Indiana Daily Updates

December 2, 2020

Governor Holcomb returned to an in-person format today as him and his wife successfully completed their quarantine with no symptoms. Traffic was down in Indiana about 30% on Thanksgiving this year compared to last year and thanked Hoosiers for taking necessary precautions this holiday season. Indiana Face Masks located in northwest Indiana, which launched back in May, became licensed to make N95 masks, one of five in the nation to be approved by the federal government.  In comments to Senators Young and Braun, requested an extension to use the remaining CARES Act money next year to prepare for vaccine distribution. We will be looking at testing, tracing, working with local governments, following our unemployment funds in utilizing our remaining CARES Act funds.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box said COVID-19 continues to have a firm grip in Indiana. The colored coated map this week shows 16 counties in red and 1 in yellow, the rest are in orange. The number of red counties is down slightly, but we have yet to see the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings, which we will likely see in 10-14 days. Hospitalization numbers continue to rise. Over 3,400 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms, nearly double where we were last month. Daily hospitalizations also continue to increase at a significant rate. This is forcing many hospitals to go on diversion, which forces patients to travel longer distances for hospital beds. We are also seeing an increase in deaths, particularly in patients of long-term care facilities (“LTCs”). 5,688 are confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in Indiana, and another 280 are believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. Labs are experiencing significant stress and the time to receive test results is increasing. This is a multi-state issue and we are encouraging local health departments to use the BinaxNOW point of care tests for symptomatic individuals. We have distributed over 270,000 of these cards around the state. We have shortened the script for contact tracers when they contact positive cases. Contact tracers will now focus on notifying the case of the positive results, sharing the guidance on isolation, and emphasize the definition of a close contact; which is a person who has been within 6 feet of you for 15 minutes or more. The CDC issued new guidance today, which says the 14 day quarantine is still available and should be used by people who encounter high-risk individuals. However, the new guidance allows for quarantining to end after 10 days if the person has not had a COVID-19 test and has not developed any symptoms; or end after 7 days if the person tests negative for COVID-19 on day 5, 6, or 7 and no symptoms have developed. Encourages Hoosiers to follow the 10 days of quarantining as stress on testing labs continues to grow. Both Pfizer and Moderna have applied for emergency use authorization from the FDA, and Indiana is preparing to receive limited supplies of vaccine as early as mid-December. The hope is to have enough vaccine to treat front-line healthcare workers and all LTC patients by the end of December. The CDC’s vaccination process that was voted on yesterday mirrors Indiana’s vaccination plan. There is no information available regarding the safety of both vaccines for pregnant women. The guidance will likely be that everyone around a pregnant woman be vaccinated, similar to how children are treated when too young for a vaccine. Encourages everyone to become vaccinated when available and it will not be mandatory.

Staff Sergeant Mira Beltran joined from Morris Woods Health Campus in Muncie, IN where she is part of the National Guard force that has been in LTCs. Said they help with temperature check-ins, sanitation of high-contact areas, set up and tear down COVID tents, and help administer tests. The National Guard has been welcome in LTCs and has greatly lightened the load on LTC staff to allow them to direct more attention and care to residents.

RN Carly McCormick joined from Woodlands Living Center in Newburgh, IN and said the most important thing is to stay updated with the latest guidance for LTCs. Thankful for the National Guard’s assistance and said they are the primary people who screen staff and assist with many tedious tasks that allow us to focus on our patients.

ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver said teachers will be considered part of the critical infrastructure workforce in the vaccine process. The process of rolling out the vaccine will depend upon the amount of vaccine we receive, when we get it, and the safety of the vaccine. We put them in phase 2 and we will communicate as soon as we get information. Teachers getting vaccinated will help our schools remain open.

November 25, 2020

Governor Holcomb joined via phone again today, as him and his wife continue to quarantine. Both are doing fine with zero symptoms. Our average 7-day positivity rate, over the past four days, has ticked down slightly. Contributes it to Hoosier individuals recognizing the strain on healthcare workers and taking proper precautions to help out. The fire marshal has visited over 70 sites and the state excise police has visited 1,569 alcohol-permitted premises since Oct. 19 and found 47 to not be in compliance with masking and/or social distancing. Nearly every one of the 47, after education efforts, have come back into compliance. No one particular area of the state stood out in terms of the non-compliant businesses. Wishes Rep. Christi Stutzman and her family well following her resignation from the Indiana House of Representatives and praised businesses for adapting and adjusting due to safety reasons. A communication to all cities and towns regarding the $20M allocated toward education efforts was sent out last week and the state website has been updated to begin processing grant requests. Unaware of any mass-scale unemployment claim slowdown, but will divert resources to DWD if need be.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box we continue to see a high spread of COVID-19 around Indiana. There are 17 counties in red, down from 21 last week. There is 1 county in yellow and 74 counties at the orange level. Concerned many of the orange counties will turn into red following Thanksgiving festivities. The number of hospitalizations of people with COVID or with COVID symptoms continues to rise, and was over 3,300 yesterday. Daily hospital admissions also continue to increase at a significant rate. We are also seeing a higher number of deaths in long-term care facilities. Over half of the deaths over the past week were Hoosiers in long term care facilities. The Bowen Center sent out a survey requesting healthcare workers in long-term care facilities. To date, 4,300 people have responded to the survey. Nearly 250 college students have expressed a willingness to assist in COVID-19 related tasks as part of the “Students Step Up 2 Serve” program. We’ve distributed nearly 90,000 BinaxNOW cards to local health departments to help with the long test result times. These will be reserved for people who are symptomatic. A meeting is scheduled in early December to determine if Pfizer can get emergency authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine. Once the authorization is issued, states have been told to prepare to receive a vaccine in as little as 48 hours. The COVID vaccine will require two doses within 28 days of each other and is unlike other vaccines where a single dose is effective enough.

Dr. Nir Menachemi and Dean of the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health Dr. Paul Halverson gave an update on Stage 3 of the IU Fairbanks-ISDH study. It has become more difficult to get people to participate in the study as testing has become more widely available. Positive “cases” represent only a fraction of infections, and many people with mild to no symptoms who have no idea that they have it. As of Oct. 3, 7.8% of Hoosiers have been infected with COVID-19, but the current number could be as high as 10.6%. Herd immunity would be when 70% of Hoosiers are infected, and if we were to do that without a vaccine, there would be an additional 13,000 deaths. A genetic connection, or what people would call “sharing the same germs” among family, does not slow or stop the spread of COVID-19.

November 18, 2020

Governor Holcomb was available via phone today due to members of the Indiana Police Security Detail that works with the Governor and his wife testing positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. All are doing well, and he and his wife will continue to quarantine. Both are in good health. We will receive a test later this week. The Executive Order I signed last week is now in effect, and we will not be making any changes to it currently. Continue to be concerned with the rising hospitalization numbers. Many county officials since the EO went into effect have begun to reinforce mask wearing and proper COVID procedures. Participated in a National Governors Association call that focused on vaccinations. Appreciates the State Legislature’s (all but two) actions in conducting a successful Organization Day, including everyone wearing masks and dismissing the chambers in groups. “Everything is on the table” when asked about the recent Ohio statewide curfew, however we are seeing more and more communities beginning to enforce COVID safety protocols. We have not settled on a single statistic, such as hospitalization rates or ICU beds available, that will trigger further executive action. Remains confident in Indiana’s election integrity.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box said the state immediately launched contact tracing efforts following the Governor’s security detail’s positive COVID cases. We were able to identify 20 close contacts needing to isolate or quarantine. The best window for testing is 5-7 days after exposure, which is why the Governor is waiting to be tested later this week. If local leaders aren’t partnering with local health departments to enforce measures, we will continue to see our cases skyrocket. The latest ISDH county map shows 21 counties in red, 72 counties in orange, and one in yellow. This indicates community spread around the state is at a very high level. Our entire state is in red if we look at the number of cases per 100,000 Hoosiers. Daily hospitalization numbers are at the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. New cases are beginning to trend back to the 18-30 year old age group, which is concerning due to students about to travel back for the holidays. Over 12 universities have expressed interest in BinaxNOW cards to test students before they return home, and we will begin sending those out this week. We have partnered with the Bowen Center to recruit college students to serve in various jobs that could directly or indirectly support the COVID-19 response, roles include substitute teachers or contact tracers. Staying home during the holidays is the best way to protect yourself and others. We do not recommend going shopping in crowded stores over the holiday break or holding large indoor gathering with people from outside of your household. We are on an exponential growth curve right now, so we do not expect the numbers to come down soon. Multiple states are experiencing strains on testing equipment, and we are utilizing all different forms of tests that are available. OptumServe sites are still testing non-symptomatic patients and turnaround times for results are taking longer than we would like.

ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver said we continue to prepare for an incoming vaccine to Indiana. We expect the Pfizer vaccine to be the first one made available to us, and Pfizer is seeking FDA authorization soon based on results of its final trial. The FDA will have an outside committee analyze the results of the final trial, and if approved, the FDA can grant an emergency use authorization that will allow the vaccine to be shipped to the states. Indiana’s vaccine team will then review the vaccine before we begin administering the vaccine. We have over 50 hospitals prepared to administer the vaccine, in addition to the 5 pilot hospitals announced last week. The vaccine we plan to receive has only been tested in people over the age of 18, so a vaccine to children will not yet be available. The vaccine will first be administered to front-line workers. We don’t expect to have a vaccine for the general public until the spring or into the summer.

CEO of Schneck Medical Center Dr. Eric Fish said they have had the ability to accept critical patients from smaller hospitals around the area. To address staffing issues, we have established a “clubhouse” to allow staff to bring children who are learning remotely to learn while their parents work. We do not see an end to PPE shortage for staff and patients, and we need community help to stop the spread of COVID. We must stop making this a political issue.

Vice President of Nursing at Pinnacle Health Systems Sarah Petroski echoes many of the same sentiments of Dr. Fish. Nurses continue to rise to the occasion, especially among the nursing shortages that we were experiencing even before the pandemic. We are having to turn patients away due to shortages, and COVID patients are time-consuming and difficult to care for. We are, unfortunately, experiencing death at a number we’ve never seen before. We encourage people to stay home for Thanksgiving with the hopes you can see family for Christmas.

Chief Medical Officer of IU Methodist Hospital Dr. Mark Luetkemeyer said the pandemic has challenge IU Health in a way we couldn’t have predicted. Our ability to care for patients has changed since the spring, but the raw emotions of the spring are beginning to come back during this spike. Strains on hospital staff is not a local problem, it is a Midwest problem. Our hospital has more than doubled our COVID patients since the beginning of November, and almost half of them are in our ICU rooms.

November 11, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced beginning November 15 and for at least the next month, an Executive Order will be signed to implement pandemic requirements and targeted restrictions for counties in the “orange” and “red” status based on the ISDH color-coded county map. Beginning this weekend, Indiana will no longer be in Stage 5. The day we announced Stage 5, our positivity rate was 3.9%, and our health care resources were in a good place. Unfortunately, a lot of us have let our guards down. The number of hospitalized COVID cases are at an all-time high (2,544), and we are averaging more than 210 COVID hospital patients a day. Our 7-day positivity rate is now at 10.3%, up a full 6% since the day we entered Stage 5. Hospitals are experiencing staff shortages and an increasing number of hospital staff are having to call in sick. The ISDH county map shows no counties in the “blue” category this week, which indicates low-risk of spread. Only five counties are in the “yellow,” which is the step above the blue. The rest of the counties are in orange or red categories. All general requirements that will be in the new Executive Order are in line with previous orders, such as social distancing and mask wearing. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the ATC, together with local partners, will continue to check businesses for social distancing and face covering usage. We are making $20M available to local governments to support these efforts. These funds can be used for local event reviews, public awareness, and education and compliance, etc. These programs will be finalized within the next few days. Hoosiers 65 and older should remain vigilant about limiting exposure, and should consider suspending in-person visits. Consider limiting holiday events to immediate family or your social pod. Encouraged Hoosiers to continue to be tested at one of the 260 sites around the state. Social gatherings will be limited to 50 people in counties in the “orange” and 25 people to counties in the “red” category. Special seasonal events seeking higher attendance must submit plans and seek approval from local health departments. We will also need to limit attendance at K-12 events in orange and red counties. Churches are exempted from the capacity restrictions.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box said we have seen a significant increase in the number of cases over the past few weeks. Today was the highest single-day total of cases since the start of the pandemic (5,156). Daily deaths are also on the rise, and continue to greatly impact Hoosiers. Many hospitals have gone on diversion (sending patients to other hospitals due to capacity limits) and many other hospitals are delaying procedures and re-purposing spaces. A majority of the spikes in cases can be attributed to community spread and pandemic fatigue.

Now, requirements are being established based on a county’s status in the color-coded ISDH county map. Businesses will remain open, but operators and patrons must meet certain requirements when a county is in orange or red status.

In all orange and red counties:

  • Signage stating face coverings are required at public and employee entrances and only people wearing face coverings are admitted.
  • All customers in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs must be spaced 6 feet apart

In orange counties, social gathering of any kind, inside or outside, are limited to 50 people. Special, seasonal, or commercial events planned for more than 50 people require a safety plan approved by the local health department. Attendance at winter indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular events is limited to 25% capacity. Community rec sports leagues and tournaments may continue with attendance limited to participants, required personnel, and parents/guardians only.

In red counties, social gathering of any kind, inside or outside, are limited to 25 people. Special, seasonal, or commercial events planned for more than 25 people require a safety plan approved by the local health department, but events are not advised to be held, college and professional sports included. Vulnerable populations should remain isolated. Attendance at winter indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular events (including IHSAA sports) is limited to participants, support personnel, and parents/guardians. Community rec sports leagues and tournaments may continue with attendance limited to participants, required personnel, and parents/guardians only. Senior care activities are suspended. Hospitals, long-term care facilities and other congregate settings may impose visitation limits. Common areas and break rooms should be closed.

Allocation of the $20M will not be based on total case counts in certain regions of the state. On Monday, the FDA granted Eli Lilly emergency use authorization of its monoclonal antibody, a therapeutic designed to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 cases in adults and children. This is the first therapeutic to receive authorization. It is intended to prevent the progression of the disease and will be most effective if used within 10 days of infection. Only hospitals will be able to administer the infusion and we have already identified hospitals capable of treating patients. Two patients have already been administered the infusion and both are doing well with no adverse effects. By the end of this week, approximately one half of long-term care facilities will have National Guard presence. We will have specific holiday guidance next week.

ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver said ISDH has actively been preparing for the first round of COVID vaccines. The first round is made by Pfizer, and they are hoping for emergency authorization by the third week of November. We will not start vaccinating until we receive the EUA and CDC Advisory Committee approval of the vaccine. The five pilot hospitals that will receive the initial dose of vaccine are Community Hospital in Munster, Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville, Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, IU Methodist in Indianapolis, and Parkview Health in Ft. Wayne. Indiana is also working with CVS and Walgreens to immunize long-term care patients around the state.

FSSA Chief Medical Officer Dan Rusyniak said the National Guard does not have direct oversight at long-term care facilities. Their chief responsibility is to ensure clinical staff can focus on their clinical duties. We have received only positive feedback on the Guard’s presence in local facilities. National Guard members are treated like staff, so they are also tested regularly and are not putting patients at risk.

November 3, 2020

Governor Holcomb said we will be back next Wednesday at 2:30 (Veterans Day). Have noticed rumors about shutting the state back down and schools going back to 100% virtual. Those are absolutely not true. Our cases are going up, as are our hospitalization rates and death rates. We have taken a very localized, surgical approach to address surges across the State. Looking forward to working with the state legislature regarding powers the executive branch has in a declared public health emergency. Our capacity to care for those who are sick is why we have not moved back in our reopening plan. Our police force is far too busy to truly implement enforcement of a mask mandate. Local health departments are empowered to punish local businesses through their own orders/powers.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box said we have seen a significant increase in the number of cases over the past few weeks. Our 7-day positivity rate is currently 8.7%. Between September 15 and October 25, we saw a more than 200% increase in the number of cases and hospitalization numbers are the highest since the start of the pandemic. We are beginning to hear from hospitals that strain on staff is becoming an issue. Some hospitals are beginning to rearrange elective procedures to adjust to the COVID demand. In October, we saw 701 deaths from COVID-19, 551 of them were aged 70 or older. We also saw 21 deaths of people under the age of 50. The first group of National Guard who will be assisting long-term care facilities were trained last week and deployed this week, and the second will be deployed by the end of this week. The goal is to have National Guard in each of our 534 facilities by the end of this month. Dearborn and Ohio Counties are no longer in the “red” of the ISDH County map. Fayette, Dubois, and Fountain counties are now in the red, however. We do not know for certain when we will have our first vaccine, or when a vaccine will be available to all Hoosiers. We are decreasing the length of the contact tracing interviews and prioritizing important questions, in addition to hiring more contact tracers, to hopefully encourage people to continue contact tracing.

ISDH Chief Medical Office Dr. Weaver said we have been told by the federal government to prepare for an initial shipment of a vaccine by mid-November. The federal government asked us to identify 5 pilot sites to begin administering the vaccine, and these sites will be regionally diverse around the State. No vaccine will be implemented without the CDC Advisory Committee’s recommendation and our own public-private team has completed its research. We have surveyed every hospital system in the state to analyze if they can properly store and administer a vaccine.

