INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – 13 Investigates is answering viewer questions about all things related to COVID-19. When possible, we respond directly by e-mail and post some of those answers every day at wthr.com. If you’d like to send us a tip or a question, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are police going to enforce Indiana’s stay-at-home order?
Governor Holcomb’s statewide order that permits essential travel only took effect today. Many WTHR viewers have written to ask who is going to be enforcing the order. The answer: nobody.
Our 13 investigates inbox has been full of questions about the Stay at home order that went into effect today. Right now, only essential travel is allowed… and viewers are asking can they go out to the store, can they take their kids to a medical appointment, can they visit relatives to take them food… and will they get stopped by police if they are out and about? Here’s the answer from Indiana State Police.
"Police officers in Indiana are not stopping cars simply to check if they’re on essential travel or not. Our goal is to not have to enforce this law," said Indiana State Police Sgt. John Perrine. "We're really relying on people to follow these orders for the good of our community [and] for the good our people -- not out of fear of getting a ticket."
Perinne said officers will still be patrolling and visible in the community and will still be writing citations for excessive speed and other violations. But he said writing tickets or making arrests related to violating the stay-at-home order would occur "only under extraordinary circumstances."
"I can assure you first responders and police officers across the state are very understanding right now. We all have a lot of unanswered questions and we’re going to get through this together," he told WTHR.
Is it OK to camp at an Indiana state park during the stay-at-home order?
We are supposed to be self-isolating, but can that isolation take place in nature at a state park?
Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources is keeping state parks open during the stay-at-home period, so the answer is YES. Campgrounds are open, but you’ll need to make reservations if you want to pitch your tent. If you had reservations for one of the state’s inns or cabins, you’ll have to reschedule because those are closed. Shelters, playgrounds, shooting ranges and nature centers are shut down, too. Trails are open. So are bathrooms, and the DNR says those are cleaned and sanitized regularly.
Right now, state park admission is free with the usual entrance fees waived.
If you have a reservation and want to cancel or reschedule due to COVID-19, the DNR will waive fees for cancellations or transfers or issue refunds for campsites held through April 30, 2020.
While the DNR encourages Hoosiers to use its state parks during the stay-at-home order, it also reminds visitors to practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Is ibuprofen dangerous if you are experiencing coronavirus symptoms?
This question has been getting a lot of attention after the French Minster of Health tweeted about avoiding anti-inflammatory medications, which can suppress fever and the body's ability to fight viruses. Even the World Health Organization suggested avoiding ibuprofen.
A day later, WHO changed course and said it "does NOT recommend against the use of ibuprofen."
Since COVID-19 is relatively new, there is little research on this topic. For now, it appears you do not have to avoid ibuprofen, although other over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers are available and have not raised concerns.
Can coronavirus be passed from mothers to their babies through breast milk?
It's probably too soon to know for sure whether COVID-19 can be transferred from mother to baby through breast milk, but early observations should be reassuring to nursing moms.
"What we know is that breastfeeding is protective of the baby and we would encourage if mom is symptomatic or positive for COVID-19 that she would continue breastfeeding her baby while taking extra precautions," explained Lisa Lahey, an Indianapolis-based board certified lactation consultant.
The World Health Organization and other international organizations such as UNICEF agree, encouraging mothers who may have COVID-19 symptoms to continue nursing.
"Considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breast milk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, the mother can continue breastfeeding, while applying all the necessary precautions," UNICEF advises. "For symptomatic mothers well enough to breastfeed, this includes wearing a mask when near a child (including during feeding), washing hands before and after contact with the child (including feeding), and cleaning/disinfecting contaminated surfaces — as should be done in all cases where anyone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 interacts with others, including children."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also says the coronavirus has not yet been detected in breast milk, although it offers more guarded advice for mothers who test positive for COVID-19. Its website says "Whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and healthcare providers."
Children whose mothers stop breastfeeding while ill risk losing the immune benefits of breast milk which, according to Lahey, contains antibodies that help infants fight off viruses. "Continued breastfeeding is better than the alternative of formula feeding that offers no immune benefit," she told 13 Investigates.
Initial small-scale studies, like one that recently appeared in the medical journal The Lancet, also suggest pregnant mothers who have COVID-19 do not pass the virus to their babies.
My employer is not listed as an essential business under the governor's stay-at-home order but is not shutting down. What can I do?
The governor's stay-at-home order states only essential businesses should remain open for the next two weeks, but several workers contacted 13 Investigates to report their non-essential companies are staying open.
"I am writing because I work for a company in Noblesville that is claiming we cannot stay at home because we are an essential business. We build fish tanks... yes, fish tanks. They claim because we build fish tanks for Walmart and they are an essential business that we also are. This is an outrage," one worker explained.
"I feel like I’m in a position to have to choose between my health and my job," explained another worker from Rushville. Both asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal by their employers.
Employees in those situations have few options because, for the most part, state agencies are not enforcing the order requiring businesses to close.
The governor's office says workers who believe their employers are not honoring the state’s stay-at-home order should just talk to their bosses. And the governor's list of essential industries is very lengthy, providing many businesses that may not seem essential — like a company that manufacturers fish tanks — plenty of loopholes to claim they are.
Therefore, if a company wants to stretch the definition of "essential," there's really nothing to stop that from happening — at least not until the state considers putting more enforcement teeth behind the governor's order.
What impact does the stay-at-home order have on divorced parents juggling child visitation?
After learning of the stay-at-home order, Tabitha and other divorced parents are wondering "what parents are supposed to do for parenting time so they don't get into trouble with the courts?"
13 Investigates spoke to a family law attorney who said divorced parents should keep doing exactly what they've been doing before the stay at home order.
Melissa Avery, a family law attorney with Indianapolis law firm Broyles Kight & Ricafort, says co-parenting should not change due to the governor’s order.
"It is pretty clear that there is an exception to the travel ban for parents who are providing parenting time under a current court order,” she told 13 Investigates. "As a judge recently said, if you can go out and pick up a pizza, you should be able to go out and transport your children for parenting time."
Avery advises parents to still maintain social distancing guidelines while transporting their kids, and she says individuals who think the stay-at-home order gives them an excuse to ignore a court-ordered custody plan with a former spouse might be in for a rude awakening.
"I've heard several judges say they’re going to come down hard on folks who are unfairly using the situation to their benefit when they do get in front of the judge in the future, and that means things like ordering makeup time and paying attorney fees," Avery said.
Can your pets get coronavirus?
This question has been on a lot of pet owners' minds – especially following news reports of infected pooches in Hong Kong.
Health officials there warned people last weekend not to kiss their pets because a dog tested positive for COVID-19.
The dog’s owner had the virus and, according to media, so did the dog, even though the pet showed no symptoms of illness.
It was the second report of a dog having COVID-19 in Hong Kong, but doctors there say there's really no evidence that pets can be a source of the virus or that they can get sick from it.
Here in the United States, experts agree.
The American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Kennel Club and infectious disease experts all say there's no evidence right now that pets or farm animals become ill with COVID-19 or that they spread it to people.
"Neither cats nor dogs can get this form of COVID-19, this form of coronavirus that is affecting humans today," said Jerry Klein, chief veterinary officer of the American Kennel Club.
It's worth pointing out, the virus is still relatively new and there's not much research on pet-to-human (or human-to-pet) transmission.
So some veterinarians suggest that if you do get COVID-19, you should use extra caution by limiting contact with your pet. You can try asking someone else to take care of walking and feeding. Or wear a facemask — and don't kiss your pet for a while.
Again, when it comes to coronavirus, we know you have questions. We can get answers. Send us your tips and questions to 13investigates at wthr.com. we'll answer as many of them as we possibly can.