June 19, 2021

Coronavirus: Emergency Powers Law In Court, Group Sues To Keep Federal Jobless Benefits

Article origination IPBS-RJC
The state reported more than 1,600 new cases in the last week – not including 308 historical cases added to the state's count Saturday.  - Justin Hicks/IPB News

The state reported more than 1,600 new cases in the last week – not including 308 historical cases added to the state's count Saturday.

Justin Hicks/IPB News

The Indiana Department of Health reported 51 additional confirmed deaths over the last week. That brings the state’s total to 13,375 confirmed deaths. The state also reported more than 1,600 new cases in the last week – not including 308 historical cases added to the state’s count Saturday.

Indiana has administered 2,754,523 initial vaccine doses, with 2,734,449 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.

Important to note, our weekly numbers were previously measured from Sunday’s data, but the Indiana Department of Health will no longer update COVID-19 data on Sundays. This data, like last week’s, is measured from Saturday.

Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.

Attorneys For Holcomb, Rokita Square Off In Court Over Emergency Powers Lawsuit

Attorneys for Gov. Eric Holcomb and Attorney General Todd Rokita faced off in court Wednesday over an emergency powers lawsuit.

A new state law, HB 1123, would allow the General Assembly to call itself into special session during an emergency – like the pandemic. Holcomb argued the Indiana Constitution gives that power solely to the governor and sued to strike the law down.

But Rokita said Holcomb can’t bring the suit because only the attorney general gets to represent the state in court – and Rokita doesn’t think the law is unconstitutional.

READ MORE: How Is Indiana Distributing COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

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Marion County Judge P.J. Dietrick heard arguments Wednesday over whether Holcomb is allowed to bring the lawsuit. He repeatedly questioned both sides: what’s the governor’s recourse when the attorney general says he can’t file a suit?

Schools Weigh Next Steps, Incentivize Student Vaccines As Classroom Mask Mandate Ends

Communities across the state are weighing what COVID-19 health and safety measures to continue this summer and into the fall, as the governor's mask requirement for schools expires at the end of June

But while school boards figure out next steps for their buildings, schools are also pushing for – and in some cases incentivizing – more kids to get vaccinated.

In Fort Wayne, a local nonprofit called Super Shot is offering kids a chance to receive $500 for getting vaccinated, with the hopes the group's lottery will get more kids to get their shot.

Executive director Connie Heflin said other states offering incentives are getting results.

"In other states immunization rates have gone up double digits due to incentives," Heflin said. 

Fewer Indiana Students Were Evaluated For Special Ed Services During The Pandemic

Fewer Indiana students were evaluated for disabilities that would qualify them for special education services in the 2019-2020 school year than in previous school years, according to data provided by the Indiana Department of Education. 

Under federal law, an individualized education program (IEP) evaluation must be conducted to determine whether a student has a disability and is therefore eligible for special education services.

These stats come as the state prepares to release standardized testing results that show a drop in scores — data that highlights the impact of the pandemic on students.

The total number of IEP evaluations completed in the 2019-20 school year — just more than 25,000 — dropped by about 16 percent compared to the 2018-19 school year, when nearly 30,000 evaluations were completed. The total number of evaluations initiated also dropped by about 13 percent over that period.

Data showing the number of IEP evaluations started and completed during the 2020-21 school year are not yet available, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

A spokeswoman for the Indiana Department of Education, Holly Lawson, attributed the drop in IEP evaluations to a slight decline in overall student enrollment, as well as school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawsuit Against Indiana Seeks To Keep Federal Unemployment Benefits Around

Indiana legal groups are taking the state to court over its decision to end federal unemployment benefits. They said the state is violating its own law which says it must give citizens all rights and benefits of federal laws. 

Plaintiffs include the Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis and several Hoosiers affected by the state’s decision. That includes not just a boost of $300 for all unemployed claimants, but entirely strips benefits from people on programs for self-employed workers and those who’ve gone past the state’s maximum time limit for benefits. 

In court documents, several who lost work due to no fault of their own, said lack of child care or ongoing quarantines and business closures mean they’ll likely be evicted without federal benefits.


Holcomb Opposes COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates By Public Schools, Universities

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he does not support public schools requiring a COVID-19 vaccination.

His comments come as Indiana University has been under fire from conservatives and government leaders for its decision to mandate the vaccine for students, faculty and staff returning to campus this fall.

Holcomb said he hopes public institutions follow his lead – he’s not requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for state employees.

“I do support private businesses making that call," Holcomb said. "But not public institutions.”

Ball State University Drops Mask Mandate For Fully Vaccinated People

Ball State University is dropping its face mask mandate for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

This allows fully vaccinated students, faculty, and staff to go without face masks inside campus buildings and classrooms for the first time since a statewide mask mandate was issued last year. The university had the last remaining blanket mask mandate in Delaware County.

In a campus-wide email, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns said the decision is consistent with recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Because of a recent state law, Ball State cannot require proof that a person has been vaccinated. The school has encouraged staff to voluntarily do so by offering monetary incentives to turn in a vaccination card. And Mearns said he “anticipates” more incentives for students.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

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