Adjunct General of the Indiana National Guard Dale Lyles said we have soldiers and airman in 149 facilities thus far, and the first few days have been very productive. They are augmenting the staff and assisting with PPE, taking temperatures at entrances, etc. so staff can focus on their jobs. We have over 490 soldiers and airman being trained to go into facilities by Monday that will put us in over 250 facilities (Wave 2) and by the 16th of November, we expect to be in all 534 facilities.

October 28, 2020

Governor Eric Holcomb Governor Holcomb started by welcoming Dr. Box back to work after her own battle and recovery with COVID-19. We are seeing COVID-19 spread in virtually every area of our state. 69% of hospitalizations are attributed to those who are 60 or older. 47% of hospitalizations are attributed to those 70 and older. The Governor said it is critical to do everything we can to bring that number down, not just to save lives, but maintain an adequate level of resources. Hospitals are under tremendous pressure, but we are working to target our state’s resources. The Governor also wants to recognize and thank the members of the National Guard and their families as they are now stepping up to support our already strained healthcare workers.

Dr. Kristina Box – Commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Box is happy to be back at work. She extended her appreciation to all of those for their thoughts and prayers throughout her and her family’s recovery. When she learned that her daughter and grandson were showing signs of COVID-19 and then tested positive, her and her family took immediate action to isolate and protect those around them. She admittedly said that isolation and quarantine was very difficult, but important.

The positivity rate for all tests throughout the last couple weeks show a significant increase and reflect the influx of cases:

  • September 16
    • 7-Day Positivity Rate:     3.9%
    • Cumulative Rate:             6%
  • October 28
    • 7-Day Positivity Rate:     7.1%
    • Cumulative Rate:             5.9%

Hospital admissions for COVID-19 yesterday was 1,679 – the highest to date. The ISDH has had regular communications with the North, South and Central hospital systems regarding patient counts, ICU and ventilator capacities, staffing concerns, PPE and testing supplies. Hospitals throughout the state are focused on resources and how to build ICU capacity. 

Dr. Box also wanted to again draw attention to 70% of hospitalizations are 60 and older. This is the population that often resides in long-term care facilities. It is also important to note that 56% of COVID-19 deaths that have occurred were residents of long-term care facilities, which is why we are bringing in additional resources to these facilities.

These targeted measures include:

  • Sending the Indiana National Guard to all long-term care facilities
  • Hiring clinical staff from the healthcare reserve workforce to supplement long-term care resources
    • So far, 40 individuals have been identified to potentially serve
  • Providing 2 million N95 masks and other PPE to all facilities
    • As of last night, over 50% of these PPE items have been delivered to long-term care facilities
  • Require CMS infection control training for all long-term care employees

Testing in the state is the highest it’s ever been. There are currently almost 280 testing sites throughout the state, providing tens-of-thousands of tests each day. This is a dramatic improvement from April. Indiana began awarding more than $30 million to local health departments to open and operate their own testing sites for the next two years. Also, have added staff to the central contract tracing sites and the state is looking to shorten the contact tracing interviews to assist with the process to reduce the time. Please take the time to participate in the contact tracing if you have received a text or a phone call.

A limited number of COVID-19 vaccine doses should be arriving by late November and possibly more in December. Healthcare providers and vulnerable populations will receive it first. We are still far away from a widely available vaccine, so it is important to remember to continue following the CDC guidelines.

Brig. Gen. Dale Lyles – Adjutant General of the Indiana National Guard Hoosier are going to be seeing additional support from the Indiana National Guard. Guardsmen are deploying to prevent infection within their communities. They will be assist long-term care facilities with various and are working to keep everyone safe, just as they do in any emergency that they are called up for. The timeline is as follows:

  • November 2 – 399 Indiana National Guardsmen working in 133 long-term care facilities
  • November 9 – 750 Indiana National Guardsmen working in 250 long-term care facilities
  • Mid-November – 1,350 Indiana National Guardsmen working in 534 long-term care facilities

Oversight and assistance will be done by the ISDH and National Guard medical personnel. Their scope of work includes: infection control measures and monitoring, COVID-19 prevention checklists, data entry, registration for testing, staff and visitor screening and wellness checks. Our citizen-soldiers and airmen are ready and well-trained. Prior to placement in facilities, all guardsmen will be tested for COVID-19 and receive PPE.

October 21, 2020

Governor Holcomb said our numbers continue to rise, both in the 7-day positivity rate and the hospitalization rates. The rate of spread continues to ebb-and flow across the state, and that is why we must address this in a fluid way. 75% of all deaths are individuals who are 70 years or older and about 55% of deaths are occurring in long-term health care facilities (“LTC”). Over the next few weeks, we will be taking additional steps to partner with the LTCs; including utilizing the Indiana National Guard to work side-by-side staff members to help them screen employees, input data, and execute infection control practices. This is to allow facility staff to offer more direct care to residents. We will also hire more clinical staff through the state’s volunteer healthcare reserve workforce, including those who may have been retired or may require additional training. We will start with facilities who already have a registered outbreak (which can be as little as one case). The State will also send additional PPE to all of the long-term care facilities. These pieces will be put in place Nov. 1 and plan to have it last through the end of the year. There will be no trick-or-treating at the Governor’s residence this year. The last thing we need to do is go back to a stay-at-home order. The initial stay-at-home was to ensure hospitals have appropriate capacity levels and there is proof that we can maintain the spread while remaining in Stage 5. We will be staying with the mask mandate for the “foreseeable future.”

ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver said 2,205 long-term care residents have died of COVID-19 in Indiana, accounting for 58% of deaths. We have currently have twice as many Hoosiers hospitalized for COVID-19 (1,481) compared to late June-early July, and we continue to see over 100 Hoosiers admitted every day. The ISDH ran infection control surveys a few weeks ago in all long-term care facilities and they will be completed by the end of this week, one week early. Surveys showed staffing issues were the biggest concern. Thus, the State will be sending in the National Guard to assist with testing, reporting, and infection control. We will also tap in to the state’s volunteer healthcare reserve workforce. We have received 11 requests from long-term care facilities for reserve workforce assistance just this week. The state will also provide 2 million N95 masks for all long-term care facilities, 400,000 face shields, and 680,000 gowns. This is the largest disbursement of PPE by the state to date. We will begin requiring updated Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) infection control training for all long-term care employees and allow an immediate discharge from a hospital to a patient’s home for in-home rehabilitation, rather than to a nursing home. CMS will allow us to pilot this program to provide at-home services. On Oct. 16, we submitted an initial draft to the CDC regarding Indiana’s vaccine disbursement plan. A widely available vaccine is still months away. The first wave of vaccines will go to healthcare workers and those in high-risk populations. We continue to see an increased number of ICU beds (19%) and ventilators (5%) being used by COVID-19 patients. As of Oct. 14, our 7-day positivity rate was 6.9%, compared to 3.9% back on Sept. 16. Only eight counties are in the “blue” category of the ISDH county map, more than a third of counties are in orange, and four counties are in red. Now, almost 99% of all Indiana schools are offering some form of in-person teaching.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box said her and her family are all doing well. Her daughter and grandson were sick but have all recovered. Her daughter-in-law also became symptomatic and tested positive. Dr. Box developed some symptoms, but is already recovering from them. She will return to the press conferences next week.

Director of Indiana Homeland Security Stephen Cox gave an update from Elkhart County. The Fire Marshall office is working with local fire departments to provide education and support to organizations who are in counties with upticks in COVID-19 cases and who request support from the State. We are educating people on how to minimize risk of spread to employees, staff, and consumers who may be using their spaces. We are currently providing outreach to Elkhart, St. Joseph, and Vanderburgh counties as requested by local entities. Our staff is also focusing on long-term care facilities, specifically how EMS officials can handle infection control procedures.

October 14, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced Indiana will remain in Stage 5 until at least Nov. 14. The mask mandate will also remain in place until at least Nov. 14. We will revisit our status in a week and the data will drive our decisions. Reiterated Stage 5 is not the stage where the “checkered flag comes out,” and we must remain vigilant with our precautions. Our positivity rate has moved from under 4% to 5.4% today. Hospitalization rates are at the highest point they have been since the spring. Close contact events such as weddings, receptions, house parties, etc. remain a large concern. The Indiana Department of Homeland Security, Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, ISDH, and other state agencies will remain available to assist local communities, whether it be more contact tracing or boots on the ground to help educate locals. A blanket response to the rising numbers will not work. Efforts will focus on counties who are showing as red or orange on the state’s positivity rate map. The increase in positivity rates and hospitalizations is not Indiana specific, and multiple states around the country are also seeing sharp increases. Will quarantine until test results are received. Every case is a localized occurrence, and there is proof that people are operating responsibly in Stage 5. People should be able to have events, but just do it responsibly (in response to a question asking about candidate for Governor Donald Rainwater having in-person events.) The mayor of Chicago has the best interest of her citizens regarding Indiana being put on the city’s quarantine list.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box announced she, her daughter, and her grandson have all tested positive for COVID-19. It is likely her grandson contracted the virus at a small daycare. Her daughter and grandson both have mild symptoms and she has zero symptoms. Our numbers are not good, and they are concerning.

ISDH Chief Medical Office Dr. Weaver said Dr. Box successfully completed contact tracing and anyone who was in contact with her are taking appropriate steps. Out of an abundance of caution, Governor Holcomb, herself, and other members of ISDH and the Governor’s office will undergo COVID-19 tests this afternoon. Reiterated Stage 5 does not mean life is back to usual. Last week, we had 39 counties in the “blue” category on the state’s county map, 8 counties in orange, and 1 in red. This week, 24 counties are in the blue category, 21 in orange, and 1 in red. The current positivity rate (5.3%) does not account for the large increase in cases we have seen over the last few days. As of yesterday, 1,357 Hoosiers were hospitalized with COVID or with COVID symptoms, the highest number we have seen since May 13. Some hospitals are now experiencing staffing shortages, and we have partnered with the Bowen Center to send out another call for health care reservists to help fill these gaps. Just under 32% of ICU beds and 78% of ventilators remain available. Beginning Monday, we will begin distributing BinaxNOW cards to local health departments who have established testing sites and they will first go to counties in the orange or red categories.

September 30, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced the press conferences will continue to go on weekly, but will be in a different venue, be only on social media channels, and center on health indicators. Media will still be allowed to ask questions.

ISDH Commissioner Dr. Box announced 965 additional cases of COVID-19 in Indiana today, bringing the total to 120,019 total cases. Also saw an additional 20 deaths, bringing the total to 3,405 with 227 believed to have died based on their clinical diagnosis. The 7-day positivity rate has ticked up to 4.2%. The state is continuing to adhere to the four guiding principles that were announced back in the spring. We have seen the number of tests being administered at certain sites drop, and the participation in the latest round of the Fairbanks study is low. As of Sept. 29, 699 contact tracers have been hired by the state and 347 have been hired by local health departments. Four counties (Warrick, Spencer, Vanderburgh, and Brown) have moved to “orange” level of 7-day positivity rate. The school dashboard will be uploaded to the ISDH website today and is still a work in progress. 1,359 schools have reported information to the dashboard; of those 742 schools have reported one or more cases and 617 have reported zero cases. As of today, the dashboard shows 1,676 total student cases, 335 teacher cases and 343 staff cases. If you may have COVID-19 or have been exposed to someone with it, you should not participate in in-person Halloween festivities. A costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth mask. The CDC has separated activities into low, mid, and high risk categories to provide options for each family.

ISDH Chief Medical Office Dr. Weaver said ISDH tested over 40,000 staff in long-term care facilities in each of the past two months. Beginning on Sept. 2, long-term care facilities are required to screen employees based on its counties 7-day positivity rates. The facilities are supplied with testing materials and ISDH will identify labs that have testing capacity to partner with long-term care facilities. Detailed the Abbott BinaxNOW cards, which are rapid COVID-19 antigen tests that can provide test results in 15 minutes and do not require a machine. These cards are already being distributed to long-term care facilities in counties with high 7-day positivity rates. Indiana will receive 130,000 cards by the end of the week and receive over 2M over the coming months.

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch announced the new $4M Indiana Meat Processing Expansion & Development Grant Program to improve the food supply chain, expand capacity, and improve worker safety. Grants will cover eligible capacity-related costs incurred from March 1 through December 30. Existing inspected processing business that employ 500 or less employees are eligible. Applications will be available on Oct. 5. Also announced the Community Connections for People with Disabilities Grant, a $4.9M program for local governments to develop new strategies and build community partnerships to address negative effects of COVID-19 on Hoosiers with disabilities. Counties, cities or towns can partner with a non-profit developmental disability organization to apply. Applications open on Oct. 23. A list of recipients of the Arts, Cultural and Destination Marketing Grants made available in May will be available tomorrow.

FSSA Secretary Dr. Sullivan said Indiana will receive $42M in pandemic food assistance for students who are virtual learners in the form of “food benefit cards.” Indiana was one of 20 states to attempt such a plan with the federal government, and one of only a handful to successfully implement a plan. Food benefit cards will be mailed to every recipient beginning in mid-October and we are optimistic that Congress will reauthorize the program to continue into the fall and spring.

Indiana Department of Homeland Security Medical Director Dr. Michael Kaufman announced EMS providers will partner with municipalities to expand access to seasonal vaccines, such as a flu shot, and traditional vaccines typically administered to children by establishing vaccination pilot sites. This is in response to a decrease in the number of vaccinations administered to people in Indiana.

September 23, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced Indiana will advance to Stage 5 of the reopening plan beginning Sept. 26 and will go until at least Oct. 17. Numbers are continuing to track in the right direction and we can assess where the state is after Oct. 17. The Executive Order will include: 1) face coverings still be required for all Hoosiers, 2) size limitations are removed for social gatherings and meetings. Organizers of events that will include more than 500 people must submit a written plan to the local health department, 3) restaurants and bars may open at full capacity with appropriate social distancing being maintained between tables. Bar section customers must be seated. Nightclubs may also reopen at full capacity where customers must be seated and social distancing be required, 4) indoor and outdoor venues may open at full capacity, 5) senior centers and congregate nutrition sites may reopen according to FSSA guidance, 6) personal services, gyms, fitness centers, etc. may resume normal operations; and 7) nursing homes and assisted living facilities are now required to provide visitation opportunities. Communities are encourage to monitor the ISDH color-coded map and enact additional precautions if needed. The Executive Order should be posted by COB tomorrow. The ISDH county map shows a large majority of counties in the “blue” category, which is where we want to be. Thanked Hoosiers for adjusting their daily lives to get to the point we are now. We continue to support local communities if they choose to be more stringent on regulations. Plan is to sit down with legislative leaders to discuss logistics of the 2021 General Assembly. We are evaluating our press availability, we still have a press conference scheduled for next Wednesday.

Commissioner of Higher Education Teresa Lubbers gave an update on Indiana’s Rapid Recovery for a Better Future, a plan to help Hoosiers access education resources to help them gain better jobs. There will be an additional $25M in federal funding for Indiana to continue developing programs for the plan after the initial $50M allocation. Over 5,500 Hoosiers have enrolled in new certificate programs since June 5 with the help of the program. The Employer Training Grant has resulted in over 3,000 new hires in the same time. The funding must be used by Dec. 30 and there is still time to enroll at participating training locations. Go to NextLevelJobs.org to get connected to a training provider. Enrollment in these programs in minority communities are also increasing.

ISDH Health Commissioner Dr. Box reiterated people without symptoms can still spread the virus, and that is why masks are so important. The 7-day positivity rate in Indiana was 6.4% when the mask mandate went into effect, and it now stands at 3.9%. The state reported 728 additional COVID-19 cases today, bringing the total to 113,337 total cases in Indiana. Also reported 10 additional deaths, bringing the total to 3,305. There have now been over 1.9M Hoosiers tested for COVID-19. Provided a snapshot on what the “school dashboard” may look like, which will looks similar to the COVID-19 dashboard. Will include teacher and student positive cases and you may narrow down to your school system. Getting a flu shot is more important than ever this year. Flu victims may take up vital ICU beds and hospital resources. A standing order will go into effect to allow pharmacists to administer to adults vaccines that are recommended by the Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices. It will help increase access to care around the state.

Office of Management & Budget Director Cris Johnson said the recovery team continues to review existing and potential programs to help Hoosiers around the state. Announced that small businesses who received federal aid through the Paycheck Protection Plan can now apply for Indiana Economic Development Corporation’s (“IEDC”) Small Business Restart Program. Before, businesses who received federal assistance could not apply for the IEDC’s program. As of last week, over $20M in Rental Assistance has been dispersed and applications continue to be processed.

September 16, 2020

Governor Holcomb encouraged people to participate in the third round of the IU Fairbanks Study. Also highlighted a need from the American Red Cross for food donations around the country and encouraged Hoosiers to assist. September 30 is the deadline to complete the census. Chief Justice Rush is continuing to do well. Spoke with people from the Trump Administration and presidents from Indiana universities to ensure that we are here to help should they need assistance with safety protocols regarding Big Ten Football in the fall.

