May 6, 2020

Coronavirus: State Launches Expanded Testing, Schools Chief Talks School Reopening

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Coronavirus: State Launches Expanded Testing, Schools Chief Talks School Reopening

Coronavirus: State Launches Expanded Testing, Schools Chief Talks School Reopening

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 51 additional confirmed deaths on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 1,264. The state announced nearly 22,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 120,000 Hoosiers tested.

Expanded Testing Begins In Indiana Through Partnership With OptumServe

The state’s COVID-19 testing partnership with OptumServe Health Services launched Wednesday at 20 sites across the state. 

The partnership is designed to expand the state’s testing capacity, with the stated goal of testing 100,000 people within the first 30 days.

State Health Commissioner Kris Box says people who are in higher risk groups – older than 65, high blood pressure, diabetes, or are a person of color – should sign up for testing.

State Numbers Show Lack Of COVID-19 Tests For Juvenile Inmates

Many Hoosiers are making fabric face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Add to that inmates at the Pendleton Juvenile Correction Facility. But new numbers from the state show a lack of virus tests for Indiana’s juvenile inmates.

Officials at the Pendleton Juvenile Correction Facility say students in a class called “Test Assessing Secondary Completion” are sewing masks for use within the facility. They’re sharing a photo of two boys wearing face masks, leaning over sewing machines to sew similar masks. Pendleton’s grounds include a high school and both academic and vocational classes are offered.

The Indiana Department of Correction began reporting how many inmates have been tested for COVID-19 on Wednesday for the first time.

Indiana Senate Democrats Call For Enforcement Of Workplace Safety Guidelines

Indiana Senate Democrats say that without accountability, the state’s workplace safety guidelines around COVID-19 fall short. They say their offices continue to hear about a lack of enforcement of worker health protections. 

In a Facebook Live event, local union leaders told senators they’ve been working with employers to develop protection plans for workers for weeks. However, many say they still struggle to get adequate personal protective equipment. Others report work conditions that make it impossible to maintain social distancing.

READ MORE: Governor Holcomb Outlines How – And Why – The State Will Reopen

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Sen. Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) is the minority floor leader. He says the governor’s office needs to pressure Indiana’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to enforce health guidelines and to make sure PPE is available to all workers.

How Education Leaders Are Talking About Reopening Indiana Schools

Closing schools during a pandemic is a complicated decision, but so is opening them back up to students and staff. And while the state has yet to decide when and how K-12 schools can bring people back to campuses, state leaders are looking at key considerations for next school year.

Strict on health and safety but flexible with curriculum. That's how Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick described guidance the state is drafting for schools whenever the governor says they can reopen.

"We know for some of the health issues you need really tight guidance because you are not health experts. But for the curriculum and instruction, it is so localized so you needed some flexibility there," she said in a webinar addressing school leaders this week.

Holcomb Supports Local, County Governments Delaying Religious Services Exception

Gov. Eric Holcomb says he fully supports county and local governments delaying worship services in the state, following Marion and Monroe counties extending their “Stay-At-Home” orders. 

Religious services statewide will be allowed to reopen on Friday, as long as they observe social distancing.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Marion County would have no exceptions to social distancing guidelines for religious services, joining Monroe County

Holcomb says he fully supports the move, and believes it was the right call for Indianapolis.

"I’m not going to second-guess the mayor’s decision. I’m going to say it was the right decision for Marion County," Holcomb says. "I totally understand where he’s coming from and support it."

In-Person Catholic Masses To Resume Late May For Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend

Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades announced Wednesday Catholic Masses in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will resume starting on May 23 and 24.

Catholics will still be exempt from the normal obligation to attend Sunday Mass until Aug 15.

Once masses restart, there will be strict guidelines in place, according to a letter from the Diocese.

Is The Pandemic Leading To Less Pollution In Indiana? It's Hard To Say

Fewer cars on the road due to the COVID-19 pandemic has led to better air quality in many parts of the world. But state officials say it’s harder to tell what impact "Stay-At-Home" orders have had on air quality in Indiana overall.

While some air pollutants have gone down, others have gone up. Scott Deloney heads up the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s Air Programs Branch.

He says nitrogen dioxide (NO2) — which mostly comes from cars — is going down because of "Stay-At-Home" orders. Since March 24, IDEM data shows NO2 emissions along I-70 are 41 percent lower than normal. At Indianapolis' Washington Park, they're 25 percent lower.

However, black carbon — pollution that comes from heavy-duty trucks — is going up.

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This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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