INDIANAPOLIS — Thursday's latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic.
IU fraternities cease and desist orders
Indiana University continues cracking down on Greek organizations that are putting students at risk of spreading COVID-19.
IU served three fraternities with cease and desist orders Wednesday for "violating public health regulations and restrictions," according to an IU spokesperson.
Sigma Phi Epsilon, Lambda Sigma Upsilon and Omega Phi Beta are currently under investigation for the violations.
Boone County issues update on COVID-19 response
The Boone County Health Department and the Boone County Board of Health have issued a joint statement, saying they will comply with Gov. Holcomb's latest guidance to fight the spread of COVID-19, but acknowledged they don't believe large events are in the public's best interest.
"As per Governor Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-43, all public events expecting 500 or more people in attendance must submit a COVID Health and Safety Plan to their local health department," a Facebook post says. "However, we are asking the public to understand that we do not believe such events are in the best interest of public health because COVID-19 can still be found in the community," the statement says.
The statement went on to say they would work with event organizers to make them as safe as possible, but they do not recommend or endorse those events.
The Indiana State Department of Health reports 1,171 new cases of coronavirus. That brings the state total to 121,176 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.
The state also reported 13 more deaths from COVID-19 for a total of 3,418.
US layoffs remain high as 837,000 seek jobless aid
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week to a still-high 837,000, evidence that the economy is struggling to sustain a tentative recovery that began this summer.
The Labor Department's report, released Thursday, suggests that companies are still cutting a historically high number of jobs, though the weekly numbers have become less reliable as states have increased their efforts to root out fraudulent claims and process earlier applications that have piled up.
Measures of the U.S. economy have been sending mixed signals. Consumer confidence jumped in September, fueled by optimism among higher-income households, though it remains below pre-pandemic levels. And a measure of pending home sales rose in August to a record high, lifted by ultra-low mortgage rates.
Yet some real-time measures indicate that growth has lost momentum with the viral pandemic still squeezing many employers, especially small retailers, hotels, restaurants and airlines, nearly seven months after it paralyzed the economy. An economic index compiled by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York grew in September at a weaker pace than during the summer months.
In its report on jobless claims Thursday, the Labor Department said the number of people who are continuing to receive benefits fell to 11.8 million, extending a steady decline since spring. That suggests that many of the unemployed are being recalled to their old jobs.
State, CDC issue guidelines for safe Halloween
During Wednesday’s coronavirus briefing, Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said she doesn’t want to be the “witch” who ruins Halloween, but she doesn’t want COVID-19 to ruin it either.
She gave several recommendations for Halloween activities this year based on what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week.
Health officials stressed if you have symptoms or were in close contact with someone who does, don’t participate in Halloween activities. The state also recommends if you are at a high risk for COVID-19, or you know someone who is, stay away from crowds this Halloween.
The recommendations were categorized from low to high-risk activities.
Indiana and the CDC said low-risk activities include anything where you are staying indoors or around your home. That includes carving or decorating pumpkins, doing a scavenger hunt outside or indoor trick-or-treating with family. Any virtual event would also be considered low risk.
Moderate-risk activities could include, a “one-way” trick-or-treat system where neighbors prepare wrapped items for kids to pick up from the end of their driveways or yards. If you are preparing a bag, make sure to wash your hands first.
The state also recommends doing an outdoor costume parade or party while social distancing. They also suggest going to a pumpkin patch or doing an outdoor movie night.
The state health commissioner said high-risk activities are the more traditional Halloween events including door-to-door trick-or-treating. Trunk-or-treat, where cars hand out candy in a parking lot, is also considered high risk. Any type of large Halloween party or haunted house is not recommended.
This year, families are encouraged to be creative and incorporate a mask. The CDC says not to use a costume mask as a replacement for a cloth mask unless there are two or more layers of breathable fabric that covers the mouth and nose and doesn’t leave gaps around your face.
To be safe, it is recommended you use a cloth mask. The CDC warns not to double up on a cloth mask and costume mask because it will make it hard to breathe.
If you are brave enough to go to a haunted house where you will likely scream, greater distancing is advised, and you should remain more than six feet apart. You should also wear a mask the whole time.
Latest US, world numbers
There have been more than 7.23 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 206,000 deaths and 2.84 million people recovered.
Worldwide, there have been 33.97 million confirmed cases with more than 1.01 million deaths and 23.64 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.
Pelosi, Mnuchin discuss COVID-19 rescue package ahead of Thursday's Senate vote
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held an “extensive conversation" Wednesday on a huge COVID-19 rescue package, meeting face to face for the first time in more than a month in a last-ditch effort to seal a tentative accord on an additional round of coronavirus relief.
After a 90-minute meeting in the Capitol, Pelosi issued a statement saying the two would continue to talk. “We found areas where we are seeking further clarification," she said.
“We made a lot of progress over the last few days. We still don’t have an agreement," Mnuchin said after meeting with Pelosi and briefing top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell.
After initially saying the Democratic-controlled chamber would vote Wednesday night on a $2.2 trillion relief bill — a debate that would have been partisan and possibly unproductive — Pelosi made an about-face and postponed the vote until Thursday in hopes of giving the talks with Mnuchin greater breathing room.
At issue is a long-delayed package that would extend another round of $1,200 direct stimulus payments, restore bonus pandemic jobless benefits, speed aid to schools and extend assistance to airlines, restaurants and other struggling businesses. A landmark $2 trillion relief bill in March passed with sweeping support and is credited with helping the economy through the spring and summer, but worries are mounting that the recovery may sputter without additional relief.
US extends ban on cruise ships through October
Federal health officials are extending the U.S. ban on cruise ships through the end of October amid reports of recent outbreaks of the new coronavirus on ships overseas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that it was extending a no-sail order on cruise ships with the capacity to carry at least 250 passengers.
The CDC said surveillance data from March 1 through Sept. 29 shows at least 3,689 COVID-19 or COVID-like illnesses on cruise ships in U.S. waters, in addition to at least 41 reported deaths. It said these numbers are likely an underestimate.
It cited recent outbreaks as evidence that cruise ship travel continues to transmit and amplify the spread of the novel coronavirus, even when ships sail at reduced passenger capacities. It said it would likely spread the infection in the U.S. communities if operations were to resume prematurely.