INDIANAPOLIS — Thursday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.
HSE to have e-learning day Friday
Hamilton Southeastern Schools will have an e-learning day due to a large number of staff absences that can't be covered by substitute teachers.
The district sent a letter to parents Thursday evening, announcing that students preschool through 12th grade would learn from home on Friday, Nov. 13. The district said there weren't enough substitute teachers available to cover the absences across 22 schools in the district.
School administrators also noted that not all of the staff absences were related to positive COVID-19 tests. Some of them, the district said, were related to contact tracing, COVID-related symptoms, or personal reasons that were not COVID-related.
Staffing is expected to return to a sufficient level by Monday, when the district starts operating under a new plan, which includes virtual learning for students in Grades 7-12 and a hybrid model for fifth and sixth graders. Students in preschool through fourth grade will attend school in person.
The district did not say how many staff members had called off for Friday, but shared a link for anyone who was interested in applying to become a substitute teacher.
Perry Township going virtual Nov. 30
Perry Township Schools will move to remote learning Nov. 30. That means all students in kindergarten through 12th grade will receive instruction online.
Washington Township going virtual Nov. 18
The MSD of Washington Township announced it would move to virtual instruction only for all schools and students PK-12 effective Wednesday, Nov. 18.
Wayne Township going virtual Nov. 16
All K-12 students in Wayne Township schools will go back to virtual learning beginning Monday, Nov. 16. The move comes after Mayor Joe Hogsett updated COVID-19 restrictions in Marion County and required students to return to e-learning by Nov. 30.
IPS, Lawrence school to return to e-learning Nov. 23
After Mayor Hogsett announced all Marion County schools must return to e-learning by Nov. 30, Indianapolis Public Schools announced they'd make the transition a week early.
The district's statement:
"Under the guidance of the Marion County Public Health Department, Indianapolis Public Schools will return to 100% remote learning for all grades (Pre-K–12), starting Monday, November 23 through Monday, January 18. We will provide more detailed information to our families and staff within the next 24 hours. As always, the health and safety of the IPS family is our top priority."
Lawrence Township had this message on its website: "Effective Monday, November 23, at the direction of the Marion County Public Health Department, the MSD of Lawrence Township will be shifting to K-12 virtual instruction."
ISDH daily update
The Indiana State Department of Health reported yet another record-breaking day of positive COVID-19 cases. There were 6,654 positive cases and 51 more deaths reported Thursday. That brings the totals to 230,965 cases and 4,563 in the state.
There have been a total of 3,370,098 tests administered since the start of the pandemic. Thursday, ISDH said a historical load of negative labs added 2,735 tested individuals and 5,688 total tests administered to the count.
The positivity rate for all tests increased to 10.5 percent between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5. For unique individuals, that rate increased to 20.4 percent.
Hospitalizations continue to rise, with Wednesday setting another record of 2,569 Hoosiers being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals. Only 22.3 percent of ICU beds are available in the state. Of the ICU beds in use, COVID-19 patients make up 31 percent.
Marion County schools going back to virtual; new restrictions on businesses and gatherings
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine provided an update on Marion County's latest COVID-19 data and restrictions on various activities.
On Wednesday, Marion County recorded more than 700 new COVID-19 cases.
Hogsett has recommended scaling back Thanksgiving gatherings due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Indiana.
Hogsett said the positivity rate in Marion County is above the 10 percent threshold and now requires additional mitigation.
The following changes go into effect Monday, Nov. 16:
- Indoor capacity will be reduced to 25 percent for bars and entertainment venues, although outdoor capacity will continue to be allowed up to 100 percent.
- Restaurant capacity will remain at 50 percent indoors with outdoor capacity at 100 percent.
- Self-service buffets and salad bars are banned.
- Karaoke is resbanned.
- Maximum party size at tables, restaurants and bars is reduced to six people.
- The midnight closure requirement that previously applied to bars, restaurants and clubs will now be extended to all non-essential hospitality and entertainment businesses, including live entertainment venues.
- Special or seasonal events, such as concerts, movie screenings, fairs, festivals, conventions, weddings, wedding receptions or sporting events, are now limited to 50 people. They may include more than 50 people only if the event has an approved safety plan from the Marion County Public Health Department. This is a reduction from the current 250-person limit. All other social gatherings of more than 25 people are not allowed.
- Religious centers are limited to 75 percent capacity.
- Cultural venues, music venues, museums, tourism sites and other non-essential tourism venues are reduced to 25 percent capacity.
- Gyms and fitness centers, as well as private clubs and fraternal organizations, are reduced to 25 percent indoor capacity.
- Marion County will now require a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours for a visit to any long-term care facility.
Marion County schools ordered to go virtual
Dr. Caine provided an update on the changes in Marion County schools and extracurricular activities:
- All Marion County schools must return to virtual instruction no later than Monday, Nov. 30. This includes all grades from K-12.
- Extracurricular and sporting events can only include participants, parents, guardians and support personnel.
- The order ends Jan. 15, 2021.