State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Box reported 624 new cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, bringing the total to 107,809 confirmed cases in Indiana. Also reported an additional 12 deaths for a total of 3,247 deaths in the state. 225 are have believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. The number of patients being admitted each day continues to decline. The 7-day positivity rate is 4.7%, which continues to tick down. Two counties (Monroe & Delaware) are labeled “orange,” which indicates high community spread. Both of these are linked to university settings or congregate living settings. Case counts decreased in the first two weeks of September among children and young adults. Since early August, case counts have been declining for all age groups besides college-aged students. The goal is to have a snapshot of historical data for cases in K-12 school by next week, and hope to have preliminary data available by Sept. 30. We are removing 430 positive results from our dashboard this week due to a data error from an out-of-state testing site. 30,000 Hoosiers around the state should have received a post card asking to participate in the 3rd round of the IU Fairbanks Study. The study begins Sept. 29 and runs through Oct 3 and preliminary results should be available Oct 5.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness said traffic volumes around the state are rebounding to near pre-pandemic levels. The state is at or even slightly above freight traffic levels from pre-pandemic levels. As long as weather cooperates, INDOT plans to push all construction projects into December to take advantage of funds granted to them. Continue to work with law enforcement to spread the word regarding the new hands-free mobile devices law. The Community Crossings matching grant, a program for counties and cities to invest in local transportation infrastructure projects to improve road conditions, is back underway. We are moving forward with the 2nd calling of grant applications. Applications open on Sept. 25 and closes on Oct. 23.

September 9, 2020

State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Box reported new COVID-19 statistics of the following: there have been 720 additional cases of COVID-19 reported in the last week. This brings the total number of cases to 101,485 cases state-wide. There were 17 new deaths reported from COVID-related causes and the State’s positivity rate is currently at 5.1% in the last seven days. Dr. Box addressed the forthcoming school dashboard and electronic portal that is set to launch soon. The goal of this new electronic portal is for school’s to report cases on a school basis, and not just district-wide. This portal and dashboard will not be a database, or collect the names of individual students. It will, however, provide the percentage of positive test results broken down by age ranges. This portal will eliminate the need for schools to report to their local health departments and state health departments, as it will report to both agencies on behalf of the school. Dr. Box mentioned that negative test results will start to be added from counties around Indiana, including Tippecanoe and Monroe, where Purdue University and Indiana University are located, respectively. 35 new testing centers will be opening this week with a slated 95 new testing sites total that will be operational by Oct. 1st (thanks in part to Cares Act funding). All testing sites will be funded through the next two years. Dr. Box mentioned that Phase 3 of Fairbanks Study will be starting soon. In this new phase, children ages 5 and above will be tested by nasal swab only. If a participant is chosen at random, they will receive the letter in the mail that they have been selected to be part of the study. Dr. Box urged for Hoosiers to participate in this study to gather more data and information in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q&A:

Who will get the vaccine first? Dr. Box: 10-15 million doses to begin with. IN is using a team of experts to decide who should get it first. 2 hour meeting with CDC on immunization roll-out.

Are the schools required to submit the data? Encountered any resistance or reluctance? Dr. Box: Combining all reporting into one portal instead of reporting to 3 different agencies. Not a mandate at the moment, just a strong request.

Penalty for mask mandates? Governor says we’re not there yet. Continuing on in the current request for Hoosiers to “mask up.”

Moratorium on evictions started recently, but does this apply to evictions carried out immediately before this order went out? Governor will be looking into this more and applications are being reviewed by the appropriate agencies.

Is Dr. Box stating that there will be 95 new/additional sites to the already opened ones? Are the tests free? Yes, 95 new sites will be added to the already opened ones. Timeline at Optum sites and other testing centers? Cost is at about $80 – $150 (free testing at this moment, but will look into working with insurance companies to get it covered in the future.) Miami County correctional facility has an increase in positive COVID tests, they are monitoring the situation there and will continue to update as more data becomes available.

How do you think the lack of testing over Labor Day weekend will affect the positivity rate? Dr. Box: It’s necessary to look at data on an extended period of time rather than individual days. Some labs only report on certain days, so it could cause an increase in positives on a specific day, thus giving inaccurate information on “Covid spikes”

Why is the administration not participating in the payroll tax deferral program? Governor says that the State did not pursue this because Hoosiers would have to pay double in January and felt it was not benefit the State in the long-term.

IU reported more than 1,200 cases since August 28th, are their policies effective? Governor says yes.

Do you believe the President has downplayed the virus (referring to report about Bob Woodward)? Governor says he will rely on the counsel of physicians and scientists for how the State of Indiana moves forward. Did not answer question about the President.

What enforcement do you plan to have for polling sites? All polling sites will be equipped with PPE and Governor expects it to go smoothly.

Any concerns with upcoming vaccines and will they (Governor and Dr. Box) personally take them? Dr. Box states that the pharmaceutical companies are not going to roll out the vaccines without following all procedures and protocols in place on the federal level. Dr. Box mentions that the Governor and herself probably don’t qualify for the first round of vaccines that will be administered as that will be determined at a federal level and go to the highest risk individuals first.

How is the State enforcing the complaints that restaurants not in compliance with Stage 4.5? Governor says that local agencies are following up with the complaints and will do what is appropriate in each situation.

August 26, 2020

Governor Holcomb said Indiana will remain in Stage 4.5 and the mask requirement will remain in effect for another 30 days through Sept. 25. No changes in capacity restrictions for restaurants, entertainment venues, bars, etc. The coalition of Midwestern Governors established back in April still maintain contact and share best practices in addition to the staff remaining in contact. Understands the frustrations Hoosiers feel regarding the face mask mandate, but we must deal with reality and in order to bend the 7-day positivity rate down, it requires all Hoosiers to take precautions.

State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Box reported an additional 971 additional cases of COVID-19 in Indiana today, bringing the total to 89,359 total positive cases in the state. Also reported 18 additional confirmed deaths, bringing the total to 3,041 and another 218 are believed to have died from COVID-19 based on clinical diagnosis. Nearly 37% of ICU beds and more than 83% of ventilators remain available. More than 1M Hoosiers have now been tested for COVID-19. The hospitalization rate remains well above our low point in June and the 7-day positivity rate for unique tests has declined slightly to 6.6% (down from 7.7% last week). Antigen tests are now being included in testing numbers on the dashboard due to the method becoming widely available and accepted by the CDC. These new tests have not significantly increased the cumulative positivity rate. The state began with 500 contact tracing staff back in May, and the total anticipated contact tracing workforce now stands at more than 1,200 people around the state. 76% of people in Indiana complete a contact tracing interview, well above the 50% rate nationally. ISDH has developed a color-coded map for counties to understand the trend in community spread at the county level. The goal is to provide an easy to understand system that local and school officials can use to make decisions regarding safety measures. The map scoring does NOT trigger a state requirement of any action. Each county will be given a score on three metrics; 1) new cases per 100,000 residents, 2) percent positivity, and 3) change in percent positivity. Each score comes with recommendations on what local and school officials should consider. All school systems are asked to make sure one school building remains open, even during high community spread, to assist students with remote learning and provide food security. In response to a recent CDC recommendation that asymptomatic people need not be tested, encouraged Hoosiers who have been in close contact with a positive case of COVID-19 or work around high-risk individuals still be tested.

Chief Justice of Indiana Loretta Rush said the judicial branch has been open during the pandemic and has been following the guidelines of the CDC and ISDH. The use of technology has increased and has been used by lawyers, judges, and court staff to keep courts open. Courts are now actively and safely expanding operations, including bringing back jurors and addressing case backlogs. To maintain public access, we are livestreaming proceedings at courts.in.gov/covid. Provided more details on the Landlord-Tenant Settlement Conference Program, an opportunity–at no cost to either party–for landlords and tenants to resolve a dispute with the help of a neutral facilitator. Both parties must consent and the facilitators will be from a pool of trained attorneys, mediators and senior judges. Hearings will be conducted remotely via Zoom or telephone. More information is available at courts.in.gov/facilitate. Facilitations for foreclosures are still available through the Mortgage Foreclosure Trail Court Assistance Program.

Secretary of State Connie Lawson provided updates on the upcoming election and said the state will be going forward with the normal election process. Changes will not be made, like in the primary, since the stay-at-home order is no longer in place. PPE equipment is already being sent to voting centers. Vote center workers will have gloves, face masks, and sneeze guards and masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer will be available to voters. The state still expects an influx in absentee ballots, forecasting 1.3-1.8M total absentee ballots, compared to 53,818 ballots requested in 2016. Working with the post office to ensure election mail is prioritized. The US Postmaster recommends voters mail in their applications no later than Oct. 27. Counties have yet to send out absentee ballots due to national candidates not being certified via convention votes. Indiana has contracted with a global company to ensure election security with an intrusion detection system, which will also cover county computers. Indiana law does not allow for drop-off ballot boxes, but if someone is concerned about their absentee ballot not being counted, they can drop it off at their local county office or an immediate family member can do so.

August 19, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced the $61M from the Emergency Education Relief Fund is going to schools for technology improvements. All of the mask deliveries (2.4M masks) and hand sanitizer to schools who requested them have been delivered. The state has made an application to FEMA for the new Lost Wage Assistance Program, electing to go with the $300 per week for unemployed Hoosiers who are eligible. The payments will be retroactive to Aug. 1. The Federal government has set aside $44M for that program. Responded “thanks, but no thanks” in response to calls for a special session from multiple groups.

State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Box reported 506 additional cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, bringing the total to 82,336 total cases. Reported 14 additional deaths, bringing total to 2,968 with another 212 believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. The statewide 7-day positivity rate is staying stable at 7.7%, but we are not seeing the decline we’d like to see. Nearly 35% of ICU beds and 81% of ventilators remain available. Over 934,000 Hoosiers have been tested for COVID-19. Hospitalization numbers are still well above our low point back in June. The dashboard will be updated with a positivity rate that takes the total number of positive tests divided by the total number of tests, which will allow us to more accurately compare us to other states. Previously, the state was showing a positivity rate that accounted for positive cases divided by unique tests. Continuing to make progress in developing a dashboard to show COVID-19 cases in schools and are continuing to get more student rosters. Goal is to have the dashboard ready by mid to late September. 

Senior Education Advisor Katie Jenner announced the recipients of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, which will help students and teachers respond to the challenges of distance or remote learning. Award recipients were determined by a detailed rubric and submitted detailed plans on how funds would be used to aid students and teachers. $49.8M was awarded across 81 Indiana counties, which will fund approximately 68,689 student devices, 2,885 teachers devices, and internet access for households in need. $11.2M went to colleges and universities to create professional development programs and curriculum for K-12 remote learning.

IHCDA Executive Director Jacob Sipe announced that more than $7M has been sent to participating landlords in the Indiana Rental Assistance Program. Due to the high volume of applicants, applications may take about 7 days to be processed. The application portal will close on Wednesday, August 26 at 11:59 PM. Highlighted the Indiana Hardest Hit Fund is available for Indiana homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage.

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne said 10 other states have applied for the $44M unemployment program, and the number is growing. The $300 per week federal program will end if the money depletes or Congress passes a law that supersedes it. States are required to submit information and request for payments weekly.

August 12, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced that he will ask the State Board of Education (SBOE) to take action to ensure that Indiana’s K-12 schools receive 100 percent funding as he committed earlier this summer. Specifically, he will ask SBOE to call a special meeting for the purpose of delaying the Average Daily Membership through at least December. This is to ensure schools will not have to worry about receiving less than 100% of per-student funding, even if they are 100% virtual. Reaffirmed the moratorium on evictions and utility shut offs will end Friday (August 14) and there are many resources available to those who are in need. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) ruled today that utilities are required to offer extended payment arrangements for a minimum of 6 months. IURC also suspended late fees, deposit fees, disconnect and reconnect fees, and other fees.

State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Box reported 671 additional cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, bringing the total to 76,522. Reported 15 additional deaths, bringing the total number of Hoosier deaths to 2,878 with 208 believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. The 7 day positivity has also increased to 7.7%, compared to 4.9% in June. 34% of ICU Beds and 82% of ventilators remain available. Over 865,000 Hoosiers have been tested for COVID-19. Our hospitalizations numbers continue to tick up. The steps we take in the coming days will be crucial to reduce this trend, especially as we near Labor Day weekend. We fear an additional spike due to family gatherings and Labor Day parties. We have seen cases in schools, but we continue to ensure quick contact tracing to reduce these numbers. ISDH should be able to accomplish a dashboard showing numbers of cases in schools, but still need updated school rosters before we can move forward. We continue to work on a county-by-county basis regarding what metrics schools should consider for potentially closing schools. The recent “1,000 case days” have correlated with a recent spike in testing, and we prefer to see the high test numbers. Indiana has now reported 13 confirmed cases of Multi-System Inflammatory Disease, an infection that affects children after they have COVID-19. All 13 cases have been discharged, the mean age being 11 and the cases have ranged from 2-18 years old. 

Family and Social Services Administration Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak announced the FSSA will be releasing the Long-term Care Dashboard (“LTC”) today, which will be accessible from the Indiana COVID-19 dashboard. The LTC will be updated weekly and will have both new and cumulative staff and resident deaths. Facilities are still required to submit new cases within 24 hours of knowing. We verified each case with ISDH databases. The dashboard will include all preliminary data before July 14 and up-to-date data from the previous week. 100% of facilities have submitted data. Specific data will not be available for a facility if their total number is less than 5. For the week of August 5, there were 215 new resident cases for a total of 6,664 cases and an additional 30 resident deaths for a total of 1,753 deaths. Staff cases included 136 new cases with 0 additional deaths for a total of 2,945 staff cases and 11 deaths. The LTC will allow you to see case numbers by day.

Office of Management and Budget Director Cris Johnston highlighted money set aside to help local communities in response to the Big Ten Conference delaying its season and its potential impact on college towns. There will also be opportunities for small businesses through the IEDC and the local arts initiative to receive funding. Schools of higher education also received over $300M funding directly from the federal government.

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne noted the state has been working with federal partners to understand steps needed to take to comply with President Trump’s latest Executive Order and the state isn’t in a position to give definitive answers. However, this will likely require us to set up yet another system.

August 5, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced the moratorium on evictions and utility disconnections that expires on August 14 will expire as planned. Emphasized the state has several programs to help those in need regarding rental and utility assistance. Will be adding $15M additional dollars to the state rental assistance program for a total $40M in the program. Reiterated Indiana will have a safe and successful in-person election in November. The General Assembly would have to consider if a “COVID-19” reason can appear on an absentee ballot. No predictions as to when Indiana will advance past Stage 4.5.  

State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Box reported 740 additional cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, bringing the total to 69,975. Reported 12 additional deaths, bringing the total number of Hoosier deaths to 2,805 with 202 believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. The amount of COVID-19 patients requiring ICU beds and ventilators has been increasing. 32.3% of ICU beds and 81.8% of ventilators are still available. More than 790,000 Hoosiers have been tested. We continue to see an increased number of hospitalizations around the state and we will continue to watch these data points closely as schools reopen. Continues to believe schools can reopen with proper safety guidelines, despite the increase in cases. Schools were initially closed so the state could put in place the infrastructure needed to deal with the pandemic. There is still no single metric that can accurately represent the level of community spread. The number of cases it would take to completely close a school depends on if the cases are spread amongst a group of students, or if isolated in one class or group of students. Contact tracers will now ask positive cases if they are in school to best track cases in school systems. Because most students are minors, the information that can be released from schools regarding positive cases is very limited. A toolkit for schools is being finalized to easily access a symptom checker, contact tracing checklists, and guidance on quarantining and isolation. 

Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch announced the Arts and Cultural Support Grants, a $10M program funded by CARES Act money through the Indiana Destination Development Corp. The program is designed  for organizations that have been impacted by COVID-19, including arts and cultural organizations, museums, theaters, and other eligible organizations. Applications will be available beginning Monday, August 10 and funds must be spent this year. More details will be made available on Monday on the Indiana Tourism website. 

IHCDA Executive Director Jacob Sipe provided an update on the Rental Assistance Program, where more than 24,000 Hoosiers have submitted applications. Lake, St. Joseph, Allen, Tippecanoe, and Vanderburgh counties make up over 40% of the total applications. Applicants cannot receive rental assistance from another source during the same month when participating in the state’s program. Payments are sent to the landlord on the renter’s behalf. The Indiana Foreclosure Prevention Network is available for those who have fallen behind on mortgage payments. 

General Council Joe Heerens announced the development of the Settlement Facilitation Program for landlords and tenants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It will help tenants and landlords reach agreements in eviction lawsuits by using a neutral third party facilitator. It is developed by the Indiana Office of Judicial Administration and will be available statewide at no cost to tenants and landlords. The goal is to help preserve housing stability. Funding for the program comes through the Indiana Supreme Court, State of Indiana through the CARES Act, and the Indiana Bar Foundation. More details will come in the next few weeks. 

