Indiana coronavirus updates: Governor orders Hoosiers to stay at home starting Wednesday
The order, issued during a Monday news conference, asks all Hoosiers to refrain from anything outside of essential travel. The order is not a complete lockdown and still allows residents to leave their homes for work, medical care, buying groceries and other activities essential to the health and safety of people and pets.
Essential businesses will remain open and are defined by the state as businesses that "include but are not limited to grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, doctor’s offices, health care facilities, garbage pickup, public transit and public service hotlines such as SNAP and HIP 2.0."
Otherwise, Holcomb is asking "Hoosiers to hunker down."
“The next two weeks are critical if we are to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we must slow the spread. You must be part of the solution, not the problem,” said Holcomb. “I’m setting the example by sending state government personnel home to work to the maximum extent possible and closing our facilities to public interaction beginning Tuesday, for at least the next two weeks.”
The order closes government offices to in-person public activity. It includes the Government Center complex in Indianapolis and other offices throughout the state, including Bureau of Motor Vehicle branches.
State employees will work remotely and provide core functions online and by phone. All public safety functions will continue.
Holcomb also ordered an automatic extension of all state-issued licenses and will advise law enforcement to refrain from issuing citations for a driver’s license or registration that expires during this emergency.
If the order is not followed, the Indiana State Police will work with local law enforcement to enforce it, officials said. The Indiana State Department of Health and the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission will enforce the restaurant and bar restrictions.
Law enforcement will not be stopping drivers on their way to and from work, traveling for an essential activity such as going to the grocery store, or just taking a walk.
Indiana's case count for coronavirus continued to climb Monday, with an additional 58 cases after the number of cases in the state more than doubled over the weekend to a total of 259 cases.
The U.S. reported more than 35,200 confirmed cases, trailing only Italy and China. The national death toll reached 473 across 34 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Guam.
Globally, more than 15,300 people have died of the virus and 350,000 people have been confirmed to have it, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
— Justin L. Mack
Feds offer mortgage forbearance in exchange for a suspension of evictions
The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced Monday that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will offer property owners payment plans in an effort to stop landlords from evicting those unable to pay rent due to the impacts of the coronavirus outbreak.
This applies to properties with Fannie Mae- or Freddie Mac-backed multifamily mortgages. Property owners will be offered forbearance with the condition that they suspend evictions for the duration.
"Renters should not have to worry about being evicted from their home, and property owners should not have to worry about losing their building, due to the coronavirus," FHFA Director Mark Calabria said in a written statement. "The multifamily forbearance and eviction suspension offered by the Enterprises should bring peace of mind to millions of families during this uncertain and difficult time."
— Holly Hays
Noblesville formally declares 'local disaster emergency'
Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen announced Monday a formal declaration of a "local disaster emergency," effective March 25, the same day Indiana's "stay-at-home" order goes into effect. Noblesville officials are asking all non-essential businesses to close and for residents to avoid unnecessary travel.
“Issuing a local disaster emergency in Noblesville works in conjunction with Governor Holcomb’s stay-at-home order and strengthens enforcement here in our city,” Jensen said in a written statement. “I ask you only leave your home if you work at an essential business, are getting necessary supplies or must leave for health and safety purposes.”
— Holly Hays
Indianapolis moves to travel warning
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett later ordered the closure of non-essential businesses through his own executive order on Monday, upgrading the county’s previous travel status to the highest “warning” level that directs residents to refrain from most travel.
Hogsett’s executive order also restricts travel except for emergencies and essential functions – which include buying food, caring for another person, picking up prescriptions or volunteering.
“These restrictions are burdensome and disruptive, but they are necessary,” Hogsett said in a statement. “This crisis is real, it is here now, and through this action I am confident that we will save lives in Indianapolis.”
Hogsett directed city departments to determine essential personnel and prioritize public services. Meanwhile, employees from the fire, police, public health and emergency departments are staffing the city’s Emergency Operations Center to monitor public safety needs, according to the mayor’s office.
Indiana unemployment claims continue to skyrocket
More than 54,000 Hoosiers filed for unemployment insurance benefits by the end of last week as the coronavirus continued to wreck havoc on the state and national economy, Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a televised address Monday.
For the same week one year ago, Indiana had 3,100 filings for unemployment insurance benefits.
The coronavirus pandemic had prompted local and state government to shutter the dining rooms of restaurants and urge people to stay home. Meanwhile, a host of sports, arts and other entertainment organizations postponed and canceled events. On Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a "stay at home" order, mandating that only employees of essential businesses such as health care providers, drugstores and police departments go to work.
— Alexandria Burris
State hotline for businesses launches Tuesday
A state-operated hotline to field business questions related to Indiana’s new stay-at-home order will launch Tuesday morning.
The Critical Industries Hotline will open Tuesday at 9 a.m. to help guide businesses and industries with the executive order.
The center can be reached by calling 877-820-0890, or by emailing email@example.com.
