Indiana coronavirus updates for Monday, March 23, 2020

This illustration in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Monday's latest update on the coronavirus pandemic.

White House task force update

Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force addressed the nation Monday afternoon.

President Trump began by addressing reports of anger towards the Asian-American community saying that the spread of the virus "is not their fault in any way shape or form." The comments come after reporters repeatedly asked the president why he continued to refer to the new coronavirus as the "China virus," when the virus and its spread has nothing to do with race or nationality.

President Trump told reporters that the vaccine for the new coronavirus is "coming along very quickly."

Ambassador Deborah Birx said that noone under 15 in Europe has died and less than 1% of deaths have been under 50. Birx said that most deaths are with those above 50 and with preexisting conditions.

Birx made a special plea to those in New York City to especially social distance at this time, saying that specimens in testing labs came back with a 28% positive rate for people in the New York city area which is considered very high.

Ambassador Birx told reporters Monday that she did have a low grade fever at some point over the last few days and decided to have a coronavirus test which came back negative. She chalked it up to a possible gastrointestinal issue.

Before the briefing started, President Trump tweeted, "It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world. They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!"

President Trump said that construction companies are donating their masks numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The president also mentioned the hope behind a Malaria drug which is leading to shortages. The evidence that the drug may help is thin, and a run on the drugs is complicating access for people who need them for rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Chloroquine and a similar drug, hydroxychloroquine, have shown encouraging signs in very small and early tests. But the drugs have major side effects. That's one reason scientists don't want to give them without evidence of their value, even in this emergency. Scientists say major studies are needed to prove the drugs are safe and effective when used for purposes other than those approved now.

The president also addressed the deadline to get a "REAL ID."

President Donald Trump said the deadline for having a "REAL ID" will be postponed amid closures across the United States in response to the coronavirus. That new deadline has yet to be released.

Eli Lilly expands drive-thru testing to Indianapolis first responders

Eli Lilly and Company announced that it will expand its drive-thru coronavirus testing service launched for health care workers Monday, to also include Indianapolis first responders starting Tuesday.

The additional group eligible for testing includes first-line responders in the city of Indianapolis such as public safety, fire and ambulance public servants.

Testing of this group will be determined and directed by individual public safety agencies’ occupational health provider in conjunction with the Emergency Operations Center safety officer to ensure the criteria for testing is met.

First-line responders should begin contacting their line management on Tuesday to receive further instructions.

COVID-19 drive-through testing at Lilly is not available to the general public.

Senate fails to advance coronavirus bill package again

In a 49 to 46 vote, the U.S. Senate failed to advance a third phase of the coronavirus economic aid bill package for a second time.

The Senate has refused to advance the coronavirus rescue package for the first time on Sunday in a procedural vote with Democrats, rejecting a draft from Republicans and pushing for more aid for workers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Sunday urged senators to “signal to the public that we're ready to get this job done.” He wanted passage by Monday. But Democrats have resisted, arguing the nearly $1.4 trillion measure needs to bolster aid and put limits on how businesses can use the emergency dollars.

Republicans need 60 votes to move forward on the bill. More voting is possible.

Longest-serving IOC member believes Tokyo Olympics will be postponed

Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the International Olympic Committee told USA Today he believes the 2020 Olympic Games will not go one as originally planned.

The games have been threatened by the fast-spreading coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.

Pound told USA Today the games will likely be played in 2021, with all the details to be worked out in the next few weeks. He said the IOC is expected to announce its next steps soon.

"The Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know," Pound told USA Today.

Hamilton County playgrounds closed

Hamilton County has moved to close all playgrounds in its parks until further notice.

The parks themselves will stay open along with restrooms. Increased cleaning and sanitation is happening multiple times every day.

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson feeling better

Tom Hanks issued an update on Twitter saying he and his wife were "feeling better" after being quarantined in Australia for two weeks.

"Two weeks after our first symptoms and we feel better," the statement said.

He also offered some advice for others as the world faces the pandemic. "Going to take awhile, but if we take care of each other, help where we can, and give up some comforts...this, too, shall pass."

Community Health Network president, CEO tests positive for coronavirus

Community Health Network announced its president and CEO Bryan Mills has tested positive for COVID-19.

Mills, who was symptomatic and subsequently tested, learned of his diagnosis over the weekend and informed Community’s 16,000 employees in an email Monday.

Mills is in quarantine but still actively involved in leading and planning Community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“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," Mills said in the message to employees.

Anyone with concerns or questions about symptoms or exposure should call Community’s triage resource center at 317-621-5500. In Anderson, call 765-298-4240. In Kokomo, call 765-776-3990.

Gov. Holcomb issues 'stay-at-home' order beginning March 25

Gov. Eric Holcomb gave an address at noon updating plans to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by ordering Hoosiers to stay at home.

