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Indiana Coronavirus Updates for Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday's latest update on the coronavirus pandemic.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR/TEGNA/AP) — Thursday's latest update on the coronavirus pandemic.

Mexico, U.S. discussing travel restrictions

Mexico's Foreign Relations Minister says he has held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about travel restrictions at the border "that won't paralyze economic activity, and leave the border open to commerce and workers."

Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday he would give more details tomorrow.

Pompeo wrote in his Twitter account that he and Ebrard “have been working closely on travel restrictions that balance protecting our citizens from further transmission of #COVID19. Together, we can reduce public health risks and prioritize essential cross-border commerce and trade.”

California governor issues statewide order for people to stay at home

California governor issues statewide order for people to stay at home amid virus outbreak after the Los Angeles County announces near-lockdown. All residents are urged to stay home except for essential needs.

Two players for Los Angeles Lakers test positive

The Los Angeles Lakers announced two players tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Both players are currently asymptomatic, in quarantine and under the care of the team’s physician," a statement posted on Twitter said. "All players and members of the Lakers staff are being asked to continue to observe self-quarantine and shelter at home guidelines, closely monitor their health, consult with their personal physicians and maintain constant communication with the team."

The announcement was made after four Brooklyn Nets players testing positive for COVID-19. Lakers players were exposed to the other players during a game on March 10.

The total number of known coronavirus cases within the NBA doubled to 14 on Thursday

Trump calls off June G-7 meeting at Camp David

President Donald Trump has called off the June meeting of G-7 nations at Camp David due to the coronavirus pandemic. The world leaders are expected to meet via videoconference.

Pennsylvania orders all non-life-sustaining businesses to close

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf says Thursday that all non-life-sustaining businesses must close, a directive which will be enforced.

Wolf is tightening his directives to businesses to shut down, issuing a dire warning and saying that all “non-life-sustaining” businesses in Pennsylvania must close their physical locations by 8 p.m. to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Enforcement actions against businesses that do not close their physical locations will begin Saturday, Wolf said in a statement. Under his order, more than 150 types of businesses will have to close their physical locations. He said his order would be enforced by state troopers, local officials, the state Health and Agriculture departments and the Liquor Control Board.

Allowed to stay open are gas stations, grocery stores, beer distributors, drugstores and building materials stores.

“I had hoped for voluntary compliance so our public safety official could focus on assisting with the crisis," Wolf said in a video statement. "Unfortunately we have not seen full compliance. We have no time to lose.”

Ivy Tech closing buildings

Ivy Tech Community College will close all of its buildings on Friday, March 20 at 5 p.m.

The college will continue virtual classes, advising, testing financial aid and business office operations.

Carmel Market District

Beginning Monday, March 23, Carmel Market District will open its doors at 6 a.m., Monday through Wednesday for vulnerable customers.

That includes those who are age 60 and older, differently abled or immune-compromised.

At 7 a.m., the food retailer will return to regular operations.

U.S. Department of State issues Global Level 4 Health Advisory: Do Not Travel

The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19.

In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States are asked to arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.

The Department of state said many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice.

If someone chooses to travel internationally, the Department of State said travel plans may be severely disrupted, and some may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.

Italy's death toll surpasses China

Italy has become the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths, surpassing China by registering 3,405 dead.

Italy reached the gruesome milestone on the same day the epicenter of the pandemic, Wuhan, China, recorded no new infections. Overall, China on Thursday counted 3,249 dead, 156 fewer than Italy, according to the Johns Hopkins University virus map.

Both Italy's death toll and its new infections shot up again, adding 427 more dead and 5,322 more infections. Overall, Italy has recorded 41,035 infections, more than half of the world’s positive cases.

Italy’s health care system has been overwhelmed by the virus, and on Thursday a visiting Chinese Red Cross team criticized the failure of Italians to fully quarantine and take the national lockdown seriously.

Governor Holcomb to sign order keeping schools closed until May 1

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state will be taking more extreme measures to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Holcomb announced Thursday he's signed executive orders that will extend the closure of schools, provide economic relief and protections for individuals and businesses, and expand unemployment insurance benefits for those impacted by job loss.

All K-12 public schools will remain closed until at least May 1. Nonpublic schools are also ordered to close. All state-mandated testing will be canceled for the academic year.

Surgeon General urges healthy individuals to donate blood

Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams says healthy individuals should consider donating blood, saying "social distancing doesn't have to mean social disengagement."

"Give blood today," he said at the Thursday White House coronavirus task force press conference. "You'll feel good about it. You'll be helping your community during this crisis, and you might even save a life."

Trump: FDA will fast track anti-viral treatments for coronavirus patients

President Trump says the FDA will be fast-tracking anti-viral treatments for coronavirus.

Trump and FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn described several approaches under testing, such as chloroquine, a drug long used to treat malaria; remdesivir, an experimental antiviral that's being tried in at least five separate experiments, and possibly antibodies culled from the blood of COVID-19 patients after they recover. But no new and imminent treatment was announced.

Chloroquine is widely available now and could be used off-label, but Hahn said officials want a formal study to get good information on safety and effectiveness.

Mnuchin: Family of 4 could get $3K under virus relief plan

The first federal checks to families could be $3,000 for a family of four under the White House proposal to unleash $1 trillion for the coronavirus outbreak. That's according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

He said Thursday the checks would be direct deposited into people’s accounts. The payments would be $1,000 per adult and $500 per child, Mnuchin told Fox Business Network.

Congress is racing to complete the Trump administration's $1 trillion plan to stabilize a national economy. Late Wednesday, Trump signed into law a $100 billion-plus bill to boost testing for the virus and guarantee paid sick leave for millions of workers hit by it.

Children's Museum extends closure

The Children's Museum has extended its closure through April 10. It originally announced it'd be closed through March 28.

The museum is sharing educational videos and experiments on its Facebook page while it remains closed to the public.

ISDH reports 17 new cases

The Indiana State Department of Health has reported 17 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 56. Marion County had eight of those new cases. It currently has the most cases in the state at 19.

Howard County saw three new cases. St. Joseph County reported two new cases. Lake, Owen, Tippecanoe and Wayne each had one new case.

The Tippecanoe County Health Department said the patient diagnosed there recently traveled to Paris. The patient is currently receiving treatment at IU Arnett Hospital.

TCHD indicated the patient will no longer be isolated after meeting the following criteria:

  • At least three days have passed since recovery — no fever without use of fever-reducing medication
  • Improvement in cough and shortness of breath
  • At least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared

No new deaths were reported Thursday, so Indiana's death toll for the new coronavirus remains at two.

Testing in the state nearly doubled. As of Thursday morning, ISDH reported 380 people had been tested, noting that number only accounts for tests reported to ISDH and numbers may not be comprehensive.

Unemployment claims jump by 70,000

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits surged last week by 70,000, indicating that the impact of the coronavirus was starting to be felt in rising layoffs in the job market.

The Labor Department reported Thursday that applications for benefits, a good proxy for layoffs, rose by 70,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000 last week.

NFL offering free Game Pass subscriptions

The NFL announced it is now offering free subscriptions to its Game Pass streaming service, which gives users access to a surplus of football-related content, including every NFL game since 2009.

Access to Game Pass will be made available free of charge until May 31 to fans within the U.S., and starting on Thursday until July 31 to fans outside the U.S. and Canada. To sign up, users just need to create an account at NFL.com/GamePass.

National Parks will be free during coronavirus outbreak

The National Park Service announced Wednesday that entrance fees will be waived at all national park sites that remain open.

“This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible National Parks,” Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt said in a news release. ”Our vast public lands that are overseen by the Department offer special outdoor experiences to recreate, embrace nature and implement some social distancing.”

Visitors should anticipate shuttered restrooms, restaurants and other facilities at national parks, and plan accordingly. Some seasonal closures are also still in place.

Even in nature, people should remember to follow recommended public health practices including frequent hand washing and social distancing. Anyone who feels sick should stay home.

Old Navy closes stores

Old Navy has announced it will close all stores starting Thursday in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Returns for items bought between Jan. 1 and March 31 have been extended to July 1.

The closures affect all Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic, Athleta and Hill City stores. Customers can still order items online. There will be no in-store pickup options while stores are closed.

Italy on track to surpass China's virus deaths

Italy is on track to surpass China in the number of coronavirus-related deaths, a gruesome milestone that is being blamed on the country's large elderly population, its overwhelmed health care system and the delayed imposition of complete lockdown measures across the epicenter, Lombardy.

Italy registered 2,978 deaths on Wednesday after another 475 people died. Given Italy has been averaging more than 350 deaths since March 15, it is likely to overtake China’s 3,249 dead when Thursday’s figures are released.

U.N. and Italian health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy’s high toll, key among them its large elderly population, who are particularly susceptible to developing serious complications from the virus. Italy has the world’s second oldest population after Japan’s and the vast majority of Italy’s dead — 87 percent — were over age 70.

In addition, virtually all of Italy’s dead had one or more underlying medical condition, such as diabetes, cancer, hypertension or renal insufficiency.

Walmart, Needlers latest stores to announce hours reserved for 'at-risk' shoppers

Walmart is the latest major retailer to announce adjusted store hours and reserve shopping time for senior. Stores will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8:30 p.m. each day. Stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours.

Each Tuesday, an hour before stores open, customers aged 60 or older will be able to shop starting Tuesday, March 24, through April 28.

In Indiana, Needler's Market announced special hours until 8 a.m. for vulnerable shoppers.

Wuhan reports no new virus cases, offering hope to world

Last month, Wuhan was overwhelmed with thousands of new cases of coronavirus each day. But in a dramatic development that underscores just how much the pandemic has pivoted toward Europe and the United States, Chinese authorities said Wuhan and its surrounding province had no new cases to report.

The news offered a rare glimmer of hope as the world battles the virus, and perhaps a lesson in the strict measures needed to halt its spread.

It came as President Donald Trump likened the fight to “a war” and invoked emergency powers that allow him to compel manufacturers to deal with the pandemic.

HSE Schools provide free outdoor Wi-Fi to students

Hamilton Southeastern Schools is providing free access to Wi-Fi as the schools closed Monday due to COVID-19 concerns.

Students can use the free Wi-Fi in the parking lots at three locations:

  • Sand Creek Elementary and Sand Creek Intermediate (11550 East 131st Street)
  • New Britton Elementary School (8660 East 131st Street)
  • Geist Elementary School (14051 East 104th Street)

All HSE Schools were closed Monday, March 16 through Thursday, April 2. Spring break begins Friday, April 3, and school is set to resume Monday, April 13.

HSE Schools will use a combination of eLearning and waiver days granted by Gov. Eric Holcomb leading up to spring break.

Movie theaters request stimulus from Congress due to virus

Faced with a lengthy shutdown due the coronavirus pandemic, movie theaters are requesting relief from the U.S. government.

The National Association of Theater Owners, the trade group that represents most of the industry's cinemas, said Wednesday that it's asking for immediate relief measures for its chains and its 150,000 employees. The theaters are requesting loan guarantees for exhibitors, tax benefits for employees and funds to compensate for lost ticket sales and concessions.

NATO said the movie theater industry is “uniquely vulnerable” to the crisis.

COVID-19-related disaster loans available to Hoosier businesses, non-profits

On Wednesday, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced low-interest federal disaster loans for small businesses who have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19.

An online application is available here or by calling SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Indiana and several counties in adjoining states.

Disaster Loans of up to $2 million can help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent with long-term repayment options to keep payments affordable.

The deadline to apply is December 18, 2020.