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Coronavirus updates: Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Friday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump signs stimulus bill, issues Defense Production Act for GM ventilators

WASHINGTON (TEGNA) - The stimulus bill the president has signed will send $1,200 checks to most Americans, plus an extra $500 for each child.

Indiana coronavirus numbers are rising

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - The state’s top public health official says it could be another month before the COVID-19 outbreak peaks in Indiana.

On the third day of the governor’s emergency order that has shut down non-essential businesses, closed schools and kept people at home, Indy’s entertainment hot spots were nearly deserted and normally busy city streets were almost empty.

The Indiana Department of Transportation said there are 45 percent fewer passenger vehicles on state highways and interstates.

People are staying put. Yet the numbers of Hoosiers sickened and killed by COVID-19 continue to grow like a snowball, Governor Eric Holcomb said, rolling down a hill.

“This is urban. This is suburban. This is rural,” he explained. “If you don’t think it is there or if you don’t think it is coming, we need to talk.”

Data released by the Indiana State Department of Health show less two percent of those infected are less than 20 years old. 65 percent of COVID-19 victims are aged 30 to 69.

With no relief in sight, Holcomb wouldn’t or couldn’t say if he will extend the 2 week shut down.

“We’re on day three. We will let the numbers drive it. I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said.

Inmates working in Indiana’s prison industries are beginning to make much-needed gowns, facemasks and face shields. The personal protection equipment will go to first responders so they don’t have to depend on hospitals for the scarce supplies.

The pandemic is delaying criminal justice. Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears is postponing traffic cases, child support hearings and jury trials. A news release recommend people visit the state's courts website for information on their cases.

Based on what the state health department has learned from other cities fighting COVID-19, Commissioner Dr. Kris Box expects Indiana’s outbreak may not peak for another month.

“I still think we are in the calm before the storm, but we know that is coming,” she said.

Holcomb is taking social distancing to a new level. Beginning Monday, his daily face-to-face meetings with reporters will go virtual.

President Trump hold White House coronavirus daily update

The President along with members of his administration and medical officials will hold the daily briefing.

The briefing comes shortly after the President signed the $2.2 trillion stimulus package.

Tippecanoe County has its first COVID-19 death

The Tippecanoe County Health Department has had it's first COVID-19 death. The person was a man over the age of 60. He had been hospitalized because of his symptoms. He died at IU Arnett earlier today.

There are currently seven other confirmed cases of coronavirus in Tippecanoe County.

Disney staying closed

Disney has decided to extend the closure of its two main resorts in Anaheim and Orlando "until further notice" to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains The Walt Disney Company’s top priority," the company said in a statement.

Even though the resorts will be closed, Disney said they will continue to pay hourly park and resort cast members through April 18.

Kokomo GM to start making ventilators

On Friday, Indiana's GM plant in Kokomo announced that it will begin production to make VOCSN critical care ventilators.

"Ventec and GM teams have been tirelessly and seamlessly working together to create and implement a plan for immediate, scaled production of critical care ventilators. The Ventec and GM global supply base developed sourcing plans for the more than 700 individual parts that are needed to build up to 200,000 VOCSN."

GM’s statement said the company is scheduled to start shipping ventilators as soon as next month from the Kokomo factory.

Governor update

Indiana Governor Eric holcomb will provide an update on the state's coronavirus response Friday afternoon.

Additional testing will start going into place in the coming weeks according to the Indiana State Department of Health. It would not share how many ICU beds are available if needed or how many ventilators would be available.

The governor said his stay-at-home order is working.

Companies in Indiana are being used to help provide Personal Protective Equipment to first responders. Hospital grade fabrics will be used to create masks at a rate of about 200 each day, masks and gowns.

Hard Truth Distilling Company in Nashville, Indiana has been creating hand sanitizer and distributing it to a nine county area to help first responders and those on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

Governor Holcomb also thanked the Indiana National Guard for helping staff food pantries around the state and with the distribution of federal medical equipment sent to Indiana.

The governor said the outbreak in Indiana is like a snowball rolling down hill and a surge is still expected in mid to late April. He asked Hoosiers to adhere to his executive order and act responsibly.

Governor Holcomb said Indiana is able to help its residents unlike other states thanks to our $2.3 billion surplus. They estimate it will take a billion of that surplus to help get through the crisis.

Indiana reported 24 total deaths on Friday, up seven from the day before.

Carmel reopens golf courses

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said that golf courses will reopen after they were previously closed due to COVID-19.

“Fresh air and recreation are even more important to us at this time of social distancing, but viewing social media posts where our social distancing restrictions were clearly being violated made it clear yesterday that action must be taken. I spent several hours discussing new guidelines and recommendations that would better ensure a healthier environment for play. I am pleased that we were able to find a way to allow golf courses to open with several adjustments. If we see further violations, we will revisit the closings again,” said Mayor Brainard.

