NewsHealth / May 25, 2020

Coronavirus: State Agencies Cut Back, Indiana Hits Record-Breaking Unemployment Rate

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Coronavirus: State Agencies Cut Back, Indiana Hits Record-Breaking Unemployment Rate

April’s 16.9 percent unemployment rate smashes the previous record of 12.6 percent, recorded in 1982.

Justin Hicks/IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 41 additional confirmed deaths over Memorial Day weekend, bringing the state’s total to 1,832. The state announced more than 31,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 226,000 Hoosiers tested.

Indiana Hits Record-Breaking Unemployment Rate In April

Indiana’s unemployment rate for April skyrocketed to almost 17 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Friday. That is, by far, the highest level of unemployment ever recorded in the state.

April’s 16.9 percent unemployment rate smashes the previous record of 12.6 percent, recorded in 1982. As the month ended, more than 90,000 workers in manufacturing and 40,000 in accomodation and food services were accessing unemployment benefits. 

Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne says he knows some people have been waiting many weeks for benefits. Those are typically due to issues with deductible income, employment status confusion and simple data entry problems. 

Not All People In High-Risk Populations Need To Get Tested, Box Says

State Health Commissioner Kris Box has for weeks been urging people in high-risk populations – those 65 and older or with underlying health conditions – to get tested for COVID-19.

But Box also says that guidance doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone in those groups.

As Indiana added more COVID testing sites, it expanded the categories of people who could get tested. That eventually included people in high-risk groups, regardless of whether they showed symptoms.

But some folks in that population are worried about going out to get a test, especially at locations that aren’t drive-up. They argue that’s taking an unnecessary risk if they’re asymptomatic.

Holcomb Announces State Agency Cutbacks In Response To Revenue Shortfall

In response to a nearly $1 billion revenue shortfall due to the novel coronavirus, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced plans to reduce agency appropriations for the next fiscal year – with additional maintenance and capital projects on the chopping block. 

State agencies are being asked to review operations, space, travel and hiring to cut their budgets by 15 percent.

Holcomb says this is just the first step the state is taking to make up for revenue shortfalls. The State Budget Agency estimates this could be worse than Indiana experienced in the last recession.

The governor stressed, these cutbacks would not affect essential services.

“Obviously, we’re not going to do anything that’s counterproductive in terms of our COVID-19 response,” Holcomb says.

As Indiana Reopens, Child Care Providers Worry For Their Future

Child care is an essential service for many families, and some providers have been forced to close by the pandemic while others worry about what future demand will look like as businesses begin reopening their doors.

A study from 2018 says Indiana loses out on about $1.1 billion of economic activity a year due to a lack of child care. And Early Learning Indiana CEO Maureen Weber says the COVID-19 pandemic could be catastrophic for that number without enough support.

“We can certainly expect that to grow exponentially if we don’t make sure we sustain this industry during this challenge,” she says.

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Weber says at the height of the state’s closure, about a third of licensed providers were closed, and state grants and other support have acted as a lifeline for those that have remained open.

Gyms Start Reopening With Precautions

Gyms, fitness facilities and community centers started reopening across the state Friday. One owner says he’s excited to open his doors, while also taking new safety precautions in response to COVID-19.

After being closed for months, Brownsburg Fitness saw a steady flow of members the first day it was back open.

Owner Matthew Serd says he had been preparing to reopen the past week, and worked some extra hours to be able to let members in after the governor moved up the timetable to reopen gyms.

Friday morning there were some people waiting outside when he opened, and a few new people signed up.

Social Distancing Could Put Hoosiers At Greater Risk For Tick-Borne Illnesses

As people spend more time outside because of social distancing, tick season is underway. Ticks can spread diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. An Indiana University professor says people need to take extra care — even in their yards. 

“Whether being outdoors is in your backyard, or being outdoors in the park nearby, or taking a hike somewhere. All of these activities tend to put people more in environments where they are likely to encounter ticks," says Karo Omodior, an assistant professor at Indiana University’s School of Public Health.

Omodior and his team have been studying ticks near where people live in southern and central Indiana. Nearly 40 percent of the yards and other properties they’ve sampled had at least one tick and about half of those had established tick populations.

“When people don't expect that ticks are there that also means they don't take the required actions — and that puts them more at risk of tick exposure, tick bites,” Omodior says.

Young ticks called nymphs are also active this time of year. They’re smaller and harder to see, which makes tick-borne illness more likely.

#WearItBtown Campaign Promoting Face Coverings Launches Monday

Monday marks the first day of the Monroe County Community Organizations Active in Disaster's (MoCOAD) mask-wearing campaign, intended to spread awareness about the importance of wearing face coverings in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

The campaign encourages people to share photos of themselves wearing masks or face coverings on social media. The county's webpage for the campaign includes advice about who should wear masks, in what situations people should wear masks, how to get a mask, why wearing a mask is important and how to care for and clean a mask.

Updated guidance from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone wear masks or cloth face coverings when leaving home, regardless of whether they have symptoms of COVID-19.

The CDC says that wearing a mask is meant to protect those around the wearer. Given evidence that people who are carrying the virus but are asymptomatic can spread the disease, if everyone in a public space wears a mask, the risk of COVID-19 transmission can be reduced.

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

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