217 awards totaling l 126.5M in 61 counties and 156 cities and towns. State will continue to award grants through the year. Expediting two projects due to reduction in traffic volume (40% reduction during the week and 50% reduction during the weekend). 1-70 by the north split will be closed starting Monday through May. The project will be completed in 1 month versus 5 months with the reduction of traffic. Also starting 1-69 Section 6 (Martinsville to Indianapolis), 469 by Fort Wayne and a project down in Evansville.
  • BPAG/BME Client Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry (D), BPAG/BME Client Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett (D) and Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke (R) provided updates on their local community response to getting through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virtual Press Conference 4-6-20

  • Governor Holcomb: Stay at home order extended to April 20, 2020. No in-person purchases of retail goods unless they are needed for sustenance, health, education or employment. Retailers like florists, craft stores ect can only do online ordering, curbside pickup (no customers in the store) and this provision is effective April 7 at 11:59 pm.  State camp grounds are closed (state parks remain open). ATC will lead a multi-agency task force to enforce the stay at home order. Creates new requirements for essential businesses to follow in order to remain open and operating. He is not currently considering declaring religious services as essential services.
  • Health Commissioner Dr. Box: State is currently processing about 3,000 tests a day, which is a little below estimated capacity of 3,700 tests a day. Tested just over 22,500 to date. Hoping to reach 6,300 tests a day as more private labs come online. Started crisis with inventory of about 1,100 hospital beds, now have just under 3,000 available with about a 58% occupancy rate. PPE supplies are exhausted and do not expect to get anymore from federal government. About 27% of ventilators in state are being used with 17% being used for COVID-19 related issues. Bad outbreak in nursing home in Madison County (11 residents have died to date). Possible Indiana had first COVID-19 related death back in February.
  • DWD Commissioner Payne: Federal government released guidance on unemployment benefits over the weekend.  Hoosiers will see the extra $600 for normal unemployment benefits hit the week of April 20. Unemployment benefits for self-employed/contractors will likely take longer to implement. Added an additional 100 contractors to facilitate the increase in demand and needed changes to current system.
  • State Budget Director Johnson: Month of April will be a key indicator for future decisions. Missed March forecast by $70M but still ahead on the forecast year to date. Looking at cost savings with state agencies.  

Virtual Press Conference 4-3-20

  • Governor Holcomb extended the public health emergency declaration for another 30 days to May 3, 2020 and the stay at home order for another two weeks to April 19, 2020. There will be tweaks to the stay at home order on Monday at 2:30. President Trump has approved state disaster declaration for all 92 counties. This allows government entities to receive 75% reimbursement  of certain costs in response to COVID-19 crisis. It also allows the National Guard to receive 100% reimbursement of certain costs in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Department of Health Commissioner Box commented that it is crucial Hoosiers understand the gravity of the situation. Reported highest 24 hour death toll to date—24—bringing total death toll to 102. Many who die have underlying health conditions such as lung and heart disease. Updated website with county level data.
  • National Guard Adjutant General Dale Lyles said they are sorting and distributing medical supplies and PPE to be given to hospitals with most urgent needs. They will be assessing sites around Indiana this weekend that can serve as alternative care facilities.
  • Family and Social Services Secretary Jennifer Sullivan said mental health and wellbeing of Hoosiers are crucial to full recovery. Leveraging telehealth to reach out most vulnerable populations suffering from serious mental, emotional and addiction issues. Seeing huge spike in 211 calls mainly for suicide related calls.
  • Commissioner Payne was asked about when state will implement COVID-19 unemployment insurance program. He said they are waiting until May according to direct guidance from Department of Labor.
  • Department of Corrections confirmed 2 cases at Indiana Women’s prison and 3 cases in Plainfield facility.

Virtual Press Conference 4-2-20

  • Department of Health Commissioner Box visited Stout Field to observe the National Guard and others organize and distribute strategic national stockpile shipment of PPE and other medical supplies. She mentioned this program was not built to sustain a national pandemic so Indiana probably won’t see another shipment. There are over 3,000 known cases in Indiana, over 700 Hoosiers in ICU care and 79 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19. 29 long-term care facilities have had positive tests (resident or worker).
  • Superintendent McCormick announced all K-12 schools shall provide remote learning instruction for rest of school year. Schools still need to hit 160 instructional days and then have 20 day waiver. Up to schools on what the schedule looks like.  Schools are required to submit “continuous learning plans” by April 17 and submit a certified final report. If student was on track on March 19 (earned credits and enrolled courses), then the student will graduate (see attached document for additional information). Graduation exams are waived. Graduation ceremonies are a local decision but shouldn’t be holding traditional ceremonies. Middle school student and 9-11 graders continue to earn credits (up to locals on whether activity is credit worthy, there are test out options as well). Teacher licensing requirements extended through 9/1/2020. Some emergency teaching permit requirements will be waived.
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne commented that 6.6 million Americans have filed unemployment claims  and Indiana is no exception. 146,243 Hoosiers filed for unemployment claims last week alone. The prior one week record was back in January 2009 which was about 28,000. His office took about 158,000K calls last week alone from Hoosiers and continues to hire staff to ensure the office is running smoothly. Updating the system to allow independent contractors and self-employed Hoosiers to file unemployment. They are getting denied right now but that will change when states get guidance from federal government.
  • Governor Holcomb confirmed COVID-19 cases are in 84-92 counties. Need to continue to take this serious and practice social distancing. He will announce an update tomorrow on the stay-at-home order and the carry out only order for restaurants/bars.

Virtual Press Conference 4-1-20

  • There were no new or extended executive orders today. There will likely be at least one tomorrow focused on education issues.
  • Governor Holcomb announced that the last 24 hours was Indiana’s highest death rate related to COVID-19 with 16 deaths. The second highest death toll is yesterday. He noted that we have not yet peaked but are only looking up at the peak in the fight to flatten the curve.
  • Eli Lily CEO Dave Ricks announced the #INthistogether campaign (inthistogethercampaign.com) which is a partnership between government, businesses and nonprofits to encourage social distancing. The Colts and Mayor Hogsett are active partners. Eli Lily began testing only healthcare workers, expanded to first responders and is now testing frontline essential workers (think grocery stores, pharmacists ect). They have tested close to 6,000 Hoosiers to date.
  • Dr. Box highlighted Indiana’s expanded testing capacity and new protocols. Indiana is also getting 15 rapid response test machines developed by Abbott labs with an unknown delivery date. The updated protocol now tests people who show symptoms AND have underlying conditions.
  • Department of Homeland Security announced Governor Holcomb signed a letter requesting major disaster declaration and is currently under review with the White House. This will allow Indiana access to more federal funding. They are also working with mortuaries and funeral homes to plan for the upcoming surge.
  • Department of Workforce Development clarified that furloughed workers can apply for unemployment.