FFSA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak said results of staff testing will be released along with the long-term facility dashboard that is expected to be released next week. The wave of testing of staff in June was to ensure asymptomatic staffers quarantine at home and gain additional data, and we hope to have similar results in August.​

July 29, 2020

Governor Holcomb memorialized former Governor Joe Kernan. Expects Lt. Governor Crouch to have updates next week regarding tourism, restoration, and preservation. Announced Indiana will remain in Stage 4.5 through August 27. Provisions will remain the same, and local governments may impose more stringent guidelines if they choose to do so. State government capital complex will begin to slowly open on August 17 and Hoosiers may continue to meet with agency staff by appointment. Cautiously optimistic about progressing past Stage 4.5 on August 27, but will continue to make data driven decisions. The moratorium on evictions from rental properties and the prohibition on filing foreclosures will be extended through August 14, which aligns with the executive order on the disconnection of utility services. Too early to say whether this moratorium will be extended, we want to make sure people are making payment plans and those eligible for help can get it.  Indiana is on track to have a similar amount of job commitments this year as in 2016, this is on top of jobs being made available on other state initiatives. Hoosiers can still vote early and other options are available for those who cannot vote in person regarding the November election. Hoosiers must take the pandemic seriously and the pain of wearing a mask pales in comparison to the pain not wearing a mask could cause to others. The more people that buy into this, the faster our state can get back on track. It is a different type of ask, but it makes a big difference. Will contemplate putting more funds towards the housing assistance programs.

State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Box noted the number of daily positive cases has increased over the past few weeks. There are 630 new COVID-19 cases in Indiana today, totaling 64,299 in the state. Saw 8 additional confirmed deaths, totaling 2,733. Another 199 are believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. ICU bed (43.1%) and ventilator capacity (84.8%) continues to hold steady. More than 720,000 Hoosiers have been tested. Our agreement with OptumServe runs on a month-by-month basis, and we plan to have them through August. We have rolled out a grant opportunity to local health departments to encourage more local testing, which would add to the OptumServe sites, not replace them. The daily hospitalizations of COVID-19 has dropped, but the 7-day average positivity rate continues to tick up. Updates to the ISDH dashboard will include total number of tests (including those who have been tested more than once) and a map will be available to show 7-day positivity rates by county. Stressed the importance of contact tracing in battling COVID-19, and all Hoosiers should cooperate with contact tracers. We are aware of the request regarding information being made available about number of cases in schools and are investigating making that available. Regarding another potential surge, we are nowhere near the Florida, Arizona, Texas, etc., we are staying in Stage 4.5 to prevent this such a surge.

FFSA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak provided an overview of preliminary data made available from the long-term care data. Stressed the data is preliminary. 95% of facilities have successfully submitted data. We must cross-check the data for accuracy, which is critical for accurate and reliable data. We will be finished validating the data once the dashboard is released. Emphatically denied claims that FSSA has under-reported data. In the month of June, we tested 46,201, or about 80% of skilled-nursing staff at nursing home facilities. 466 staff of these (1%) tested positive. We will test nursing home staff again in August. When asked why the state will not test each nursing home resident, said we have been focusing on testing residents since the beginning with strike teams and other initiatives.

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne reported 17,938 new unemployment claims this past week, the first time the number has been under 20,000 since mid-March. We will continue to see them ebb-and-flow. For the month of June, Indiana’s unemployment rate was 11.2%, down from 12.3% last month. Private employment in June increased by 128,900, led by leisure & hospitality and manufacturing jobs. Indiana’s labor force rate is 64.3%, which is above national average and about the same as it was in February, which tells us Hoosiers are ready and willing to ensure we bounce back from this pandemic. DWD is pausing and investigating many Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claims recently filed as there has been a nationwide increase in identify theft and fraud in unemployment filings. Regarding the federal $600 addition to unemployment, it is set to expire at the end of this month, but federal discussions are ongoing. Over 500 new employers have participated in the yournextstep.in.gov initiative and the employer training grant program.

Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority Executive Director Jacob Sipe provided an overview of the Rental Assistance Program. More than 20,000 Hoosiers have submitted an application for the program, which target renters who are having trouble paying rent and facing eviction. IHCD is working with 60 statewide partners and participating landlords will begin to receive payment as early as next week. Highlighted Indiana’s Foreclosure Network Prevention network, which helps Indiana homeowners who have fallen behind on mortgage payments or cannot make future payments. Also highlighted the Energy Assistance program, available for renters and homeowners, which helps Hoosiers with home energy costs. Deadline for applications is, July 31. Encouraged those who are behind on rent to reach out to landlords to create payment plans.

July 22, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced a statewide mask mandate beginning July 27. Determining factors for this decision include getting children back to school and keeping Indiana businesses open and operating, increases in COVID-19 positivity rate, increases in number of Hoosiers hospitalized for COVID-19, additional counties around the state seeing increases in cases, and increases in cases in neighboring states. Face masks will blunt the increase in cases and the mandate is so that the state doesn’t go backward in its reopening plan. It is important that kids get a consistent message about masks, especially as they transition back into school. Noted the mandate will last “as long as it needs to” until trends begin heading back in the right direction.

The executive order will apply to anyone 8 years or older in indoor public spaces, commercial entities, transportation services, and in outside public spaces where you cannot socially distance. Mask use in schools will be required for grades 3 and up, including faculty, staff, volunteers, and anyone else in schools. Exceptions will be made for medical purposes, strenuous physical activity, eating, and drinking. While violating the order will be a class B misdemeanor, the “mask police” will not be roaming Indiana streets. Hoping as cases increase, we do not have to get to the point where people start receiving misdemeanors for not wearing masks. There is no more important task before us than returning students to school safely for instruction. There will not be a single start date for schools to begin, that is up to local school systems. Said he respects the decision of schools returning with 100% virtual education but asks schools to consider the impact that decision may have on families. Encourages all schools to apply to the FEEMA Public Grant, deadline to apply is July 31. Estimated 1.1M masks will be delivered to school corporations over the next week, over half of what was requested. All deliveries should be completed by Aug. 7. The economic recovery committee will put out plans next week for restoration and preservation programs for cultural, arts, and tourism and anything that’s been adversely impacted by the pandemic. The mask mandate wasn’t because “voices got louder” but the “numbers got bolder,” and said pictures of people in large settings without masks was troubling.

Indiana Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver noted that masks have been worn by medical professionals for years, and they are effective in halting the spread of disease. Data has shown 40% of COVID-19 patients did not have symptoms, which further increases the reason for masks. Face coverings do not decrease the amount of oxygen individuals receive. Dr. Weaver explained what happens when a student or adult in a school tests positive. In a classroom, the school will identify who spent more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of a positive student for the 48 hours prior to symptoms or a positive test and those people will be asked to quarantine. If more than one student tests positive in a classroom, the entire classroom should quarantine for 14 days.

Reported 763 additional cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, for a total of 58,673 in the State. Over the last 7 days, 5,384 Hoosiers have tested positive. For the same period in June, we say just under 2,900 positive cases. Also reported 14 additional deaths, for a total of 2,666 deaths. ICU (36.6%) and ventilator (82.1%) capacity remains steady. More than 654,000 Hoosiers have been tested. Positivity and hospitalization rates are both higher than previous months. We plan to hire more contact tracers as cases continue to increase. 

FSSA Secretary Dr. Sullivan stated that providing education to all children in the State is one of the biggest challenges the state is facing. Schools go further than just education, including food security, safety, and emotional and mental health. Indiana flattened the curve for health care, now it’s time to do it for our kids. To avoid backtracking in our reopening plan, schools should use interventions to minimize the spread and exposure, including spacing desks, co-hording younger students into pods, hand washing and disinfecting, and isolating and sending home any person who develops symptoms. Regarding positive cases in classrooms, ISDH and FSSA has developed guidance, including isolating “pods” of children. Work and school protections are in place as part of the contact tracing protocol, regarding if a student is forced to quarantine and we are working to strengthen them. Said masks have small holes in them, no matter the fabric, that are smaller than diseases droplets. So information claiming lower oxygen intake and increases toxins breathed in is not true.

FFSA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak provided an update on the long-term care COVID-19 dashboard. The deadline for data submission was July 14, and we will make the data file public by the end of today. The data will show cases and deaths of residents and the number of staff infected. Of the 756 facilities asked to submit data, 630 (83%) have done so. We are troubleshooting with the facilities that have yet to submit the data. This was a mandate, and facilities may face penalties if they do not do so. Data has shown 1,390 deaths in long-term care facilities, making up 52% of total deaths in the state. Also shows 5,867 cases among patients. There have been 2,521 total infections among staff, and 12 deaths. We will not report staff deaths at specific facilities to protect privacy. Facilities will continue to report daily statistics to residents and their families.

July 8, 2020

Governor Holcomb said the weekly press conferences will continue next Wednesday at the same time in preparation for the July 18 deadline for Stage 4.5. In response to the recent event in Monroe County, he has seen the video which was disturbing and said the DNR has always acted properly and they will turn the investigation over to the Monroe County Prosecutor when they are finished. There will be no single determining factor regarding if schools must shift back to online-only classes and we are continuing to work with school corporations and we may have to make several one-off decisions. A series of data points will drive the decision regarding advancing to Stage 5. The state will continue to support local communities who mandate mask wearing and reiterated that it is constitutional to do so.

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 455 additional COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 49,063 confirmed cases. Reported 15 new deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 2,539. Another 193 are believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. ICU bed (39.2% available) and ventilator (84% available) availability holding steady. There have been over 530,000 Hoosiers tested to date. Hospitalization, ICU cases, and recovery rates are remaining steady compared to last week. We are seeing on overall positive testing rate increase, up 1.8% from June 18. We are also seeing an uptick in total hospitalizations. The positivity rate is one of the key principles in reopening, and we are seeing hotspot increases in certain spots around the state. The increase was expected, which is why we didn’t advance to Stage 5. Due to these numbers, the Indiana State Fairground’s Fun Park will be cancelled that was planned for July 31 – Sep 7. Still urging Hoosiers to wear masks and use proper sanitizing methods when going to events. Recent studies have shown COVID-19 is similar to the common cold, which would make it so it’s nearly impossible to become immune and obtain herd immunity. Have seen an uptick in cases among young people in Vanderburgh and Warrick counties and we are looking into how to best reach young adults to encourage them to slow the spread. We will be setting up permanent OptumServe sites in Gary and have been in contact with East Chicago and Hammond about doing the same. Noted OptumServe sites do shutdown once heat inside sites gets above 80 degrees, as some are not air conditioned.

Chief of Staff of Economic Development Corporation Luke Bosso said the state is continuing to purchase and provide PPE equipment for businesses. Over 26M total pieces have been received. Last month, IEDC procured more than 1M masks for K-12 schools. Each student will receive a mask to use for the school year. Currently have 472 public, private, and charter school corporations participating. Schools will also receive 500 adult disposable face masks and 100 two or four ounce bottles of hand sanitizer and 10 gallons of hand sanitizer. State has partnered with Langham Logistics to deliver products, and deliveries will be made based on when the school will reopen. The PPP Small Business Marketplace has delivered to more than 600 cities and fulfilled more than 30,000 orders. IEDC is launching the Indiana PPE Directory, providing a long-term look at companies manufacturing PPE so businesses can order directly from providers, aimed to help businesses and non-profits.

July 1, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced Indiana (except Elkhart County) will enter Stage 4.5​ from July 4 to July 17, which represents a two-week delay from entering the final Stage 5. The capacity level of businesses in Stage 4 will remain the same during Stage 4.5. Conventions, festivals, parades, and other outside events may move forward with required social distancing due to the virus being 19x less likely to spread outdoors. Some states are experiencing resurgences and that underscores the virus is gaining momentum in many areas in the country. Press conferences will continue to be held every Wednesday during Stage 4.5. Continues to strongly recommend people wear masks when out in public. Unveiled a new PSA campaign titled “Mask Up Hoosiers” to inform the public on the importance of wearing masks. The State will continue to help out local communities and municipalities with local ordinances, including mandating masks if local communities deem it necessary. Clarified schools should still plan on welcoming kids back for in-person instruction. Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 371 additional COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 45,952 confirmed cases. Reported 8 new deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 2,456. Another 194 are believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. There have been over 490,000 Hoosiers tested to date. This number represents unique individuals and does not account for people who have been tested more than once. Hospitalization numbers have been trending down but have seen a slight increase since June 26. ICU bed and Ventilator capacity is remaining steady. 75% of people who test positive for COVID-19 are successfully reached by contact tracers and an average of 345 Hoosiers a day are in contact with ISDH. Acknowledged other states closing bars, restaurants, and gyms, and said this is not where Indiana wants to be. Believes mandating masks may make people more stubborn and less willing to “conform.” Feels strongly kids can go back to school on schedule and not endanger other groups. Family and Social Services Administration Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Rusyniak reported a marked decrease in COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities. Weekly new cases are down 77% and weekly deaths are down 83% since the peak in late April. On June 3, Indiana was one of two states to allow outdoor visitation at long term care facilities. Plans on indoor visitation should be available by mid-July. Upwards of 40,000 staff from more than 480 facilities have been tested and we plan on analyzing who needs to be tested more frequently. The State will begin reporting facility specific COVID-19 numbers. The reporting will go back to March 1 and the dashboard should be available by late-July.

June 24, 2020

Governor Holcomb noted the numbers have flipped to where more people under 30 have been testing positive for COVID-19 and the older generation’s positivity numbers have declined. Urged younger Hoosiers to be more cautious as they still pose a threat to the older, more vulnerable populations. Said Indiana has over 125 job announcements that have yet to be released and there is a lot of activity and opportunity as Indiana continues to reopen. Said the plan is to extend moratorium on rent evictions through July and the IURC is reviewing cases regarding utility cancelations and should have guidance come July 1.

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 281 additional COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 43,140 confirmed cases. Reported 9 new deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 2,386. Another 192 are believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. ICU bed (37% available) and ventilator (82% available) availability holding steady. There have been over 430,000 Hoosiers tested to date. Hospitalization and positivity rates are beginning to decline, and the recovery rate is increasing. Said young Hoosiers who are socializing may not be at risk but may bring the virus home to households. Said the ISDH has yet to respond to a letter from Senate Democrats requesting the release of nursing home data related to COVID-19. Said the state will distribute cloth masks to schools who choose to reopen in the Fall. Have seen through our contact tracing program that asymptomatic individuals have infected a large number of individuals.

Director of Housing & Community Development Authority Jacob Sipe announced the COVID-19 Rental Assistance Program, a $25M investment from the CARES Act. The program is designed to improve housing stability, prevent evictions, and support renters. Anticipates it to help 12,000 Indiana households. To be eligible, a renter; 1) must not already receive rental assistance, 2) experienced a loss of income from loss of or lack of hours from a job, 3) have a current household income less than what it was on March 6, 2020, and 4) must have the landlord agree to participate. Renters are eligible for up to $500 in assistance for four months, totaling a maximum assistance of $2,000. Will be available in all counties besides Marion County (who has its own program) and applications go live on July 13.

Senior Education Advisor to Governor Holcomb Dr. Jenner said the state is starting to see school corporations around the state release re-entry guidance. There are 3 distinct plans the state has been seeing—in person, online, and hybrid and noted these plans are extremely helpful to students, parents, and teachers. Also noted applications for Governor Holcomb’s $61M Emergency Education Relief Fund are now available.​

June 17, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced the state will move forward with the planned $183M increase in K-12 spending passed last session. Said this is due to the state managing its funds well through previous sessions. Did ask higher education institutions to cut 7% of budgets. Fully endorses the recommendations of Superintendent McCormick to fund students who choose to learn virtually due to COVID-19 concerns at 100%, (state law calls for 85% funding per student if student learns virtually for 51% or more of the time). 

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 264 additional COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 41,013 confirmed cases. Reported 24 new deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 2,289. Another 186 are believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. ICU bed and ventilator availability holding steady. There have been over 350,000 Hoosiers tested to date. Reiterated any Hoosier can be tested at OptumServe or ISDH sites around the state. Encouraging all staff of long-term care facilities to be tested to protect the most vulnerable. Beginning tomorrow, reported tests on the ISDH website will increase by more than 5,000 due to a report from a testing center that recently came into the network. ISDH dashboard will also start showing daily positive tests and will be able to track hospital bed and ventilator use beginning tomorrow. Noted the amount of missed routine vaccinations around the country, especially for those under 2, is a concern. ISDH is working with the Indiana Immunization Coalition to increase the rates.

ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver visited Elkhart and LaGrange counties in response to spike in cases and hospitalization. Several resources have been sent to the counties, including in-house equipment used for testing. ISDH will be doing pop up testing sites in the area the rest of the week. ISDH is also working with partners in the Amish community and sharing how to address the spread of COVID-19. 

Dean of the Fairbanks School of Public Health Dr. Paul Halverson gave an update on the second round of testing of the IU Fairbanks School of Public Health study. Wave two tested people from June 3-8 and tested 3,619 people, 2,668 of those random. While participation was not as high in the second wave, we were able to form more conclusions. Indiana remains the only state to conduct random testing in two waves. 