Marion County high schools are currently at 18 percent positivity rate, middle schools are at 14 percent and elementary schools are at 8 percent.
Riley Hospital changes holiday toy delivery
The front lobby at Riley Hospital for Children gets very busy as families drop off toy donations ahead of the holidays. But due to COVID-19, Riley officials are asking that those donations be made online instead of in person.
Purchasing through the Riley Cheer Guild Amazon Wish List will have the toys delivered directly to the Riley Hospital toy room. This process helps keep Riley patients, families, staff and donors safe during these unprecedented times.
If you do have to make an in-person donation, it must be scheduled in advance and will not be accepted in the lobby. Please call (317) 944-8705 for assistance.
Toys are very much still needed. They are used every day year-round to help kids get through their procedures, treatments and long stays at Riley Hospital.
Riley's top five toys on its wish list are:
- Baby dolls
- Cars and trucks
- Craft kits
- Play-Doh sets
- Infant toys
709K seek unemployment aid
The number of people seeking U.S. unemployment benefits fell last week to 709,000, a still-high level but the lowest figure since March and a sign that the job market might be slowly healing.
The figures coincide with a sharp resurgence in confirmed viral infections to an all-time high above 120,000 a day. Cases are rising in 49 states, and deaths are increasing in 39. The nation has now recorded 240,000 virus-related deaths and 10.3 million confirmed infections.
Last week’s new applications for unemployment benefits was down from 757,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said Thursday. The still-elevated figure shows that eight months after the pandemic flattened the economy, many employers are still slashing jobs.
The number of people who are continuing to receive traditional unemployment benefits fell to 6.8 million, the government said, from 7.2 million. That suggests that more Americans are finding jobs and no longer receiving unemployment aid. But it also indicates that many jobless people have used up their state unemployment aid — which typically expires after six months — and have transitioned to a federal extended benefits program that lasts 13 more weeks.
The viral outbreak threatens to upend the improvement in the job market in recent months. The unemployment rate plunged a full percentage point in October to 6.9% while employers added a solid 600,000 new jobs.
Even so, weekly applications for jobless aid remain at historically high levels. The applications likely include some people who lost jobs weeks ago but who have had to wait for states to process their claims. Some of them might not have filed for benefits until last week even though they were laid off earlier.
Costco updates mask policy, says those with medical conditions must now wear face shield
Starting Monday, Nov. 16, Costco will require all members, guests and employees to wear a face mask or face shield at all locations.
Only children under 2 years old are exempt from the policy change. Costco originally said those with a medical condition were exempt as well, but that is no longer the case.
In a statement made by president and CEO Craig Jelinek on the Costco Wholesale website, he says if someone has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, they must wear a face shield to enter the store.
Entry to Costco will only be granted to those wearing a face mask or shield.
"The updated policy may seem inconvenient to some, however we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience," Jelinek said in the statement. "Our goal is to continue to provide a safe shopping environment for our members and guests, and to provide a safe work environment for our employees. Thank you for your cooperation and support."
The Costco website says for members who are unable to wear a mask or face covering, delivery options are available online.
US reports most single-day COVID-19 deaths since May
The United States had a total of 1,984 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, the highest single-day death total since May, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
The last time COVID-19 deaths were this high on a single day was six months ago on May 6, with 2,349 deaths. The day with the highest record of virus deaths is April 15, with 2,609 -- according to Johns Hopkins count.
This news comes as communities across the country experience a spike in COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations. The new wave appears bigger and more widespread than the surges that happened in the spring and summer — and threatens to be worse.
Already, more than 241,000 people have died across the country since the virus hit the U.S. at the beginning of the year. The United States also leads the world with more than 10.4 million confirmed positive COVID-19 cases.
“The virus is spreading in a largely uncontrolled fashion across the vast majority of the country,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious-disease expert at Vanderbilt University.
But there is also some good news.
Doctors now better know how to treat severe cases, meaning higher percentages of the COVID-19 patients who go into intensive care units are coming out alive. Patients have the benefit of new treatments, namely remdesivir, the steroid dexamethasone and an antibody drug that won emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. Also, testing is more widely available.
In addition, a vaccine appears to be on the horizon, perhaps around the end of the year, with Pfizer this week reporting early results showing that its experimental shots are a surprising 90% effective at preventing the disease.
Latest US, world numbers
There have been more than 10.4 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of 3:30 a.m. ET Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 241,000 deaths and 3.99 million people recovered.
Worldwide, there have been more than 52.16 million confirmed cases with more than 1.28 million deaths and 33.95 million recoveries.
The real number of people infected by the virus around the world is believed to be much higher — perhaps 10 times higher in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — given testing limitations and the many mild cases that have gone unreported or unrecognized.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness like pneumonia, or death.
Center Grove middle, high school students moving to blended schedule
Center Grove students in grades 6-12 are moving to a blended schedule starting on Thursday, Nov. 12.
Elementary school students are not affected by the changes.
Last week, most Johnson County school districts moved to e-learning or hybrid schedules for students, but Center Grove decided to stick with in-person learning.