The order is in effect from March 25 to April 7.

Hoosiers should stay in their homes except when they are part of an essential business or for permitted activities, such as taking care of others, obtaining necessary supplies, and for health and safety.

“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 Gov. Holcomb.

Ball State cancels May 2020 commencement

May 2020 commencement at Ball State University has been canceled over the coronavirus pandemic.

"I can appreciate how disappointing this decision is to our graduating students and their families. For so many of you, our Commencement is a memorable and meaningful celebration of the successful culmination of hard work and many sacrifices," BSU President Geoffrey Mearns said in a release.

The university is taking suggestions as to how to replace the May ceremony. Students can take the survey here.

Employee tests positive for COVID-19 at Marion County Sheriff's Office

An employee at Marion County Sheriff's Office who worked in the jail laundry room has tested positive for COVID-19. According to MCSO, the Health Department has told two employees and one inmate worker who came in contact with the infected person, to quarantine until Monday, March 30.

Market District and GetGo employees getting bonuses

Giant Eagle, Inc. has announced plans to give out $10 million in bonuses to employees at all Market District, Market District Pharmacy and GetGo locations.

The bonuses will also be extended to employees working in warehouses to collect drivers delivering products to those locations.

"As a company, we must continue to find ways to support our incredibly dedicated Team Members," President and CEO Laura Shapira Karet said. "They are our heroes."

The bonus pay will be retroactive to March 15 and available immediately for both current and new employees. There is a May 2 end date for the bonuses that could be extended.

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ISDH announces 58 new cases

The Indiana State Department of Health has announced there are 58 new cases of COVID-19 in the state Monday.

That makes a total of 259 in Indiana.

So far, ISDH reports 1,960 have been testing, noting those are only tests reported to ISDH. That total may not include tests from private labs.

Younger volunteers needed to keep Indiana food pantries open

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration is calling on Hoosiers to help keep the state’s food pantries open.

Many food pantries are supported by a volunteer workforce, with many of those volunteers over the age of 60. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many of those older Hoosiers and others with health challenges are choosing to stay home to protect themselves from the spread of COVID-19.

So anyone who is not in a vulnerable population or demographic is asked to help at a local food pantry if they can.

Hoosiers can call 211 and ask for a list of nearby food pantries.

Anyone having troubling obtaining enough food for themselves or their families should also call 211 for help.

Those in Marion County can also use the Community Compass app on a smart phone.

Citizens Energy Group restoring utilities cut off for nonpayment

The utility company announced Monday all customers who had their water or natural gas shut off for nonpayment would have services reconnected.

Customers who need their utilities reconnected should call (317) 924-3311 and technicians will work to provide service again as soon as possible.

Read more about the steps Citizens is taking to assist customers during this time here.

China slams US for 'scapegoating' over virus

China's foreign ministry says the U.S. is "completely wasting the precious time" Beijing had won in attacking the global coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing Monday that the U.S. has attempted to “discredit others and look for a scapegoat to shift its responsibilities.”

He added that the U.S. should “stop politicizing the epidemic, stop stigmatizing and defaming China and other countries.”

China's health ministry says Wuhan has now gone five consecutive days without a new infection, showing the effectiveness of draconian travel restrictions that are slowly being relaxed around the country.

At the same time, China is stepping up measures to prevent the virus from being brought back from overseas, requiring international flights into Beijing to first stop at airports outside the capital for inspection.

Monday morning, more than 100,000 of the nearly 350,000 people who tested positive for COVID-19 had recovered. Deaths worldwide have exceeded 15,000.

Zionsville asks residents to stop flushing wipes

The Zionsville Wastewater Department sent a message for residents this morning: Please stop flushing wipes down the toilet.

The increased use of disinfectant wipes has the utility concerned about backups and overflows.

Even if the container says the wipes are "flushable," they are not.

Items that are considered to be not flushable that could damage the sewer system include:

  • cleaning wipes of any kind
  • baby wipes
  • paper towels
  • facial tissue
  • fibrous towels
  • medical waste including needles, colostomy bags and catheters

New Zealand prepares four-week lockdown

Office workers are hauling computers and plants to their cars and shoppers are stripping shelves bare of coffee, flour and toilet paper before New Zealand starts a four-week lockdown.

"I know it will feel daunting," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, but she said the move was meant to save lives.

People must stay home and all non-essential businesses and activities cease when the lockdown begins late Wednesday night.

Congress hopes to vote Monday on rescue package

The latest economic rescue package being negotiated in Washington is now nearly $2 trillion. But the Senate has yet to agree on the parameters of the package, voting against advancing the measure to a full vote. Talks were continuing Sunday night on Capitol Hill with the goal of a new vote on Monday.