Chair of the Fairbanks School of Public Health Dr. Nir Menachemi found in wave 2 there were fewer active infections and a lower amount of people with active antibodies, showing a slow of the spread of COVID-19. There is still a high number of infections from people who got infected within the household. Minority communities continue to be hit harder than non-minority communities. An estimated 43% of people infected reported no symptoms at the time of the study. Although phase 2 shows good news, it is not a good excuse to relax our efforts. Phase 3 is expected to begin in the Fall.

Office of Management and Budget Director Johnston noted a PowerPoint is available from his presentation on federal aid he made to the State Budget Agency earlier today. Education will continue to be a priority for the General Assembly. Reiterated YTD revenue may be as low as $2B under projections come end of June. However, the $183M increase for FY 2021 for K-12 education will go forward. The additional $150M from the General Fund to the teacher retirement fund will also go forward. School corporations are receiving an additional $192M from CARES Act, which is distributed by a federal Title 1 formula. We believe the continuation of state funding and CARES Act funding will give schools the resources needed to reopen safely when the school year begins. Continuing to work on the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief Fund of $61M focused on remote learning and professional development. Reiterated the state supports Dr. McCormick’s recommendation that each student should receive 100% of school funding if they choose to learn virtually due to COVID-19 concerns, and that must be ratified by the General Assembly. Cautioned school corporations to use funding to also plan several years down the road, as economy snapshot is still unclear. The outlook for the rest of the biennium will come down to executing the cuts we have already planned, monitoring federal assistance, and forecasting projected revenue.​​

June 10, 2020

Governor Holcomb began by praising Hoosiers for remaining vigilant as we continue to advance through the stages. Stage 4 will begin on Friday and last through July 3 (as currently planned) for all counties, two days earlier that originally planned. Allowable social gatherings increase to 250 people, restaurants can open at 75% capacity, bars and nightclubs can open up at 50% capacity, retail stores and malls can be open at full capacity. Tourism sites such as museums can open at 50%, movie theaters and bowling alleys open at 50% capacity. More guidance on recreational sports to come by noon tomorrow. Movie theatres and bowling alleys to open at 50% capacity. Racing venues may open at 50% capacity. Horse racing to begin with no spectators at Hoosier Park and Indiana grand facilities. Charity gaming and casinos may open June 15 with approval of the Indiana Gaming Commission. Playgrounds may reopen and state government buildings may reopen by appointment only. Hoosiers 65 and older or people at high-risk should remain cautious and limit exposure. All of this is with considerations of social distancing and safe hygiene. State is working on a program to limit “eviction cliff” and will have update next week on extending eviction moratorium. Indiana National Guard continues to remain on standby and all troops sent to D.C. for support have come home. No mass testing has been done on these troops. 

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 339 additional cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 38,337 cases total. Reported 15 confirmed deaths for a total of 2,173 deaths. An additional 182 Hoosiers are believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. 38% of ICU beds and 82% of ventilators available and those numbers are remaining steady. Total of 320,095 Hoosiers have been tested. Announced state has partnered with the Indiana Hospital Association (“IHA”) and Eli Lily to launch new lab network to establish a competitive foothold to vie for reagents and supplies in the international marketplace. Will allow state to compete better for supplies. State sent $60M in equipment for these labs. Will allow state to double testing capacity by end of July and diversify testing methods. IHA will work with members to increase number of testing sites during this. Today started the work of testing all staff workers at long-term care facilities. Strike teams will continue to test residents, but most outbreaks began with staff unknowingly bring virus into facilities. This will be the largest testing operation state has done during the pandemic. We are transitioning OptumServe sites to become mobile sites for the next three weeks to facilitate this testing. The OptumServe sites being transitioned had low testing numbers. Ultimately, the data looks good for now. Emphasized although we are moving to Stage 4, wearing a mask and proper hygiene remains vital. Elkhart and LaGrange counties may reopen with rest of state. There have been an increase in the number of cases in these counties that mirror the increase in testing. There has been a slight increase in hospitalizations in LaGrange county. Clarified WHO statement on asymptomatic people being non-infectious and said it is important to distinguish between asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic people. 

State EMS Director Dr. Michael Kaufmann noted that there is always a need for blood in response to a recent Red Cross alert, especially since we are entering “trauma” season. Donating blood is a safe process today with plenty of precautions in place.

June 5, 2020

Governor Holcomb began by expressing gratitude for those participating in the IUPUI Fairbanks study. Said schools can and should open for instruction for 2020-2021 school year. Said the DOE guidance issued today are guardrails and recommendations. FSSA, DOE, and ISDH will all work together to answer questions about reopening. He has meetings scheduled with Indiana Black Legislative Caucus and appreciates their recommendations surrounding social issues. Casinos can open first day of stage 4, including horse racing with no spectators. Noted the National Guard is on standby statewide heading into the weekend.

Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 533 additional COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 36,578 confirmed cases. Reported 27 new deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 2,078. ICU bed and ventilator availability holding steady. There have been 291,338 Hoosiers tested to date. Can now test children under the age of 12 at testing sites. Ventilator and ICU bed capacity remains steady. Reiterated we will see more cases as the state continues to open. Praised the efforts of people coordinating Fairbanks study. 2nd round of testing goes through Sunday. ISDH will offer free COVID testing in parking lot downtown tomorrow (Saturday) and may go until Sunday depending on demand. Said protests may increase amount of COVID cases and encouraged people to get tested if they participate in protests. Specified DOE guidance are strictly recommendations and do not require any particular action. OptumServe is not meeting 48-hour response times but working with local units to improve times.

Chair of Governor’s Workforce Cabinet and Commissioner of Higher Education Teressa Lubbers announced Indiana’s Rapid Recovery for a Better Future initiative, a $50M in CARES Act funding initiative to scale workforce training programs. Funds will go toward growing short-term education and training opportunities, expanding the Employer Training Grant, and providing one-on-one outreach. Announced YourNextStepIn.org for people to find comprehensive resources regarding workforce training programs. Elaborated on the several organizations partnering with state to help Hoosiers take next step in getting a new or better job. Have been in contact with more than 100 community leaders, faith leaders, and employers to have a solid network on the ground.

Office of Management and Budget Director Johnston elaborated on May tax revenue report. State saw a shortfall of $233M. YTD, $1.2B behind forecast. Sales tax missed projection by 15%. Individual and Corporate income tax down $75M. June is highest forecasted revenue month and will have similar challenges to April but should not be as bad. Continuing to monitor for any federal assistance available. State is not considering a sales tax relief program but realizes it is having an adverse impact on businesses

Indiana Department of Workforce Development Director Payne continues to see weekly decline in initial unemployment claims. Since March, $2.3B total has been paid out to claimants. May was $1.5 billion. Over 2.1 million call interactions since April. The average wait time has been reduced by 75% in the past 4 weeks. Noted he is excited to hear about Governor’s Rapid Recovery for a Better Future Initiative.​

June 3, 2020

Governor Holcomb began by noting today is the start of the second round of testing in the Fairbanks School of Public Health study on COVID-19 in Indiana and reported around 2,600 Hoosiers have participated to date with a goal of 5,000 total. Thanked Hoosiers who have been peacefully protesting. Urged Hoosiers to listen to Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech he gave a the Lincoln Memorial in 1963. Commented that he voted in person yesterday and the turnout showed people value the option–to0 early to tell about November no-fault absentee options. 

Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 511 additional COVID-19 cases bringing the statewide total to 35,715 confirmed cases. Reported 10 new deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 2,032. ICU bed and ventilator availability holding steady. There have been 277,815 Hoosiers tested to date and wants to continue to see this number rise. Only way we we will truly understand impact of COVID-19 on Indiana is for more people to get tested. Highlighted the 208 testing sites around the state and many of them are free. The second round of testing for Fairbanks study started today and urged Hoosiers to participate if randomly selected. Supplies chains for PPE have opened up and state has began increasing inventory in the event of a second waive.  Commented that she is concerned about the mass gatherings from the protests increasing spread of COVID-19.

FFSA Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak says there are differences between what the federal CMS data shows and what state data shows for long term care facilities. CMS has acknowledged state and federal data may not align and will work with states to close the gap. Announced  new visitation guidelines for long term care facilities will be posted today. Recognized that isolation has serious impact on health and wellness of residents. While congregate nature of these facilities make it a prime environment to spread the disease, data is showing that the risk of spread of COVID-19 is significantly reduced when visitation is held outdoors. Guidelines will take into account individual situations of facilities and not every facility will be initially eligible to implement new visitation guidelines. State is now in a position to test every long term care facilities staff in June. ​

Lieutenant Governor Crouch reported IHCD received an additional $17M in federal funds for the Low income Home Energy Assistance Program. Any Hoosier who lost their job or saw reduced hours because of COVID-19 may be eligible to receive a one time $350 grant to assist with utility bills. Applications accepted now to July 31, 2020. Launching a Long-Term Recovery phase of COVID-19 Response Program to help rural Hoosier businesses. Local government eligible for up to $250,000.  Learn more on Webinar Thursday, June 4 10:00 am to 11:00 am.  Applications open June 8 to July 19. COVID-19 has driven home the need to have Hoosiers connected with reliable internet. Received 72 application requesting $100M in funding. Recipients will be announced in July. 

FSSA Secretary Dr. Sullivan HIP workforce bridge program is now approved and will allow people to use $1,000 from their POWER accounts to pay for insurance for one year. Indiana 1st state in nation to implement program such as this to eliminate gap in coverage. No one will be disenrolled during public health emergency. SNAP members may now use  their Hoosiers Works EBT cards starting today to purchase groceries online for delivery. Increase of 100,000 Hoosiers receiving SNAP benefits due to pandemic. Intend to keep the program in place permanently. No need to enroll. Any delivery fees may not be paid with SNAP benefits and pledged to keep working on the issue. Medicaid coverage in Indiana has increased by about 72,000 since February. ​Announced the state received $1M in funding from FEMA to establish a crisis counseling program open to all Hoosiers. Will be set up in the coming weeks and set up through 2-1-1 program. 

May 27, 2020

Governor Holcomb provided examples of communities coming together across the state of Indiana. Provided a video highlighting the sacrifices of Hoosier healthcare workers. Convinced Indiana is on the right track to open safely. 

Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box​ reported 370 new confirmed cases, bringing the total number of Hoosiers to 32,437 known to have COVID-19. Reported 21 new deaths for a total of 1,871 deaths and another 159 deaths are believed to have died based on clinical diagnostics. Should not get a false sense of security because numbers seem low (holiday weekend so reporting is lagging). ICU and ventilator availability remain steady. 235,000 Hoosiers tested to date with 23,000 individuals coming through 214 statewide sites. Reported that about 5% of the 23,000 Hoosiers tested positive at the state sites. Starting second phase of testing for IUPUI School of Public health next week. Urged Hoosiers to continue to practice social distancing as the threat is still very real–it may mean wearing a mask at the pool when not in the water. Randomly selected participants for the second phase of the study will begin seeing outreach from those conducting the study. Urged Hoosiers to participate in the study. We know minority populations have been hit hard by COVID and this study will go a long way to understanding those impacts. 

Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Dr. Sullivan reminded Hoosiers that physical and mental health are intertwined and both must be maintained. Seeing a remarkable increase in telehealth to provide support for individuals compared to this time last year. Mental health providers have found a place for telehealth in their practice. The data shows this is a needed service and is increasing access to care for Hoosiers. April 2020 saw the largest Naloxone use in Indiana ever. Almost 1.5% of all EMS runs to date in the state involved the deployment of Naloxone. Providing $1M to help distribute Naloxone packages. Data from Domestic Violence Hotline is daunting. Bewellindiana.org is designed to address the increase in anxiety and mental health issues for Hoosiers. The website has been visited more than 54,000 times in just a month since the  launch. As we move into recovery, urged parents, teachers and caregivers to be sensitive to the effects of the pandemic on kids, and whether misbehavior may reflect inability to deal with the stress. Encouraged Hoosiers to take the ACEs test in order to help you understand if traumatic experiences are impacting your life. 

Associate Professor at the Indiana University School of Nursing Ukamaka Oruche provided advice and guidance for adults watching over kids right now. The pandemic is a traumatic event because it has threatened our entire communities. Children will express this trauma in different ways and adults need to understand that an act of aggression or other misbehavior may be a result of traumatic experiences. Encouraged adults to check in with their kids and students and let them know they have someone to help them. 

Senior Education Advisor to Governor Holcomb Dr.Jenner​ reported they are hard at work with DOE, ISDH,  FSSA and eduaction stakeholders to issue timely guidance to schools. Goal is to maximize student learning while maintaining safety for everyone. Will issue guidance as soon as possible. 

Office of Management and Budget Director Johnston reported approximately $5B awarded to Indiana with a lot of it being passed through to different entities. The Corona Virus Relief  Fund is about $2.4B and Governor previously announced $300M allocated to local governments to use for their fight against the pandemic. There are tight restrictions on how the money is spent. Indiana has applied for a grant from federal government of $61M to help with connectivity issues and teacher training to ensure remote learning is effective. 

General Counsel Heerens reported data from May 19: number of complaints investigated 1,660, number of unfounded complaints 1426, number of verbal warnings issued 146 and 1 cease and desist letter. Will have updated numbers on Friday. 

May 22, 2020

Governor Holcomb​ acknowledged the importance of Memorial Day weekend and asked Hoosiers to  watch NBC from 2:00 to 6:00 pm where we will honor soldiers that didn’t come home as well as our frontline heroes during the pandemic. Asked Hoosiers to go outside and take in fresh air responsibly. and safely. Put on a mask if you are around other people. Clarified that the 15% budget cut memo applies only to state agencies (not K-12). 
Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box ​reported 493 additional cases of COVID-19 bringing total to 30,409 Hoosier known to have COVID-19. Reported additional 27 deaths and 1,791 have died to date. Another 150 Hoosiers believed to have died based on clinical diagnosis. Total number of Hoosier tested to date is 208,561. There are 209 testing sites around the state. Ventilators and ICU availability remains steady. As most of the state enters Phase III, will continue to follow the 4 guiding principles of data sets and reported all categories are trending in the right direction. Hoosiers should still limit trips and reminded everyone this is not a normal year–need to remain vigilant to protect our most vulnerable Hoosiers. 
Indiana Department of Homeland Security Director Cox urged Hoosiers not to become complacent. The increase flexibility brings new challenges to not spreading the disease. Please follow the CDC guidelines and those 65 years or older with underlying health conditions should remain home. Please use a mask in public and keep social distancing to 6 feet. Self-isolate for at least 10 days if you you come into contact with a confirmed case. Code enforcement division of the department has received around 65 complaints for occupancy levels and only 4 entities needed additional education. No enforcement or fines have been levied and the state fire marshall continues to work with businesses to address occupancy limits and steps forward. Many businesses can expand occupancy levels starting today and our code enforcement officers can help guide businesses through the process. These restrictions are centered around the safety of all Hoosiers. 

Indiana Economic Development Corporation Chief of Staff Bosso reported they have secured 14 million pieces of PPE from private sectors and have commitments  for another 4M pieces of PPE. Shipped 20,000 bundles to Hoosier businesses. Will send another 90,000 bundles by June 24. 

Indiana Department of Workforce Development Director Payne said ​the week ending May 16 saw 30,311 initial unemployment claims filed and continues downward trend from back in March. Released 1.3M payments since March totaling $1.7B ($500m in state and $1.2B in federal funds). Indiana unemployment rate is 16.9% while the national average is 14.7%. This is the highest rate since 1982. Leisure and manufacturing suffered the worst decline with 194K jobs lost. Continues to work on the call center. Average wait time for call center has been reduced by over 65% since last month as the result of staff changes and technology upgrades. Two additional reasons when claims go beyond 21 days: (1) clerical errors and (2) appeals (not all are approved). 

Office of Management and Budget Director Johnston reported that the budget cut memo is the first step of a series of actions to protect the state. Cost saving measures will likely continue through next biennial budget. They will be looking at higher-ed and K-12 as it accounts for over 50% of state budget. This is an evolving roadmap and will be a combination of spending cuts, using reserves and federal assistance to get us through the pandemic and to the next budget making process that starts in January with the General Assembly. All state agencies have to submit a strategic plan that demonstrates budget cuts and prioritizes the essential services Hoosiers depend on. 

Governor Holcomb General Counsel Heerens reported the executive order issued yesterday does not change anything for religious services. There is no limit to attend religious service but there is guidance they must follow like social distancing. There is more information on the back on track website for religious services. Still encouraging virtual services to protect Hoosiers. South Bend Casino owned by the Pokagon tribe tweeted they are looking at a reopening and are technically not required to follow state executive order.

May 20, 2020

Governor Holcomb Announced Indiana will advance to Stage 3 on Friday. He will sign the executive order tomorrow (will be public tomorrow). Lake, Marion and Cass counties will be able to move to Stage 3 on June 1. Highlighted updates for Stage 3: social gatherings of up to 100 people, restaurant dining rooms remain open at 50% capacity, retail stores/malls open to 75% capacity, gyms/YMCAs/fitness studios may open with restrictions, community pools and campgrounds may open, recreational sports/practices may begin following guidelines (contact sports are prohibited), basketball, tennis, soccer and baseball courts and fields may open, youth summer day camps may begin June 1, raceways can begin competition with no spectators, state park inns will reopen. Executive Order will extend the prohibition on turning off utilities, extends prohibition on filing mortgage foreclosures and evictions and extends deadlines  to acquire or renew drivers licenses, vehicle registrations and similar BMV documentation. Urged Hoosiers 65 and over to remain cautious and everyone should wear masks to protect one another. Will continue to make data driven decisions and still believes June 14 (start of Stage 4) will occur.  Looking to open Casinos in Stage 4 and working closely with the gaming industry. Urged Hoosiers not to let down their guard and underscored that individual decisions will ultimately determine when the state can safely reopen.   