The hotline is for business and industry questions only.
Attorney general on your rights as a traveler
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill on Monday said Hoosiers with changed travel plans due to COVID-19 should know their rights before canceling, seeking refunds or making other changes.
“The coronavirus outbreak has upended every aspect of our lives and has understandably caused consumers to hesitate before continuing with their air travel plans,” Hill said in a statement.
Hill said travelers should be aware of the following before making any changes to their plans:
- If an airline has canceled a flight, a passenger is entitled to a refund from the airline regardless of whether they will be booking a new flight.
- A passenger is entitled to a refund if an airline makes a significant schedule change and/or significantly delays a flight and the passenger chooses not to travel.
- A passenger is entitled to a refund if they paid a fee for an optional service but were unable to use the service due to a flight cancellation, delay, schedule change or situation where they were involuntarily denied boarding.
- When a flight is not canceled but a passenger chooses not to board, a passenger who purchased a fully refundable ticket is generally entitled to a refund when they do not use the purchased ticket to complete their travel.
- When a flight is not canceled but a passenger chooses not to board, a passenger who purchased a non-refundable ticket is generally not entitled to a refund unless the airline makes a promise to provide a refund.
- When a flight is canceled, a passenger who incurs incidental expenses such as a rental car, hotel room or meal due to a significantly delayed or canceled flight is not entitled to a refund for the incidental expenses.
- If a passenger purchased their ticket through an online travel agency or other agent, they should contact the travel agent directly to obtain a refund before contacting the airline.
If you do not receive a refund from an airline, travel agency or other entity to which you believe you are entitled, you may file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Division of the attorney general’s office.
To file a complaint, visit https://indianaattorneygeneral.secure.force.com/ConsumerComplaintForm
CEO of Community Health tests positive
Proving that the coronavirus can infect anyone, the president and chief executive officer of the Community Health Network has tested positive for the virus.
Bryan Mills, whose hospital system saw both the first case and first death from COVID-19 in the state, sent an email to Community’s 16,000 employees on Monday.
After experiencing symptoms, Mills was tested and learned that he was infected over the weekend, according to a Community Health press release.
While in quarantine, Mills is participating in remote meetings and leading the healthcare system’s decision-making, though there are plans in place to delegate some of these responsibilities to others should his condition grow worse.
In his email to employees, Mills, who is not a medical doctor, praised those who are on the frontlines.
“I am as awed as ever by the dedication of our caregivers, stepping up to the ongoing challenge of this pandemic with compassion, courage, and innovation,” he said.
58 new COVID-19 cases in Indiana
As testing in the state ramped up, so has the number of cases. Over the weekend, the number of cases more than doubled, rising from 79 on Friday to 201 by Sunday.
Seven people have died, including an Allen County resident, over the age of 60, who passed away Sunday.
Marion County has been the hardest hit, with 28 new cases Monday, for a total of 110. Three people have died in Marion County.
Hamilton County had three new cases Monday for a total of 21, Johnson had two new cases for a total of 14 cases.
Hendricks has four new cases, bringing it to 12 and Lake one bringing it to 11.
In addition to Marion and Allen Counties, deaths have also occurred in Delaware, Johnson and Scott Counties.
Just under 2,000 people have been tested for the virus in Indiana.
Indy parks closes family centers, offers free meals
Indy Parks announced Monday that all Indy Parks family centers, nature centers, and playgrounds will be closed to the public effective immediately. Food programs will still be available, and Indy Parks staff will assist customers via telephone calls and emails Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The following facilities are impacted by the change: The Garfield Park Conservatory and Sunken Garden; Garfield Park Arts Center; Eagle Creek Park Earth Discovery Center and Ornithology Center; Holliday Park Nature Center; and the Customer Service Center.
These spaces will not offer any in-person transactions, services, rentals or programs.
Many Indy Parks family centers and other locations will begin offering Grab and Go meal options for residents and their families during operating hours.
Free meals will be available for youth ages 18 and under, and through a partnership with Second Helpings, free meals are also available for adults at some park locations.
For more information and a full list of free meal sites and times, visit this website: https://www.indy.gov/agency/department-of-parks-and-recreation
— Justin L. Mack
HI-FI Indianapolis collecting donations
The team behind the HI-FI Indianapolis music venue is working with other local businesses to establish a central donation location to collect items for first responder care packages.
Supplies being requested include baked goods, bottled beverages, non-perishable foods and personal masks. Residents are also urged to donate break room activities like decks of cards and puzzles, as well as notes of appreciation.
All donations will be accepted at HI-FI in Fountain Square, 1043 Virginia Ave. Suite 4. Care packages will then be delivered the same day to Central Indiana hospitals.
Items can be dropped off between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. today with additional drop off times to be added soon. Deliveries to hospitals will begin at 3:30 p.m. Organizers say they will continue the effort twice a week if community response is strong.
