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Get the latest on the global Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic as it impacts Northwest Indiana, the state, country, and globe. Bookmark this page as there will be several updates each day from Lakeshore Public Radio, IPB News, NPR, and the Associated Press.

Coronavirus: State Clarifies Reopening For Bars, Lower Demand For Energy Due To Virus

Lauren Chapman
IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 31 additional confirmed deaths on Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 1,295. The state announced more than 22,500 total confirmed cases, with nearly 125,000 Hoosiers tested.

State Officials Clarify When And How Bars Can Reopen In Indiana

State officials say bar owners across Indiana have to use “common sense,” in part, to decide whether they’re allowed to reopen soon.

The state guidelines allow restaurants and “bars that serve food” to reopen on Monday in most of the state, at 50 percent capacity.

Meanwhile, bars and nightclubs are barred from reopening for several more weeks.

The governor's general counsel Joe Heerens says the state’s Alcohol and Tobacco Commission can provide further guidance to bar owners.

Unemployment Application Numbers Fall, But Agency Still Struggles With Phone Calls

Just under 44,000 Hoosiers filed initial claims for unemployment benefits last week. 

While that number declines, the Department of Workforce Development is still struggling to handle high call volumes. 

READ MORE: Governor Holcomb Outlines How – And Why – The State Will Reopen

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Starting Friday, DWD Commissioner Fred Payne says a new program will supply an extra 13 weeks of unemployment for those who have maxed out benefits. Also, self-employed workers who had unemployment applications approved should start receiving payments. 

As of now, more than 600,000 Hoosiers have applied for unemployment insurance benefits since mid-March. 

Demand For Energy Is Down Due To COVID-19, Utilities Rely More On Renewables

Because some businesses have shut down due to COVID-19, states in the central part of the country are using less energy. That likely means cleaner air from utilities. 

J.T. Smith is the director of operations planning at the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO. It helps utilities deliver electricity across central U.S. states and maintains reliability on the grid.

He says because of “Stay-At-Home” orders, the region’s weekly energy use is ten percent less than usual this time of year. Smith says large energy users like retail businesses and industrial companies have either shut down or reduced hours.

Smith says due to lower demand, coal plants may choose to run for fewer hours. That means less air pollution.

All IN: Indiana’s Plan To Reopen

Thursday All IN talked about the recently announced road map to reopen Indiana.

They talked to Statehouse reporter Brandon Smith about what philosophy seems to be guiding Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration, and learned about the details behind the plan. And public health experts told them what impact they think the plan could have, and commented on growing concerns that the state is moving too fast.

Popular Research Model Adds More Than 5,000 Indiana COVID-19 Deaths To Original Prediction

A research model used by the White House has increased predicted COVID-19 deaths in Indiana, raising the number by more than 5,000.

The model was created by the Institute for Health Measurements and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Its initial projection, published April 29, was 1,000 people.

The new projections anticipate more than 6,000 Hoosiers will die of the virus between May 4 and August. 

The percentage increase in predicted deaths is the second-highest in the country.

Indiana’s State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box says there are reasons Hoosiers will be affected more than other states by the virus.

“Our overall health metrics as a state for things like smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity are higher than many other states," she says. "And those are the risk factors for severe illness from COVID-19.” 

St. Joseph County Jail In South Bend On Lockdown Due To COVID-19

The St. Joseph County Jail in South Bend is on lockdown after a new inmate tested positive for COVID-19. This is the jail’s first confirmed COVID-19 case.

The inmate was transferred to the county jail on Monday by court order from Westville Correctional Facility, where there’s a COVID-19 outbreak.

The inmate was not eligible for release because he was charged with aggravated battery, possession of a handgun and probation violation.

Sheriff Bill Redman says the jail’s population has decreased by 200 inmates since mid-March to help lower the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak, but releasing this inmate was not an option.

“As we’ve said all along, we were not going to jeopardize the safety of the community by releasing individuals that are violent in nature,” he says.

Logansport Tyson Foods Plant Reopens Thursday

The Tyson Foods meatpacking plant in Logansport resumed limited operations Thursday.

Two weeks ago, Tyson temporarily closed the plant after employees there tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials at the only hospital in the county — Logansport Memorial — say more than 1,000 of Cass County’s 1,469 COVID-19 cases can be traced to the local plant.

According to spokesperson Hli Yang, Tyson has put in place “enhanced safety precautions,” including:

  • A mobile health clinic to provide testing and daily screenings.
  • Providing every employee with protective facial coverings and requiring their use.
  • Using infrared thermometers to check employees’ temperatures as they come to work.
  • Wellness checks to screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Using “social distance monitors” to ensure employees adhere to safety protocols and social distancing requirements.

Purdue Trustees Approve First Steps For Opening Campus Next School Year

Purdue University trustees Thursday approved some initial steps suggested by the school’s Safe Campus Task Force to allow students, faculty, and staff to return to campus safely next school year in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic -- including plans for continued remote work and learning.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels said at the trustees’ meeting the task force submitted over 100 ideas for consideration. Six were chosen as a “first installment.”

“Everyone should expect many, many more, as fast as we can vet them, and determine if they are practical to accomplish,” Daniels said. “It weighs on us constantly that we need every day if we want to do this right by the end of August.”

Students will come to campus in August and remain there until Thanksgiving, with no intervening breaks; coursework for the rest of the semester will be done remotely. The number of on-campus administrative staff members could be reduced by a third, with the continued use of remote work. Infrastructure for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing will be established, and quarantine spaces will be set aside for students. A 90-day supply of “critical equipment and supplies” for preventing COVID-19 spread will be maintained. And all students, faculty, and staff must receive an influenza vaccination.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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