Indiana State Department of Health Dr. Box reported 581 new cases for a statewide total of 29,274 and 38 deaths for a statewide total of 1,716 deaths. Reported 6,442 new tests for a statewide total of 195,738 total tests. Urged employees that need to return to work to get tested at one of the 181 testing sites around the state. Provided an update on the centralized contact tracing program with nearly 2,800 cases in the system and nearly 6,000 outbound calls. Urged Hoosiers to participate in the program to keep everyone safe and keep the state moving forward. Hoosiers need to wear masks, wash hands, practice social distancing in order to move to stage 4. Urged gatherings of up to 100 to be held outside. Will likely open bingo halls at the same time of other gaming establishments. Goal is to test every long-term care employee by mid-June. 

Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner McGuiness ​gave a shoutout to INDOT employees and other state employees working to collect and distribute medical supplies and PPE. Reported that INDOT continues to take advantage of lower traffic on the roads by finishing projects ahead of schedule and, therefore, at reduced costs. During the first few weeks of the stay at home order, saw about a 57%  reduction of traffic on the roads. The traffic volumes are slowly increasing especially on the weekends as the state continues getting back on track. INDOT maintains 29 rest areas and welcome centers and all of them are being cleaned hourly at common touch points. INDOT employees are inspecting daily as well to protect those traveling. Spoke with the Indiana Toll Road Concession Company and they are following the same safety protocol along the toll road. Provided food truck venders the ability to set up at these rest stops for truckers and had about 25-30 trucks at the peak and beginning to phase out the program as things open back up. INDOT has a little over 1,100 active, ongoing projects around the state. 

Indiana State Police Superintendent Carter reported 25 fewer fatal crashes and 31 fewer deaths compared to this time last year. Urged Hoosiers to pay attention when driving through work zones and do it safely. Indiana becomes a hands-free state starting July 1 (no hands on a cell phone while driving). 

Governor Holcomb Senior Education Advisor Jenner continues to work with DOE and ISDH to review the most updated data and research in the development of comprehensive guidelines for our school leaders. Schools and facilities are closed through June 30. Constant communications with ISHAA. Thanked all the school stakeholders for their input and participation in developing a plan.

May 18, 2020

Governor Holcomb said IOSHA is conducting business as they should and will continue to have full faith in their job. Will put out guidance for K-12 and institutions of higher education in the near future. State of Indiana has set aside $100M to build connections around the state to ensure Hoosiers have broadband access. Said he had no involvement in selection of testing partner (reporter asked about a campaign contribution from Optum). More information regarding Phase 3 of the re-opening plan coming Wednesday. 

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 492 new positive cases with 28,522 total cases around the state. Reported 14 new deaths bringing statewide death total to 1,621. To date,  184,000 Hoosiers have been tested for COVID-19. ICU beds and ventilator availability remain steady. Today is the first day that ISDH is taking on all 92 counties’ contact tracing matters. Urged Hoosiers to communicate with State Department of Health when called. Reported first confirmed case of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MISC). MISC defined as a (1) person less than 21 years old with fever, laboratory evidence of inflammation and evidence of clinically severe illness requiring hospitalization with multisystems (at least 2) such as cardiac, renal respiratory and no alternative plausible diagnoses and positive for current or recent COVID-19 infection or COVID-19 exposure within the four weeks prior to onset of symptoms . Doctors should report suspected cases to local and state department of health even if patient meets the criteria for Kawasaki disease. Urged Hoosiers to wear a mask to protect yourself and other around you. Seen significant spread from asymptomatic people in Indiana and around the world. My mask protects you and your masks protects me. This personal responsibility is going to directly impact what happens as we ease restrictions. Intimately engaged in testing in SW Indiana as cases tripled in a week in Dubois County after 42 workers at a turkey processing plant test positive. State is monitoring surrounding counties as well. Not mandating masks as a state but expects many businesses to mandate (like no shirt, no shoes no services).

Department of Child Services Director Stigdon  understands the pandemic has put even more stress on our struggling families. Continue to investigate allegations of neglect and abuse reported to our hotline. A family case manager visits the child in person when an initial claim is made to make sure they are safe. Front-line workers provided with PPE, family visits are conducted virtually and offices are open by appointment to reduce foot traffic. Helping Hoosiers navigate public assistance programs as well as connecting people with mental health and substance abuse resources. The pandemic forced schools and other community centers to close and need everyone’s help to care for those in our communities that need help.

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Lacey opened 73 branches last week and adding 2000 appointments a week. Reported 141,845 appointments on the books last week which is almost 100% capacity. Adding 2,000 appointments a day by increasing capacity. The appointment system is open through June 13. Reminded Hoosiers to go online to conduct business and that you can go to any branch in the state (not limited to the county you are living in).

May 15, 2020

Governor Holcomb thanked all Hoosiers for their ongoing sacrifices. Congratulated students graduating this year. Urged Hoosiers to go to http://www.my2020census.gov to ensure Indiana is properly represented and http://www.coronosvirus.in.gov to find strong WiFi hotspots around the state. Reminded Hoosiers that the $100M commitment to improve internet service for all Hoosiers continues on. If COVID-19 numbers change then the state will changes its course. Mayor of Indianapolis has set out a sound re-opening plan and it is up to the courts to decide if anything is unconstitutional in it.

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 614 new cases of COVID-19 for a statewide total of 26,655 and 42 new deaths for a statewide total of 1,550 deaths and another 141 probable deaths. ICU beds and ventilator supply remain steady. about 4% of cases have been hospitalized. Tested more than 100,000 Hoosiers since April 15. 170 testing locations in all–some public and some private. Provided an update on the contact tracing that started in 21 counties this week that represents more than 50% of cases of the state. Other counties will go live on Monday. Shared success stories of contact tracing of people who had no idea they had been exposed to the disease. Hoosiers are eager to help stop the spread of the disease. Goal is to contact people within 24 hours of test results. Formed a panel to look at racial disparities in coronavirus impact and said 43% of state-run drive thru tests have been minority patients. Excited to see antibody study come out next month. 

Indiana Economic Development Corporation Chief of Staff Bosso gave an update on the Small Business PPE program and reported receiving 20,000 orders and shipped 10,000 to date. Anticipating 12,000 going out next week. Reminded Hoosiers this program  is intended to be a last resort and urged companies to look elsewhere first. IEDC has secured 16M pieces of PPE, up from 9M reported last week. Business community is stepping up to manufacture and procure PPE and many are choosing to donate.

Indiana Secretary of State Lawson noted the state is 18 days away from June 2 primary election. Will supply all 92 counties with PPE so that poll workers and election staff are properly outfitted. They have sourced as much as possible from Indiana companies. Indiana National Guard handling distribution. PPE does not cover the general public so voter needs to follow CDC guidelines to keep our communities safe. Encouraged all voters to vote absentee for the primary election which is the safest way to do it. As of this morning, over 330,000 have cast an absentee ballot by mail. Marion county has seen 56,000 absentee ballots already, which is more than the statewide total in 2016. Might take 2 or 3 days to get the results after election day. This is not a new process but just an expansion of an existing program. Poll workers who get paid will not have their unemployment taken away. Indiana General Assembly must change state law to allow for no excuse absentee ballot voting in the future. Chose to have in person voting because it can be done safely and is a right. 

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne​ reported 30,691 unemployment claims for the week ending May 9, which continues a weekly downward trend dating back to March. High call volumes continue to be challenging. Average wait time has been reduced by 50% and the claims volume remains extremely high. The top reason claims go beyond 21 days is because of issues–​which require the claim to be reviewed. The three issues are (1) deductible income issues, (2) employment status (full or part time) and (3) voluntary quit concerns. Each one of these issues requires a dedicated person to investigate and it cannot be automated. We are trending in the right direction but understands more work needs to be done. 

May 13, 2020

Governor Holcomb stressed that the phase in plan is a fluid roadmap and he is willing to call audible as needed. Said gas stations can use self-serve fountain drinks and coffee stations and the State is working to develop sanitary guidelines. This is a new reality we are facing, not a new normal. Will continue to make decisions based on the data. Everyone should assume they are infected and a threat to others. 45% of positive people said they had no symptoms when they were tested and that shows why you need to assume you can be a threat to someone.Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 409 additional cases bringing total to 25,473. Reported 38 additional deaths bringing total to 1,482. Available ICU beds and ventilators remain steady. Shipping out PPE to hospitals and local health departments this week. Indiana has received two shipments of remdesivir. The first shipment went directly to hospital in a northern Indiana hotspot. The second one went to ISDH and they are distributing to hospitals most in need. Will receive weekly shipments as needed in near future. Shown to decrease hospital stays among those infected. Social distancing is still crucial to safe re-opening. Two dozen new testing sites went live today. More than 170 testing sites available around the state. No cost for these tests. Very important people wear masks and social distance. IUPUI Fairbanks School of Public Health Officials reported the results of the statewide COVID-19 study announced a few weeks ago. Thanked Dr. Box and Dr. Weaver’s entire team for all the help on executing this study. Need to continue to expand testing throughout the state. Ideally, test every Hoosier but next best is a random sampling coupled with a scientific approach. Stressed the results are preliminary. A total of 4,611 Hoosiers tested April 25-May 1  and during this time 1.7% participants tested positive, 1.1% tested positive for antibodies. Data suggests 186,000 Hoosiers were infected by late April (about 2.8% of population). Indiana was only aware of 17,000 cases April 29 showing the impact was 11x times greater than previously known. .58% of infected people in Indiana have died. 44.8% of people who tested positive showed no symptoms.  Data shows you are 12 times more likely to be positive if living with someone with a confirmed case, showing social distancing is crucial to slowing the spread of the virus. Bought time to determine best way forward. Vast majority of people in Indiana have not been infected so need to be extra vigilant not to lose any ground gained. Data shows racial disparity. Phase II of the study starts June 3-7, Phase 3: October 2020 and Phase 4: April 2021. Stressed Hoosiers to continue to participant in the testing. Threat not likely to go away until a vaccine is invented and widely available. Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne working on a case by case basis for those claimants who feel they cannot safely go back to work when their company reopens.

May 11, 2020

Governor Holcomb announced the daily briefings will move to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 2:30 moving forward. However, will call an audible if information needs to get out immediately. Task force will be continuing meeting on a daily basis and the data will continue to be updated daily on coronavirus.in.gov. Administration will continue to be 100% accessible to get everyone back to work safely. His position has not changed from 2018 and believes Attorney General Hill should resign after his unethical actions have been confirmed for the 4th time–this time by the Indiana Supreme Court

Indiana Department of Heath Commissioner Dr. Box reported 511 new cases in Indiana for a total of 24,627 Hoosiers confirmed to have COVID-19 –​equates to about a 17% positivity rate out of the 146,688 total tests to date. Reported 32 new deaths bringing the total number of deaths in Indiana to 1,411. Reported 6,667 tests completed yesterday and ICU beds and ventilator availability remain steady. Contact tracing is crucial to any disease investigation and have been doing it for over 100 years in Indiana for various diseases. The only real difference is a larger scale and a brand-new disease. ISDH is ethically mandated to protect Hoosiers from this disease. It is how we protect your loved ones, your neighbors and your community members. Will not provide name of positive patient and all information is held securely. Normally, this is done at the local level, but the disease requires a centralized approached for the first time. Maximus has hired 325 contact tracers and employees are Indiana residents or students. Phase 1 started today in 21 counties with 285 cases already loaded into the system. Phase 2 begins May 18 for the remaining counties. Urged Hoosiers to get tested at NO COST. Reminded Hoosiers not to ignore routine health checkups or other health needs. Significant decline in Indiana and around nation for children under 24 months for health checkup appointments/immunizations. The more testing increasing, the more positive cases we are going to find around the state. That’s why we are using several metrics to safely re-open the economy. We still do not have a vaccine or medicine that is accessible and proven to treat the disease. Department does not have the power to force someone to confidentially disclose who they have been in contact with and fortunately have not run into that because most Hoosiers want to protect those around them. Expect to release the initial results of the Fairbanks study on Wednesday. 

​Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatric​ President Dr. GiaQuinta said pediatricians have taken every precaution to ensure a safe environment. State has a high rate of herd immunity, which is a good thing as it protects against the spread of preventable diseases. When we decrease immunization rates, it increases the chances of an outbreak and highlights the need to get into your pediatrician for child checkups and immunization. Urged parents to maintain regular visits with their doctors. 

Governor Holcomb General Counsel Heerens​ in terms of number of complaints going back 5 weeks (start of stay at home order), 1458 complaints, 1266 unfounded, 138 verbal warnings and 1 cease and desist letter. Benton County business was given a verbal warning, it was not heeded, we had conversations and unfortunately continued to be noncompliant and issued the very first cease and desist order. Ultimately, the business came into compliance over the weekend. 

May 8, 2020

Governor Holcomb urged Hoosiers at high risk of COVID-19 to get tested even if they do not have symptoms. If you have underlying health conditions, best not to re-engage in a public fashion as this time. If locals want to keep their communities closed longer than the state, will support the locals 9 out of 10 times within reason. More than willing to change the timeline of re-opening things if the data calls for it. Timeline of opening schools was a topic this morning in discussions with Governor DeWine (Ohio)  and Governor Beshear (Kentucky).

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 675 new cases of COVID-19 bringing the total statewide number to 23,146 confirmed cases. Reported 33 new deaths for a total of 1,328 deaths.  Phase 1 of Fairbanks Testing has been completed (around 4600 participants). Will share more data early next week. ​Urged “high risk” individuals to get tested even if they do not have symptoms. Will review data this weekend to see if Lake County is ready to move to Stage 2.

Office of Management and Budget Director Cris Johnston reported back in March the state missed revenue by 6% and brought year to date forecasts flat. April revenue missed all major categories. April is the highest revenue generating month for the state. April shortfall of almost $1B. Cautiously optimistic that around $800M of the shortfall is due to delaying income taxes to July. However, not certain how many will be paying. State is now behind 7% for the fiscal year. Sales tax collection is off by 15% and the worst hit will likely come in May. Casino revenue is off by 100% as they were closed and will also miss 100% of collections in May as they will remain closed. The remainder of the fiscal year will be challenging. Talks of a fourth round of federal funding for state and local government assistance. Full recovery will take several years. 

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne released 57,000 payments statewide for the totaling $119M, which takes states total unemployment payments to over $1B. Made it clear that each case of unemployment is a case by case analysis. In process now of communicating with other states and Department of Labor on how best to handle those cases who are at high risk and asked to return to work. 

Governor Holcomb Senior Education Advisor Jenner eager to have students back in the classroom but want to make sure it is safe for the students, educators and parents. Working closely with DOE, SBOE, CHE and many educational leaders who have shared their thoughts with us. 

Indiana National Guard Brigadier General Dale Lyles reported working with Secretary of State to determine how much PPE needs to be distributed to polling sites around the state for the upcoming primary. Goal is to deliver in next five to 10 days and have a robust plan to ensure voters maintain proper social distancing. 

May 7, 2020

Governor Holcomb said ​as long as Hoosiers are practicing social distancing and good hygiene and our most at risk stay home we are on the right path and will go from Stage 2 to Stage 3 on schedule. Up to each individual Hoosier. Will leave it up to each business to decide how to handle telling their employees about positive cases within the business.

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 650 additional cases of COVID-19 bringing total to 22,503 in Indiana. Additional 35 deaths and 1,295 Hoosiers have died to date and another 119 are believed to have died from this disease but did not have a positive test on record. 42% of ICU beds are available and 80.3% of ventilators are available, those percentages are remaining steady. 125,000 Hoosiers have been tested to date and continue to encourage people to visit the 20 statewide sites or the 5 drive through test sites. Contact tracing will start on Monday. We have to remain vigilant to get through this and remember how COVID-19 spreads (coughing or droplets from the mouth)–social distance and stay home if you are sick. If you wear a mask, you are protecting others from your respiratory droplets. Important to keep your mask on when inside to protect others. Gloves give people a false sense of security and can put people in a position to spread their germs rapidly if not used properly. Realistically, it’s better to just wash your hands frequently. Carry alcohol swabs to clean your phone as it is very dirty and by your face and mouth frequently. Space out if you are going to Church and still prefer virtual services right now. Do not hug your mom and grandma on Mothers Day. Percentage of the positive number of cases is the number to watch as huge testing results come online this week and next week. 