— Justin L. Mack
Domestic violence prevention during COVID-19 crisis
Officials from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the Domestic Violence Network are reminding residents of local domestic violence prevention resources as Hoosiers spend more time indoors amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
Police recognize that community members may find themselves confined with an abuser as communities work to mitigate the spread of the virus.
If you, or someone you know, is in need of immediate help, call 1-800-799-7233.
Those in need of help or safety planning can reach out to one of the following organizations:
- Beacon of Hope Crisis Center: 317-731-6131
- Families First (Breaking Free): 317-634-6341
- The Salvation Army/Ruth Lilly Women and Children’s Center: 317-637-5551
- Coburn Place: 317-923-5750
- The Julian Center: 317-941-2200
Police said those who see a neighbor in imminent danger should call 911. Those wanting to report a case of domestic violence not in progress can call Crime Stoppers at 317-262-8577.
— Justin L. Mack
USA Today launches gift card site to support small businesses
In an effort to aid small businesses impacted during the coronavirus, the USA Today Network has launched a new website that allows users to buy gift cards for local businesses in their community for use at a later time.
The website, supportlocal.usatoday.com, also allows visitors and business owners to add local businesses to the platform.
As of 8:30 a.m. Monday, 22 Indianapolis businesses were on the platform. Businesses include Milktooth, Mesh, Rook and The Eagle.
— Justin L. Mack
Citizens Energy restoring service to customers disconnected for non-payment
Citizens Energy Group customers whose services have been cut off because of non-payment are being asked to call the utility company to have service restored. Customers in need of reconnection should call 317 924-3311 to have their service restored.
“Because of the importance of hand washing and hygiene during the COVID-19 emergency, Citizens urges all customers without water and/or natural gas service to call us immediately,” Jeffrey Harrison, President & CEO of Citizens Energy Group, said in a statement.
Citizens will accept any payment customers can make to reconnect their service and will use assistance from various sources to help with the outstanding balances until those funds are depleted, officals said. Preference for reconnection will be given to water and wastewater customers first, then natural gas customers.
Citizens also is suspending utility disconnections during the COVID-19 public health emergency, in accordance with an executive order issued by Gov. Eric Holcomb. Citizens is waiving deposits, late fees and reconnection fees during this period as well.
For the safety of customers and crews, Citizens asks that customers not approach utility workers.
“We appreciate the patience of our customers as we process these reconnect orders. Citizens stands ready to continue providing safe, reliable utility service to the community as it endures the hardships of the COVID-19 emergency,” Harrison said.
— Justin L. Mack
News from overnight and the weekend
The number of people tested for coronavirus continues to climb in Indiana, and with it, the number of confirmed cases. As of Sunday at 10 a.m., state health officials reported 1,494 people had been tested, with 201 positive tests.
That means 661 people were tested through the Indiana State Department of Health and the CDC since Saturday, and 76 new cases were reported. There are six confirmed deaths statewide. The Allen County Department of Health reported an additional death Sunday that is not yet reflected in the state total.
These numbers do not reflect all tests performed by private labs. They will be updated on Monday about 10 a.m.
The following communities are under a travel watch in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus, according to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security: Marion, Madison, Hancock, Henry, Wayne, Howard, Grant , Tipton, Cass, St. Joseph, Blackford and Sullivan.
The watch limits residents to essential travel only, which includes work and emergency situations.
These counties are under a travel advisory, which means routine travel may be restricted and individuals should use caution or avoid those areas: Rush, Wabash and Elkhart.
See more about what the travel advisories mean here.
As thousands of Hoosier children settle in for another week of eLearning or cancelled classes, teachers from Noblesville's North Elementary held a car parade so they could wave, honk and see their students.
“We need this as much as they need this," second-grade teacher Stephanie Etchison said.
On Indianapolis' near eastside, the pandemic has been catastrophic for Indianapolis' poor. For those already living paycheck-to-paycheck, the loss of service and fast food jobs has thrown lives into uncertainty and chaos.
"What has struck me is that we’ve heard from families who are saying that they are OK right now, but things are not looking good as this continues," Andrew Green, Shepherd Community Center assistant executive director, said. "The families are looking ahead and having great anxiety because they know if this extends out much further, they're going to need more help from a food perspective and a bill-paying perspective."
Here's the news from elsewhere around the country and the world:
- The U.S. now has more than 35,200 confirmed cases and 471 deaths. Globally, more than 14,700 people have died of the virus and 341,365 people have been confirmed to have it, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
- Lawmakers in D.C. continued to squabble over a stimulus package aimed at saving an economy in free fall. Democrats have issues with the Republicans' proposal and, on Sunday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said there's "no deal" and that Democrats would be "introducing our own bill."
- Kentucky's Rand Paul became the first U.S. Senator to test positive for coronavirus.
- The scramble for vital gear needed to protect health care workers continues to intensify. Hospitals in Detroit put out a plea for donations of disposable face masks, N95 respirators, eye protection including face shields and safety goggles and other safety equipment.
USA TODAY contributed to this report.
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