April 23, 2020

Coronavirus: State Partners With Fairbanks For Study, Unemployment Trends Downward

Article origination IPBS-RJC
A drinking fountain at Chain O'Lakes state park has been capped due to COVID-19.  - Justin Hicks/IPB News

A drinking fountain at Chain O'Lakes state park has been capped due to COVID-19.

Justin Hicks/IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 45 additional deaths Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 706. The state announced more than 13,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 72,000 Hoosiers tested.

State Partners With Fairbanks School On Widespread COVID-19 Study

Indiana is partnering with the Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI on a study that hopes to capture the true spread of COVID-19 in the state.

The state hopes to test 5,000-7,000 people in each wave of the study, with the first beginning immediately. People will be contacted by the State Department of Health via postcards, phone calls, text messages or emails.

Nir Menachemi, chair of the Fairbanks School Health Policy and Management Department, says because COVID-19 testing has thus far been limited to symptomatic and high-risk people, there’s a lot the state doesn’t know.

“It seems like we’re only looking at the tip of the iceberg,” Menachemi says. “What our study allows us to do is look below the water and see the entire iceberg and try to get a sense of how large it is and how it’s affecting different communities, perhaps, differently.”

NAACP: We Can Reduce The Pollution That Puts Some At Greater Risk From COVID-19

People who live in polluted areas — like near coal plants and big cities — are more likely to have the underlying heart and lung conditions that put them at a greater risk from COVID-19. The Indiana NAACP says those are disproportionately people of color and low-income communities. 

“They're the same ones that are the frontline workers that are losing their tips — the waitress, and all of that — are not able to pay their utility bills at this time,” says Denise Abdul-Rahman, the group’s environmental and climate justice chair.

African Americans alone make up less than 10 percent of Indiana’s population, but have made up more than 17 percent of all COVID-19 deaths. That’s according to Thursday’s data from the Indiana State Department of Health.

Abdul-Rahman says giving these communities better access to solar power and electric mass transit would not only reduce health risks, but also benefit them economically. She says the state could help stop the cycle of poverty and incarceration by training former prison inmates to install solar panels. 

U.S. Sen. Todd Young Says Big Companies Should Return Federal PPP Funding

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) says the federal Payment Protection Program, or PPP, funding is meant for small businesses – and big companies that received some of the money should return it.

The PPP is meant to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll and cover their bills. And Young says it looks like that’s where most of the money is going.

“Because the average national loan is right around the $200,000 range and most of the loans are $150,000 or less,” Young says.

Number Of Unemployment Claims In Indiana Continues Downward Trend

Roughly 75,000 Hoosiers were among the more than 4.4 million Americans who filled out an application for unemployment benefits last week. It represents a big decrease as initial claims have steadily fallen over the last three weeks.

About 17 percent of the state’s entire labor force has now filed for unemployment since the governor’s first executive order limiting social interaction. In March alone, the Department of Workforce Development says it’s made over 1 million separate payments to about 350,000 Hoosiers.

READ MORE: Can I Go For A Walk? Here's What The Updated 'Stay-At-Home' Order Really Does

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LEE MAS: ¿Puedo Salir A Caminar? Esto Es Lo Que Significa Una Orden De Permanecer En Casa

The DWD will start taking pandemic unemployment assistance applications for self-employed workers and people with limited work history starting Friday. The target date to begin making payments to those approved for PUA benefits has been changed from May 4 to May 8. 

Indiana Pork Processing Plant Shutdown Due To COVID-19 Hurts Hoosier Farmers

Tyson Foods is temporarily closing its pork processing facility in Indiana after employees there tested positive for the coronavirus. The shutdown will be felt throughout the agricultural industry in the state.

The National Pork Producers Council estimates losses of at least $5 billion to hog producers due to supply market disruptions from COVID-19.

Tyson Foods said in a statement the plant in Logansport is temporarily shutting down production and will begin testing the more than 2,000 employees working at the facility.

The facility is one of the 15 largest pork processing plants in the U.S. that, combined, produce about 60 percent of the pork in the country.

Indiana Could See Resurgence Of COVID-19 If Economy Reopens Too Soon

As Midwest governors discuss when to reopen their economies, one infectious disease expert says most states, including Indiana, aren’t ready to have that discussion.

Graham McKeen is the assistant director of public and environmental health for Indiana University. He says if Indiana’s economy is reopened in early May, Hoosiers can expect to see another spike of cases in July.

He adds that because COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, it has the potential to resurge this winter.

"This really appeared at the end of our flu season this year," he says. "But it's going to be there, and coming back, potentially with the seasonality, along with the flu this year."

Coroner Prepares For Worst Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Alfarena McGinty is the chief deputy coroner for Marion County, which oversees metropolitan Indianapolis – which has had the largest outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the state. She spoke with Side Effects reporter Carter Barrett about what it’s been like on the front lines of the county’s morgue, tough choices during this crisis, and how the pandemic reached personal life too.

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

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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