All courses that reopen must follow a set of guidelines to ensure guests' safety:

  • Golf Shop, Clubhouse and all restrooms must be closed
  • Take out service only with no entry into clubhouse by members
  • Walking only; No riding carts or push carts unless they are privately owned
  • No rakes in bunkers
  • Driving range closed
  • On course restrooms must be closed
  • No tee markers on golf course
  • No water coolers
  • No flagsticks
  • Staff cannot assist with handling bags/clubs
  • Holes must be filled so players don’t reach into hole for ball

IMS hoping to reschedule 500 Festival events

The 500 Festival of events including the 500 Festival Breakfast at the Brickyard presented by Midwestern Engineers, Inc., the 500 Festival Memorial Service presented by Rolls-Royce, the IPL 500 Festival Parade and the 500 Festival Off the Grid presented by KeyBank, will not take place in May.

"We are working through a number of different scenarios and we will do everything possible to reschedule these events for later in the year," the IMS wrote in a release.

The 500 Festival will announce new dates, event details and ticket information for rescheduled events once they are finalized.

Indiana releases details on positive cases

The total count for COVID-19 cases stood at 981. Of those cases, 52 percent are women, and most of the cases are people between ages 50 and 59, at 18 percent.

Here's a full breakdown of the age groups making up positive cases

0-19: 1.8 percent
20-29: 11.3 percent
30-39: 15 percent
40-49: 15.6 percent
50-59: 18 percent
60-69: 17.6 percent
70-79: 12.5 percent
80+: 8.3 percent

House passes stimulus bill

The House has approved a $2.2 trillion rescue package, rushing it to President Donald Trump for his signature.

The measure tosses a life preserver to a U.S. economy and health care system left flailing by the coronavirus pandemic.

The House approved the sweeping measure by a voice vote, as strong majorities of both parties lined up behind the most colossal economic relief bill in the nation's history.

It will ship stimulus checks to millions of Americans, bolster unemployment benefits, and offer loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses large and small.

It also will flush billions more to states, local governments and the nation's all but overwhelmed health care system.

Indianapolis Public Library branches staying closed

The Indianapolis Public Library is keeping all libraries closed "until further notice."

Public events and programs are suspended through May 4 in efforts to contain COVID-19.

The Indianapolis Public Library is hoping to help by increasing the amount of available eBooks and eAudiobooks.

Allison Transmission temporary layoffs

Some workers at Allison Transmission learned Friday they will be part of a temporary layoff next week.

The company cites the current business environment.

Employees were told in a letter the layoff would be from March 30 to April 3. The period could be shortened or extended and employees were encouraged to apply for unemployment benefits.

Walgreens offers drive-thru shopping

Walgreens says, that in addition to prescriptions, select products can be purchased via one of their 7,300 drive-thru locations nationwide.

Over 60 products are available through the drive-thru including select cleaning supplies, over-the-counter medicine, grocery items and medical supplies.

“We’re continuing to quickly introduce new and different ways to meet customers’ needs for greater convenience during the COVID-19 pandemic, while also promoting social distancing as one of the most important preventive measures we can take," Lisa Badgley, senior vice president of pharmacy and retail operations, said in a statement.

Customers can confirm product availability at the pharmacy drive-thru window.

Carmel changes trash pickup

The City of Carmel is temporarily changing trash and recycling pickup for better health and safety of the community.

Beginning Friday, City of Carmel Utilities and Republic Services will suspended bulk item and bulky landscape waste pickup. Services that were previously scheduled and paid for will continue as normal.

Carmel's service of providing extra bags for landscape waste may be subject to change. Landscape waste should be put into regular trash bins as much as possible. A different truck may pick up the extra bags that don't fit into regular trash bins.

These changes will be in effect at least through April 7.

ISDH confirms 7 more deaths, 336 new positive cases of coronavirus

The Indiana State Department of Health reports 336 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the state.

As of Friday morning, 981 people have tested positive for coronavirus.

ISDH reports seven more people died, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 24.

The deaths were reported in five counties:

  • Dearborn — 1
  • Hendricks — 2
  • Madison — 1
  • Marion — 2 (total at 8)
  • St. Joseph — 1

2,285 more people were tested for coronavirus on Monday, bringing the overall total to 6,936.

British prime minister tests positive

British Prime Minister Boris Johson has tested positive for COVID-19.

Johnson's office says he was tested after showing mild symptoms.

Downing St. said Johnson is self-isolating and continuing to lead the country's response to COVID-19.

Knightstown police post thanks for mask donations.

Knightstown Police posted a 'thank-you' message on Facebook Friday morning for a donation of homemade masks. Their supply had dwidled down to six.

IMS Museum extends closure

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum has updated its closure status to “until further notice” due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Museum officials targeted a reopening date of March 30 before Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order requiring all non-essential businesses to close until April 7.