Lieutenant Governor Crouch provided an update on agricultural activities. Contributes $38B to Indiana’s economy and in the planting season. 33% of corn and 22% of soybeans in the ground to date which is above the 5 year average.  Office of Community and Rural Affairs created the COVID-19 response program to help small and rural communities. Granted $10.7 million to 62 communities to date to assist in four areas: (1) increase access to medical facilities; (2) provide testing resources; (3) increase food pantry services; and (4) provide grants or loans to small businesses for job retention. Reminded Hoosiers about the Hardest Hit Fund for mortgage assistance through the Indian Housing and Community Development Authority. Announced the formation of the Indiana Destination Recovery Council to collaborate on how to get Indiana tourism back on track. Will continue to meet through June. 

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne reported 43,277 initial claims filed for week ending May 2. This continues to show a downward trend since the peak back in March. So far in May, DWD has made 313,000 payments totaling $237M. Has paid out close to $1B since March. High call volume still coming in. 160 new staff joined and upgraded technology is lowering wait times and increasing call back efficiency. Took UpLink system offline last night to go into final phase of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which is final payment of the benefit. Hoosiers will start seeing payment disbursements being made tomorrow. Not all will be made tomorrow as they are made in batches. Over 75,000 applications filed for PUA program. Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) is another federal program which provides 13 weeks of extension payments when other benefits have exhausted. The extensions will take place tomorrow as well. Successfully implemented all the federal programs.  Getting a lot of questions on returning to work from employers and employees. Will hold webinars over the next few weeks, Facebook Live event on May 13 for employers and claimants. Unemployment Trust Fund is just south of $600M and will seek federal assistance if needed. 

Governor Holcomb General Counsel Heerens explained Indiana businesses have a general duties clause and Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration has the ability to look into workplace complaints. Stage 2 allows restaurants that have a bar area to open, but the bar area must remain closed. Bars and taverns need to remain closed (think a legitimate dining room/services (not hot pockets)). FAQs from ATC to help clear up these questions. 

May 6, 2020

Governor Holcomb recognized that it is National Nurses Day today and thanked all nurses for their sacrifices. Believe that properly socially distanced religious services can be done safely but still prefers that people meet virtually for now. Stressed that he supports local decisions on how best to handle this pandemic in their communities, including Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett’s decision to limit religious services, and stressed that partnerships are going to get us through this storm at the federal and local level.

Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box ​reported 862 additional cases which brings the total count to 21,870. Includes cases from the VA and the DOC. 51 additional confirmed deaths with 1,264 total confirmed deaths to date. Another 113 are believed to have died from COVID-19 but no test. We expect to see more Hoosiers impacted by COVID-19 because our overall high rate of underlying health issues as a state. Taking a measured phase-in approach which is why Marion, Cass and Lake Counties are still in stage 1. There are 40.9% ICU beds available and 79.4% ventilators are available. Today marks the start of 20 new testing sites statewide. If you have symptoms or are high risk (underlying health condition or minority population), please get tested. You do not have to be symptomatic. As we test more, there will be more positives and that’s why the contact tracing is so important. Training started today for contact tracing. 

Family and Social Services Secretary Dr. Sullivan noted​individuals experiencing homelessness are a vulnerable population around the state. Provided an update on the Safe Recovery Sites around the state for our homeless neighbors. Matched programming with areas of greatest need based on data. First day of operations was March 29. The program has served 252 clients, 167 successful discharges, 116 clients connected with primary care, 27 treated for mental health conditions and 5 clients to long-term supported housing.

South Bend Regional Chamber Jeff Rea​ said the reaction from local businesses in this area has been positive and one of excitement. A measured approach with a path to reopen is the clarity they needed to plan appropriately. His members have two priorities: keep customers safe and keep employees safe. 

One Southern Indiana President Wendy Dant ​said their goal is to get businesses the most accurate and timely information we can give them so they can make informed decisions for their own business activities. Conducted daily Zoom and Facebook Live events with experts in various fields from HR, legal and the banking world. Raised around $420,000 for emergency loans for local businesses and then another donor stepped up that raised another $500,000. These two rounds helped over 70 businesses. 

Indiana Department of Corrections Dr. Dauss recognized a hot zone in Plainfield area because of three facilities in the area. In an effort to expand our testing efforts, we are testing every offender in the intake facility. Expect the number of confirmed cases to increase. National Correctional Officer’s week is this week.

May 5, 2020

Governor Holcomb​ commended the restaurant industry for coming together to provide meals for families all across the state and their diligent approach to creating a safe reopening plan for their industry. Stressed that the road map is just a road map and our course of action is ultimately up to each Hoosier. Vice President Pence called him last night and told him Indiana’s plan to re-open is the best he has seen to date. Thanked a reporter for asking about the federal money going to local units. Youth sports reopening is expected to be June 14 but reiterated the data will drive the decision. Leagues themselves could decide to go later. Doesn’t foresee the daily press conference going until the end of the year but do not have plans to stop right now. Want to ensure a transparent process for those paying attention. 

Indiana State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver reported541 additional cases bringing us to a total of 21,333 known cases. 1,213 Hoosiers have died to date. 113 are believed to have died from COVID-19 based on diagnostics but no positive test. ICU beds remain stable with 44% available and just over 80% of ventilators available. Launching  20 testing sites statewide. Will be open Monday through Friday each week moving forward. Finalizing the remaining 30 sites in the next few days. Things will look different for a while but it is on Hoosiers to keep us on the right track. 

Indiana Economic Development Corporation Chief of Staff Luke Bosso announced that the Small Business Marketplace launches tomorrow. Designed to connect small businesses and nonprofits with PPE so they can safely open. 4 qualifications to participate in marketplace:  (1) be business or nonprofit registered in Indiana; (2) have under 150 associates (3) be an organization that must use PPE to reopen and comply with safe workplace requirements ; and (4) employ workers in  restaurant, retail, sales, personal services industries and office environments. Will only be able fill about 10,000 requests in the first week. Supply will be replenished.  Intended to be a secondary market for those who cannot find it else where.  For businesses not able to be serviced, will work with them on the next round of funding. Market place bundles will consist of masks, hand sanitizer and face shields. Procured more than 9 million pieces of PPE to date.

Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association President Patrick Tamm asks guests not to dine in at this time  if they do not feel well, have underlying health conditions or came in close contact with a confirmed case. Restaurants reopening at 50% capacity starting Monday, May 11. Bar seating will be closed with no live entertainment, servers and kitchen staff must wear face coverings. Lake, Cass and Marion counties open one week after beginning stage 2. What to expect? One use menus texted to you, one-use condiments and wait in your vehicles for your reservation time. 

Director of Office of Management and Budget​ money to support localities is coming from the federal government and the $300M is just a first step. Going to ask that locals use the money in accordance with federal guidelines, which changes quickly so still finalizing. Public health and medical expenses, sanitization and other public safety expenses are all reimbursable. Why $300M? Good allocation to see what the demand is around the state.

May 4, 2020

Governor Holcomb Recognized Teacher Appreciation Week and the fact that teachers and administrators have gone above and beyond the call of duty.  Praised the Indiana Retired Teachers Association for setting up a hotline (87-45-STUDY) for students and parents to call in for homework help from retired teachers. Teachers are from all around the country. Reiterated that his office solicited input from specific industries in rolling out executive order on Friday. Apologized for not wearing a mask this weekend when taking a picture with local residents. Will continue to follow the roadmap closely and let the four pillars guide our decision making. 6.7 million Hoosiers are going to decide where we are in July. Believes that a safe working environment could be the next economic driver. Mentioned his office is working with Indiana legislators and Congressmen/Senators on liability issues for employers as they reopen. Still working with the gaming industry to make sure we get it right, will be down the road. Looking for guidance from CDC to make an informed decision. Clarified that “recommended” and “optional” could be read to be the same thing in all stages of the plan. 

Indiana Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver ​reported 583 new positive cases and 19 new deaths. There are now 20,507 total cases and 1,151 deaths in Indiana.  There are 45% of ICU beds available and nearly 81% of ventilators available. Indiana has tested around 113k Hoosiers, more than double of tests reported one month ago. Expanding testing is a major focus. Announced new map showing total testing sites around Indiana (coronavirus.in.gov). It is a living document. Registration for 20 sites opening on Wednesday opens today (www.lhi.care/covidtesting). Finalizing details for other 30 testing sites next week and will provide update in near future.

Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Lacy announced the BMV is entering phase 2. As of today, 55 locations across the state open. They aim to have a branch open within an hour of every Hoosier. Announced extended hours: Open 9 to 5 Monday through Saturday. Over 20,000 appointments made as of Friday. Employing CDC guidelines (lobby chairs 6 feet apart, plexiglass, thirty-minute gap between customers to disinfect hard surfaces, appointment only). Goal is to have all branches open by Memorial Day to be ready for primary election day on June 2. 

Governor Holcomb General Counsel Heerens commented that the executive order is intended to be as plain language as possible. It is very difficult to answer every question in a complex situation. Our office is available to answer them as they come forward and as needed. Marion, Lake and Cass Counties are still in stage 1. All other counties are in Stage 2 so can have social gatherings of up to 25 people. Will partner with locals to help work through issues. All businesses MUST adopt a plan before May 11 to ensure a safe environment for employees and customers like: enhanced cleaning, providing hand sanitizer, wearing face covering and using barriers where possible. Plan must be available to employees and the public. This is supposed to provide confidence to employees and customers that the business has a plan to open safely. Commented on religious services starting up on Friday:  (1) still encourage virtual services especially for those at risk; (2)must employ social distancing; and (3) counting on religious leaders to protect their congregation. The gatherings before and after a service would still have to abide by 25 person limit (difference between religious service and gathering). Enforcement team will be looking into complaints on individual companies, verbal warning first

May 1, 2020

*More than 50,000 views watched the live feed today. This is about a 10X increase the normal views each day.

**The text of the Executive Order has not been reviewed. This is only a summary of the press conference.

Governor Holcomb – It was about 8 weeks ago when I first spoke to you about the pandemic. Today, thanks to the actions and discipline of 6.7 million Hoosiers we are ready to move ahead in a measured way. Gave thanks to the heroes on the front lines saving lives despite great personal risk. Remembered the more than 1,000 Hoosiers lost to the pandemic and stressed these loses go far beyond data points. Announced the “Back on Track Indiana” plan, which is a sector by sector roll out to reopen Indiana’s economy. Will continue to watch the data and allow it to guide Indiana to open slowly. Number of COVID-19 cases will increase during re-opening. Goal is to get Indiana back on track by July 4. Starting May 8, Indiana worship services may convene following specific guidelines (25-person limit doesn’t apply). Reported that Dr. Box lost her father this morning.

Four Guiding Principles:

  • Monitor the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. (Number of hospitalized COVID-19 patience statewide has decreased the past 14 days)
  • Retain surge capacity for ICU beds, ventilators and other critical healthcare infrastructure
    • State created small business marketplace to comply with new PPE requirements (details forthcoming)
    • Distributing $300M of federal money to Counties, Cities and Towns via population formula that can be used for expenditures caused by the pandemic at outlined in US Treasury guidance.
  • Have ability to test all Hoosiers who are COVID-19 symptomatic
  • Have the ability to contact trace all cases (centralized tracking systems starts May 11)

Roadmap for a 5 Stage Roll Out:

Stage 1: (last 6 weeks) Essential workers, services and businesses

Stage 2: Will start on May 4 and roll out over the next three weeks (Marion and Lake may begin on May 11. Cass County may start on May 18). Hoosiers 65 and over and those with underlying health conditions should remain at home as much as possible. Social gathering of up to 25 people with social distancing. Lifting the essential travel restrictions. State office open with limited public interaction. All manufacturing open. Shopping malls (25% capacity for common areas) retail stores and liquor stores may operate at 50% capacity. On May 11 restaurants may operate at 50% capacity but no bar services, personal services, spas, haircutters by appointment only. Office workers encouraged to work from home as much as possible.

Stage 3: Target date is May 24. At-risk people can venture cautiously, social gatherings up to 100 people, movie theaters open at 50% capacity, increase capacity of retail stores and malls to 75% capacity, mall common areas can open at 50%, tennis courts, fitness centers, playground may open with restrictions to follow.

Stage 4: Target date is June 14. Face coverings optional. Zoos, museums, bowling alleys open at 50% capacity, social gatherings up to 250 people, music venues, state government buildings open to public, retail stores and malls open at full capacity. Dining services to 75% capacity, bar services at 50% capacity, entertainment and tourism open at 50%, recreational sports and tournaments may resume

Stage 5: Target date is July 4. Will continue to practice social distancing. Retail, malls restaurants, night clubs, gyms, and personal services may operate at full capacity. Will decide how to approach next school year at this point.

Indiana Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver – There are about 84 sites across the states testing for COVID. Located on the website. Adding additional 50 sites. 20 open next Wednesday and the rest after about a week. Online portal will open on Monday to get tested.

Governor Holcomb General Counsel Heerens said local communities can be stricter than the update executive order. Governor Holcomb noted, in all likelihood, state will support communities who want stricter guidelines.

Family and Social Services Secretary Sullivan reported that child care has remained open throughout the pandemic. Supporting facilities that shut down to re-open in a safe manner.

Indiana Air National Guard Adjutant General Lyles closely monitoring all capacity issues in the entire NW Indiana area and will deliver capacity when needed.

April 30, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb​ highlighted the efforts of the General Motors plant in Kokomo producing ventilators and the number of Hoosiers they are looking to hire. Made it clear that locals can go above and beyond the upcoming change to stay at home order. The change will be very methodical, data driven and vary by industry. 
  • Lieutenant Governor Crouch filled in for Governor Holcomb who was in Kokomo with the Vice President.  Announced 49 communities receiving more than $8.7M in grants from the Office of Community and Rural Affairs to help rural areas mitigate impact of pandemic. Highlighted the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority Hardest Hit Fund for mortgage assistance. 600 Hoosiers have applied to date. IHCDA allocated $400,000 from the emergency housing disaster relief fund to help community organizations around the state assisting those struggling with homelessness. 
  • ​Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 669 new cases across Indiana bringing the total to 17,835 Hoosiers known to date with COVID-19. Reported 44 additional deaths bringing  total deaths to 1,007. Reported the first death of a Hoosier younger than 19 today. 95,000 Hoosiers have been tested and expect the number to increase significantly next week due to OptumServe partnership. Initial OptumServe sites will go live on Wednesday. Working with local health partners to identify highest need areas for the 30 additional testing sites. 42.5% ICU beds available and 80.6% of ventilators are available. New centralized tracing network to begin May 11. 
  • Family and Social Services Administration Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rusyniak acknowledged unanticipated benefit of the pandemic is the outpouring of support for first responders and other health care workers. Wanted to take a moment to thank the long term care employees caring for the most vulnerable. These individuals show up to work everyday to deal with the pandemic and expose themselves and their family to it for others. 
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne reported 57,397 claims filed last week. Fielded over 1 million phone interactions in the month of April. Provided an update on the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program (contractors/self-employed/gig workers). Applications opened on April  24 with about 60,000 applications filed to date. Unemployment system built around helping people get back to employment. Claimants must return to work if called back to remain eligible for benefits. Not returning could be considered a refusal to work and disqualify the person. If working reduced hours, should still file for weekly voucher so you may receive partial benefits. If a person feels unsafe because of the pandemic, claim will likely be denied. Working condition can be considered on a case by case basis on the appeal. Other popular questions can be found on DOD FAQ​ page that is updated frequently. Highlighted upcoming virtual job fairs. 
  • Indiana Air National Guard Adjutant​ General Lyles​ completed the A-10 flyover in Fort Wayne yesterday. Rescheduled Indianapolis fly over for Saturday, May 2 due to inclement weather. 
  • Governor Holcomb General Counsel Heerens reported 1,264 number of complaints of violations of the stay-at-home order have been investigated. 1,131 complaints determined to be unfounded or without merit, gave 133 verbal warnings and 0 cease and desist letters. 

April 29, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb will be in Kokomo at the GM plant (now producing ventilators) tomorrow with the Vice President but will still participate in press conference tomorrow. Very important day as contact tracing is being unrolled today. Believes the state will be coming out of the locker room into the third quarter on Friday (updated stay at home executive order). Believes Indy 500 can still happen in August and that a lot of what we do today will allow that to take place. Public school buildings and whether they can be used for purposes other than instruction after school year will be addressed on Friday in executive order. Said to be blunt, if you are 65 years old and have underlying health conditions you are going to be living in a new normal for a while. 
  • Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 63 new deaths and 605 new cases. Announced the state has acquired an N-95 mask cleaning process that will allow health care providers to reuse. Focus on making sure each of populations that have difficulty getting tested are able to do that. Announced a Centralized Contact Tracing operation for COVID-19 cases in Indiana. Developed a process to determine the people who have been in contact with an infected person, and his or her level of exposure, and what steps should be taken to mitigate the spread. Individuals in close contact must isolate for 7-10 days and will determine contacts of this person as well. Each case will likely have an additional 10 cases that need to be contacted to self-isolate. Working with 16 other local health departments in order to conduct tracing. Will use technology to reach out to COVID-19 positive cases through text message and email to have the individual call in. Central database will send info to local departments and will free up local health departments to focus on local contact tracing across the state. Cost will run $43M a year. Goes live May 11. State went to 7 different companies for proposals and felt Maximus gave best value to conduct the tracing.  Citizens are obligated to respond to questions from a public health perspective. Gyms are going to have to take specific steps to keep their facilities safe. 
  • St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Fox has a team of 6 public health nurses that focus on health investigation. tremendous experience with contact tracing for other conditions. Over 600 confirmed cases in St. Joseph County to date and has redirected resources as a response. Believes that the stay at home order will make contact tracing a little easier because the hope is people haven’t been going anywhere necessarily. Contact tracing critical to reopening in a safe manner. 
  • Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne responded to a question regarding employees who feel like it is not safe to return to work. Said that current law basically says if an employer requests an employee back to work and the employee doesn’t show up, they will not be able to access unemployment benefits. Will have webinars in the near future for employers and employees.

April 28, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb reported Dr. Box is still dealing with a non-Covid-19 related family emergency. Encouraged everyone to participate in the scientific study. Thanked everyone who makes the testing possible in Indiana. Reiterated the stay at home order is the reason why we can make decisions about how to move forward on Friday. Malls will be included in the guidance on Friday. Convinced that any action that he has taken has been constitutional and out of the need to ensure public health (Illinois Governor being sued). We don’t know when it will taper off, but we know it will be awhile and we will need to be flexible and call audibles like we have been doing. College fall enrollment and what that looks like will be decided in mid-May just like K-12. 
  • State Department of Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Weaver ​ reported 650 new confirmed cases and 57 new deaths from COVID-19. 19,588 Hoosiers have tested positive and a total of 901  have confirmed to have died from COVID-19. Holding steady with 44% of ICU beds available and 80% of ventilators available. Reminded Hoosiers to agree to participate in the scientific test. Announced testing expansion and will now allow Indiana to test every Hoosier who has symptoms. OptumServe will launch 20 sites around the state and increase to 50 sites in next 14 days. Capacity is 100,000 in the first 30 days and will start opening sites next week. OptumServe will collect the swab specimens and manage the testing and reporting data. Hoosiers can get tested without having to visit a healthcare provider if they meet certain criteria. 6,600 Hoosiers can be tested per day once all 50 sites are online. Selected testing locations based on where it is most needed. Anyone showing symptoms can be tested, anyone who has had close contacts with infected persons and any Hoosier living in a congregate setting can be tested. Register online via portal or via phone call and there is no charge or insurance needed. If positive, will receive a phone call and if negative will receive an email. Focus is on all symptomatic individuals. Results within 48 hours. Month to month contract at a total cost of $17.9M to the state that will likely be paid via federal funds. Indiana has averaged 22,000 tests a week and the goal is to more than double that, with OptumServe performing 30,000 a week.
  • ​Governor Holcomb General Counsel​ said State is very careful in crafting every executive order to  date based on data. Adjustments are important to make off of the data and that is exactly what we did on Monday (elective procedures) and will do so on Friday (guidance to certain industries on re-opening). This is a limited emergency situation.

April 27, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb continued his praise for Hoosiers, front line health care workers and others for sticking together through the pandemic. Will be giving updates tomorrow on the testing front and Wednesday will have an update on the tracing program. Will likely make changes to the current stay at home order on Friday, data willing. Will layout the state’s thinking on Friday on the slow roll out process—DATA WILLING.  Wants to be the surest and safest when it comes to re-opening as opposed to the fastest and first. Will come to a decision on schools sometime mid-May.
  • Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box did not join today due to a non-COVID-19 related family emergency.
  • Family and Social Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dan Rusyniak Dan reported 963 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 31 deaths. That brings to 15,961 the total number of Indiana residents known to have the novel coronavirus. A total of 844 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died of COVID-19. A majority of these new cases came from Cass County at a local meat packing plant. An additional 88 Hoosiers have been added to the suspected COVID-19 deaths. 43.8% of ICU beds available and 79% of ventilators are available. Over 2,500 Hoosiers have signed up to participate in the scientific study with IUPUI announced last week that plans to test 5,000 Hoosiers total. Long term care facilities make up about 10% of the total confirmed cases and 32% of the total deaths from COVID-19 in Indiana. Adding aggregate data from long term care facilities to ISDH  website and it will be updated every Monday morning. Not providing separate breakdown for staff because most of them work at more than one facility so want to avoid a double count in the data. Releasing new guidance to require facilities to designate a staff member to provide daily communications to residents and family members regarding COVID-19—this exceeds CDC guidelines. Created a program for family members unhappy with communication at long-term care facilities to voice their concerns. Have discussed civil lawsuit immunity for nursing homes but have not removed all liabilities to date.
  • Indiana National Guard Adjutant General Dale Lyles announced they will be conducting fly overs in Fort Wayne tomorrow  (between 11:10 and 11:15 ET)  and Indianapolis Thursday (between 10:45 and 11:05 am ET). These missions aid in the training of pilots and crew and were already in the budget.
  • Family and Social Services Secretary Dr. Jennifer Sullivan  reported applications for community and family support up significantly due to the pandemic. 12 statewide sites opening to help people who are recovering from COVID and also experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness.  Distributing shelf-stable meals for the needy from FEMA. SNAP is adding delivery so that people can use it without going out into the store. Bewellindiana.org is a new tool Hoosiers to find free mental health resources and access to addiction recovery support programs. Highlighted other efforts by the agency to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on our most vulnerable population. Noted she hopes many of these programs will continue after the pandemic.
  • Office of Management and Budget Director Cris Johnston taking a look at how best to use the $2.4B in federal funding. The economic recovery team spent about 4 hours today talking about it. Exact structure has not been finalized.
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne reported the state received about 65,000 applications from self-employed/independent contractors/gig workers since the new system went live late last week. Payments should start going out the week of May 8.

April 24, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb thanked Hoosiers for their sacrifices for the past 4+ weeks and reiterated we are in a good position because of the sacrifices. Reminded everyone that Monday is the first step out of lockdown when hospitals are allowed to resume elective procedures (Executive Order​ released today). Broader lockdown order is scheduled to expire next Friday. Additional guidance will be issued next week that will vary among different entities/businesses (schools, churches, restaurants etc.). Working with DOE and SBOE to make decision on sports and other large group gatherings soon (mid-May decision). 
  • Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 656 new cases and 35 additional deaths. 13,680 Hoosiers confirmed to have COVID-19 to date. 741 Hoosiers have died to date or 1% of all individuals who have been tested and 5.4% of all confirmed cases. Will add an additional 79 deaths as a result of publishing presumptive deaths. Will have its own grouping on the website and not included in total deaths. Provided update on efforts to secure PPE: 1,178,000 items of PPE to date and expect 300,000 more to be delivered soon. 
  • United States Senator Braun ​provided the highlights of the recent passage of additional COVID-19 funding from Congress. Urged there will be a new normal that is based on keeping everyone safe. Praised Holcomb and his administration for efforts to date. 35,990 Paycheck Protection Program loan applications have been approved for nearly $7.5B.

April 23, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb will provide a full update on status of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) tomorrow. Praised the efforts of food banks and pantries providing food all around the state. Reiterated how important the partnership with Fairbanks will be for the State once the data is collected and analyzed. No state employees have been furloughed but have implemented a hiring freeze with exception for those agencies on the front lines. 
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Payne reported weekly claims for unemployment continue to drop from the peak in March. 75,483 claims filed for the week of April 18. Made a record number of payments in the month of March to about 350,000 Hoosiers. $600 federal supplemental payment started last Friday. Continue to work on issues with the call centers, handled over a million call interactions last month. Number one reason people call is for “general” questions and urged Hoosiers to go to unemployment.in.gov before calling. Provided update on the new program for new unemployment class of workers (self-employed/contractor/gig-economy). Will begin accepting applications for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance tomorrow. Will take the unemployment system uplink offline to make the update at 7:00 pm tonight. Targeting May 8 to make disbursements but a fluid deadline. 21-day average wait period from time of application to payment–depends on the individual. Provided update on virtual job fair yesterday in NE Indiana and April 28 in Bloomington, May 5 for eastern Indiana and May 6 will be for GM in Kokomo looking to fill 1,800 jobs. 
  • Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 612 new cases and an additional 45 deaths. Brings total number of confirmed Hoosier cases to 13,039 and 706 have lost their lives or 1% of all confirmed cases. Reported 2,594 new tests today, which is not ideal but working on outpatient testing and then will conduct trace contacting. Announced partnership with IUPUI Fairbanks School of Public Health to conduct a study of Hoosiers to gain a scientifically valid estimate of people in Indiana who are infected with COVID-19 or were previously infected and now have anitbodies. This first of its kind data will better inform what a “new” normal looks like after reopening. Reaching out to past confirmed cases to get them to agree to participate and to confirm the data on the tests. Urged Hoosiers to participate in the study. Announced FDA has authorized the first self-administered COVID-19 tests that can be conducted at home. 
  • IUPUI Fairbanks School of Public Health Founding Dean Paul Halverson provided an overview of their public health efforts over the years and efforts to date in supporting Indiana in the study. Goal of the study is to determine the actual prevalence of COVD-19 in Indiana.

April 22, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb ​praised known and anonymous Hoosiers working to make their communities better like someone paying sewer bills in Fortville. Executing a confirmed case tracing procedure is critical to re-opening in a safe and productive manner. Will provide an update on PPE purchasing tomorrow. 
  • Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 394 new cases and 31 additional deaths. These may be lower than reality due to connectivity issues that have since been resolved. 12,438 known confirmed cases and 661 total deaths. 46% of ICU beds available and 77% of ventilators. Of the 1068 Longterm Care Facility (LTCF) cases, 993 involved residents and 575 were staff. Working to make these aggregate numbers available on the website. Federal guidance coming to require LTCF to communicate with staff, residents and families to ensure timely and accurate information is provided. Working to create state guidance and will share next week. In order for state and local health departments to know someone is positive and conduct contact tracing, there has to be tests. Asked that physicians and healthcare providers be able to test when case is suspected. In the process of making sure there is access to remove the barriers to get more testing done. Strike teams are treating jails just like LTCF due to similar environments. Indiana has the ability to run the tests but just need to make sure facilities know how to conduct the tests and ensure they have equipment needed. 
  • Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch ​announced Indiana is reopening Indiana’s hardest hit fund with $30M in funding to provide up to 6 months of mortgage payments.   Indiana Grown is working to bridge the supply chain interruptions to connect farmers with food pantries and other outlets. Office of Community and Rural Affairs launched the COVID-19 Response Program on April 1 to repurpose $4.5M to help with testing in rural areas. Announced 13 recipients. Will announce additional guidance and funding in the future. Office of Tourism Development is partnering with Rockport Analytics to research and determine the true economic impact of COVID-19 on the tourism industry in order to better guide in recovery planning. Next Level Connections Broadband program already has awarded more than $28M to connect over 11,000 households across 18 Counties. An additional $70M in funding is available for Round 2 with applications due by May 26. 4% of corn and 2% of soybeans have been planted, which is slightly ahead of the 5 year average. No data was provided regarding hemp.
  • Family and Social Services Commissioner Dr. Dan Rusyniak provided insight into the make up of the Strike teams. They consist of  individuals with different backgrounds. There are people who identify​ where they need to concentrate efforts, there are drivers, there is a nurse, and epi and infection control support. They will identify residents that need testing and get the results back quickly. There are additional team members that can work with the LTCF if a breakout is underway. 
  • Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne reported that Indiana is exploring the CARES Work-share Program. Trying to make sure to prioritize what we have to roll out first. Will provide an update.

April 21, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb​ urged businesses to think about how they will operate and provide a safe environment for their employees,  industry input due by tomorrow. Advised businesses to be prepared to be open “in May.” Provided a list of examples of possible changes he has received from industries to date: cleaning protocols, physical distancing, reducing density of people, redesigning the workplace place/flow of production, installing physical barriers, visitation policies, wearing masks, wearing gloves, washing hands throughout the day, travel, regular temperature checks, regular testing, what protocol for a positive test. Communicating with the Economic Recovery team “about every 12 minutes” and making progress. Two goals: (1) restart businesses and (2) reboot citizens’ lives. Concerned about how the re-opening happens, especially in border counties, and that they are taking a collaborative approach with the Great Lakes region.  Expressed he is open to a regional or statewide approach depending on the specific change to the stay at home order.
  • ​Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 431 new cases reported in the last 24 hours including 61 deaths reported. 47.4% of ICUs beds available and 77.1% of ventilators available. Highlighted new data sets by race on the website. Highlighted partnerships in Lake County and the City of Gary. Reiterated the state did not turn down 50,000 free tests from a local testing company. Reiterated they have no plans to provide long term care specific COVID-19 data–only aggregate data. 
  • Office of Management and Budget Director Cris Johnston announced Congress just reached an agreement in principal on new COVID-19 funding package. Senate will take up this afternoon. The Economic Recovery team is meeting daily and is looking at intersection of public health guidance and working with industry groups to make sure they are prepared. Focused on a concerted effort for the roll out. 
  • Deputy General Counsel Cindy Carrasco highlighted the Indiana Supreme Court opinion issued yesterday regarding the garnishment of stimulus money from debtors. The Court found state courts may not issue new orders that would stake stimulus from a debtor. Does not apply to child support orders.
  • National Guard ​provided an update on the efforts to make sure Northwest Indiana is able to properly respond to any surges of cases in the region and the rest of the state. Completed reconnaissance of two possible locations for field hospitals and are prepared for any surge. 
  • Senior Education Advisor to Governor Holcomb Dr. Katie Jenner has engaged K-12 and higher education on how best to solve connectivity and device availability for rural and urban school districts. Pointed out one success story in Marion County on how to solve connectivity issues. 
  • Indiana Department of Corrections Chief Medical officer Dr. Kristen Dauss ​reported Indiana is exploring the possibility of mass testing prison inmates for COVID-19 similar to Ohio. 
  • City of Gary Mayor Jerome Prince provided an update to the steps his community has taken to respond to and mitigate the impact of COVID-19. 
  • City of Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore focused on how his community has come together to make sure everyone and every neighborhood is doing well.

April 20, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb announced changes to the stay at home order. Opening up an elective procedures in a staged approached: (1) hospitals should conduct non emergent procedures (examples include diagnosing cardiac issues or cancer, upper/lower endoscopy or respiratory procedures or procedures to reduce pain); and (2) open elective procedures in other areas next week. Future restrictions regarding procedures will be evaluated every 7 days. Nursery and greenhouses clarified as well. These changes are possible because Hoosiers are taking it serious and community effort to rush to area of needs. Will continue to allow the data to drive our decisions. Reiterated call for industries to submit ideas on how best to open up in a post-COVID-19 economy.  Praised the the 16K doctors and 152K nurses working to help COVID-19 patients. Reiterated the reopening of the economy will be methodical based on data. 
  • Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box reported 505 new cases and 7 new deaths in Indiana. Will include presumptive positive cases in death total this week so numbers will likely jump. These are not new deaths. More information to come this week. 3,585 new tests reported today. Last week 2531 tests conducted in 4 drive thru clinics. Will continue offering these clinics Monday through Wednesday of this week. Will conduct robust contact tracing and ask people who came in contact with a positive person to quarantine for 14 days. Rule change to require long term care facilities to notify state and families on positive cases– still be required to follow all privacy laws. Issued new guidance for end of life situations to allow more people to assist–applies to those with COVID-19 as well. Working on developing a plan for testing asymptomatic people. 
  • Governor Holcomb General Counsel Joe Heerens provided an update on the enforcement arm for complaints about businesses violating executive orders. To date, the total aggregate number of complaints is 982, number of complaints found to be without merit 866,  number of verbal warnings 74,  and there have not been any cease and desist  orders, orders to close or  referrals to prosecutors issued. David Cook at the ATC is heading up the enforcement effort. Looking at easing into opening back up surgeries one week from today as long as data supports that decision. 

April 17, 2020

  • Governor Holcomb provided an update on the upgrade of the unemployment operating system upgrade last night and have began disbursing the $600 payments to Hoosiers. Announced the extension of the stay-at-home order will come Monday to May 1. This is an extension of 1 week instead of 2 weeks as in past. Will provide tweaks to order like working with the hospital association to safely roll out  elective procedures. Planning a safe re-opening and thats why we are seeking input from several industry stakeholder groups by next Wednesday. Reached out to the Great Lakes region to emphasis a collaborative effort on this re-opening. 
  • Indiana Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Box highlighted the new data available on the website on a County by County basis and provided an in depth breakdown on the data collected. Analyzed about 8,000 patients who went to the hospital for COVID-19—2,700 ended up in ER. This means about 6,000 never hit the hospital system and recovered at home. Generally, 68% of patients discharged, 20% still in hospital and 12% passed away. Expressed gratitude to the people who are making sense of the data and will provide data by race in the near future. Reported a new daily high in test results and positive cases. Currently, a 19% positive rate but expects the number to drop as the testing parameters open up to less at risk individuals. Steady availability of ICU beds and ventilators. Testing limited to  those with symptoms and people without symptoms in high-risk categories. Hopes that doctors are testing anyone with symptoms. 
  • President of Medical Staff for Community Health Dr. Yeleti  gave insight into what it was like to test positive for COVID-19 and the recovery process. Stressed the importance of going to the hospital if you feel seriously ill as there has been a rise of Hoosiers dying at home of non-COVID-19 causes like cardiac arrest.