Democrats say the draft package is insufficient, arguing it was tilted toward corporations and did too little to help workers and health care providers. Republicans returned to the negotiating table.

President Donald Trump weighed in earlier in the day, saying “it's not very complicated” and that workers must be helped and companies saved.

Restaurants promoting Great American Takeout on Tuesday

A coalition of popular restaurants is drumming up support for customers to try to order at least one meal on Tuesday, March 24 for pick-up or delivery from a local eatery.

The coronavirus pandemic poses a significant threat to the restaurant industry that employs more than 15 million Americans. That’s what spurred the idea for #TheGreatAmericanTakeout.

Already on board with the idea that's gaining steam are Indiana restaurants including Panera Bread, The Cheesecake Factory, Noodles & Company, IHOP, Blaze Pizza and QDoba. The fast casual Mexican chain is offering a chance to win a $100 gift card if you order a to-go meal Tuesday.

U.S. Secret Service agent tests positive

The U.S. Secret Service says an employee has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The agency said in a statement early Monday that it will continue to monitor the employee's condition. The employee is in quarantine.

The agency says it determined after an assessment that the employee has had no contact with other employees or anyone the agency is responsible for protecting for nearly three weeks.

The Secret Service provides security protection for President Donald Trump and his family, among other high-ranking U.S. officials.

US futures point to another bad day on Wall Street

U.S. futures have declined and Australia's share benchmark plunged 8.5 percent as work on more stimulus for the U.S. economy hit snags in the U.S. Senate. Shares also dropped in Hong Kong and South Korea early Monday.

However, Japan's Nikkei 225 index held steady, gaining 0.5 percent after the International Olympic Committee said it plans to discuss potentially changing the timing of the Tokyo Games, due to begin in July.

International Olympic Committee considers postponing Tokyo Olympics

The Tokyo Olympics are going to happen — but almost surely in 2021 rather than in four months as planned.

The IOC will look at postponing the Tokyo Olympics during four weeks of talks amid mounting criticism by athletes and sports officials during the coronavirus pandemic.

Indianapolis-based USA Track and Field called for a postponement last week because of the mushrooming coronavirus crisis.

Meanwhile, the leader of international track and field became the latest to call for the games to be postponed. World Athletics President Seb Coe sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach on Sunday saying that holding the Olympics in July “is neither feasible nor desirable."

Later Sunday, Canada said it won't send a team to Tokyo this year if the games are held as scheduled. It was the first country to threaten such a move.

Australia's Olympic Team indicates its athletes will not go to Tokyo this year and have shift training toward 2021.

Lowe’s donating $10 million in essential protective products to medical professionals

Lowe's President and CEO Marvin Ellison said in a statement on March 20 that the company is committing $25 million to support the needs of Lowe's associates, customers and the larger communities during this time.

As part of that, the company is donating $10 million in essential protective products to help keep medical professionals safe.

JOANN fabric stores working with customers to sew masks for health care workers

JOANN initiated a program in which they are offering pieces of free fabric, elastic and other necessary materials to sew together masks for hospital staff.

Customers can either take the fabric home to sew, or they are invited to join the classroom in the stores where they offer sewing machines. However, they are only allowing three people in at a time to maintain social distancing.

After the masks are sewn together, they ask the sewers to bring them back to the store so they can be shipped out to hospitals.

According to the CDC, in situations where medical-grade face masks are not available to medical personnel, homemade masks, such as bandanas and scarves, may be used as a "last resort" when caring for patients with COVID-19.

Johnson County Sunday night update: 2 early confirmed cases now symptom-free

The Johnson County Incident Management Team provided an update Sunday night.

So far, the county has recorded 13 laboratory confirmed cases and 1 death from the Covid-19 virus, according to official numbers from the Indiana Department of Health. We are encouraged to report that 2 of the earliest cases are now symptom free. The 13 include the 1 death and 2 that have become symptom free. Drive through testing has not yet been made available in Johnson County. We will provide you updates if the drive up testing would become available. Emergency services throughout the county are reporting all request for 911 services are being met. We continue to encourage citizens to continue to practice Social Distancing and good hygiene practices. We believe curve is being flattened by those following the recommendations.

Starbucks goes drive-thru only

Starbucks is temporarily closing the inside of its locations in the U.S. and Canada amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The company said in a statement Friday afternoon that it’s going mostly drive-thru and delivery for at least two weeks, while it’ll pay its employees for the next 30 days whether they come to work or stay home.

The coffee chain headquartered in Seattle also said the temporary closed access won’t apply at some locations near hospitals and other health care centers. Starbucks says those cafes that will remain open so it can still serve first responders and health care workers dealing with COVID-19.