The Museum staff is also reviewing its options to shift traditional “Month of May” events to coincide with the rescheduled May races, and will announce rescheduled or canceled events as soon as possible.

Pet Valu changing customer interaction

Pet Valu, classified as an essential retailer, announced temporary changes to its pet store operations to limit physical interactions between associates and customers on Friday.

Pet Valu stores nationwide have implemented the following:

  • Limiting the number of customers that can enter the store at any time to two (for safe social distancing).
  • Call-ahead ordering for customers is now available. Customers can call their store to place their order by phone, and it will be ready for pick-up.
  • Updating hours of operation to 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. to give associates time to re-stock and sanitize stores. Some hours may vary, so customers should call before visiting.
  • Not accepting returns but extending the return policy period. Customers as being asked to keep any items they want to return and save receipts until further notice.
  • All customers are asked to have a list or photos of supplies ready, so that associates can help retrieve products. Customers will be directed to wait at the sanitized checkout counter to complete all in-store transactions. Debit or credit is preferred.
  • Self-serve dog wash stations and grooming salons will close temporarily.
  • All local events are canceled and the annual April charitable event - Pet Appreciation Month and National Adoption Weekend - supporting local animal shelters and rescues, is postponed.
  • In addition to these store updates, home delivery is available through Pet Valu’s sister company, Pet Supermarket.

Southwest Airlines cutting flights Friday

Southwest Airlines will cancel approximately 40 percent of its daily flights starting Friday. It's the latest move by U.S. airlines to respond to the decreased demand in air travel as people stay home and practice social distancing.

American Airlines announced this week it will limit food and drink service in the main cabin based on the length of the flight and destination as a way to cut down on interactions. Passengers are welcome to bring their own food or drink.

House to vote on $2.2 trillion rescue bill

The House of Representatives is set to pass the sprawling, $2.2 trillion measure Friday morning after an extraordinary 96-0 Senate vote late Wednesday. President Donald Trump marveled at the unanimity Thursday and is eager to sign the package into law.

The legislation will pour $1,200 direct payments to individuals and a flood of subsidized loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses facing extinction in an economic shutdown caused as Americans self-isolate by the tens of millions. It dwarfs prior Washington efforts to take on economic crises and natural disasters, such as the 2008 Wall Street bailout and President Barack Obama’s first-year economic recovery act.

But key elements are untested, such as grants to small businesses to keep workers on payroll and complex lending programs to larger businesses. Millions of rebate payments will go to people who have retained their jobs.

Policymakers worry that bureaucracies like the Small Business Administration may become overwhelmed, and conservatives fear that a new, generous unemployment benefit will dissuade jobless people from returning to the workforce. A new $500 billion subsidized lending program for larger businesses is unproven as well.

US now leads world in number of confirmed coronavirus cases

The United States has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. passed both Italy and China Thursday and now has 85,840 cases as of midnight Friday morning. Nearly 1,300 people in the U.S. have died and 713 have recovered.

There are more than 530,000 cases around the world, with 24,000 deaths and 122,000 recovered.​​

Appeals grow to close US national parks

National parks are one of the places you can still go to get away from the anxiety of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Trump administration is sticking with its crowd-friendly waiver of entrance fees at national parks. That's even as managers at some parks try and fail to keep tens of thousands of hikers and tourists a safe distance apart and as communities appeal for shutdowns at some parks that are still open.

Communities around Grand Canyon National Park are among those asking for a shutdown, saying they fear more local spread of the coronavirus. The Interior Department says there's been no decision on that request.

MLB may increase doubleheaders; hold playoffs at neutral sites

An agreement expected to be passed Friday between Major League Baseball and its players includes a "good faith effort" to schedule as many games as possible this year, subject to government rules, travel, player health and economic feasibility, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press.

They also agreed to consider playing past the usual end of the postseason in late October and early November, even if it involves using neutral sites and domes. They would consider a large increase in doubleheaders to get as many games in as they can, to play without fans and to revise the postseason format.

Seven-inning games for doubleheaders have not been given much discussion but also have not been ruled out.

Trump questions if New York needs 40,000 ventilators

During an interview Thursday with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Trump dismissed desperate calls from governors, including New York's Andrew Cuomo, who have pleaded for additional ventilators to help treat patients with COVID-19.

"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators," Trump said, referencing New York's request of the federal government.

New York City alone has more than 23,000 cases and 365 deaths, accounting for more than one-quarter of the U.S. total.

On a conference call with governors Thursday, Trump stressed the need to reopen businesses and to recognize regional differences in the virus’ impact.

"We all have to get smart," Trump said on the call, audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press. "We have to open up our country, I'm sorry."

Trump says that federal officials are developing guidelines to rate counties by risk of virus spread, as he aims to begin to ease nationwide guidelines meant to spread the curb the virus spread.

Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction, the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths.