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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: Manufacturing Areas Hit Hard By Unemployment, SNAP Grocery Delivery Tested

Justin Hicks
IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 21 additional confirmed deaths Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 1,871. The state announced more than 32,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 235,000 Hoosiers tested.

Indiana Begins Testing SNAP Grocery Delivery Program Next Week

Indiana will begin testing a new program next week that will allow some Hoosiers to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP benefits for grocery delivery.

The state announced the program last month and hoped to launch it in mid-May. It will be a permanent addition to SNAP benefits, often called food stamps, extending beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Jennifer Sullivan says the state has partnered with two retailers for the start of the program.

“We have letters of intent from Amazon and from Walmart,” Sullivan says.

Interactive Map: Where Indiana Students Lack Home Internet, Computer

More than 100,000 children in Indiana don’t have a computer or a computer with internet access at home, according to an analysis of federal data.

The analysis by WFYI News and SAVI, a public data program at The Polis Center at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, offers a look at who among Indiana’s 1.7 million children are impacted by lack of access.

The 2018 U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey asked families if anyone living in the home had a computer or other similar device and if they had access to the internet.

Matt Nowlin, a Polis Center research analyst, says the survey shows 10 percent of all Indiana children are without a computer or broadband access. The rate is higher for minority students: 21 percent of black children and 15 percent of Latinx children are without access.

Unemployment Hit Manufacturing Areas Hardest In April

More than 1 in 4 workers experienced unemployment last month in several Indiana counties. Data released Tuesday from the Department of Workforce Development shows which areas of the state were hit hardest.

Manufacturing-dependent counties saw the highest unemployment rates. Howard County, which includes Kokomo, had 34 percent unemployment. Elkhart, LaGrange and Noble counties were also heavily affected by layoffs and each had about 29 percent unemployment rates.

The new numbers shatter unemployment records set in each of those areas during the Great Recession.

Indianapolis Announces Additional Reopening Plans

Indianapolis city officials announced plans Wednesday to reopen more places in Marion County. Starting Friday May 29, Indianapolis will begin parts of Stage 3 of Indiana’s “Back On Track” plan. 

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett says the vigilance of residents and businesses has made a difference. 

"I’m also confident that our commitment to a data-driven health policy has saved lives,” says Hogsett.

Religious services may be held at 50 percent capacity. Restaurants, which were limited to outdoor seating, will be allowed to open indoor seating as well, at 50 percent capacity.

Personal service businesses including hair salons and tattoo parlors may open by appointment only. Retail stores and shopping malls may increase capacity to 75 percent.

Indianapolis is also providing free masks to people who are unable to buy or get access to masks as well as older adults and people with health concerns.

The masks will be adult size and fit most people, including children. Delivery of masks should be expected within 30 days of requests. The city will also work with community partners to provide pickup locations for distribution.

Personnel At NSA Crane Producing Hand Sanitizer For Defense Employees

Personnel at southern Indiana’s Naval Support Activity (NSA) Crane are producing hand sanitizer for Department of Defense employees.

A Crane official says they’ve spent about $20,000 on new equipment and reconfigured an existing facility to produce the sanitizer.

“One of the ways we identified we could continue to support warfighters in the short term was to set up a new line to produce hand sanitizer,” says Jason Gay, commodity manager for Navy ordnance at Crane Army.

Ball State Students Return For Classes In August, But Go Online-Only After Thanksgiving

Ball State University students will return to campus for classes in August. But the university says it will send students home for Thanksgiving and continue online-only instruction through the end of the fall semester

Classes will begin Aug. 24 on the Muncie campus. Ball State University Provost Susana Rivera-Mills says fall break will be canceled and classes will be held on Labor Day.

“All of this together would allow us to achieve our goal to provide 13 weeks of on-campus instruction before Thanksgiving break, and then continue with online education to the end of fall semester,” she says.

Rivera-Mills says Ball State is planning more online classes than usual for high-risk faculty and students who may not want to return to campus. Evening and weekend classes are possible to help with distancing in buildings. Officials are also planning for classes that may have to be partially quarantined if someone gets sick.

No Fall, Spring Break, Among IU's Changes To 2020-21 School Year

Indiana University announced its plans for the 2020-2021 school year, including a mix of online-only and in-person classes throughout both fall and spring semesters and eliminating fall and spring breaks.

A statement from the university said during the fall semester (Aug. 24-Dec.20), classes may meet either in person or online until Nov. 20. And beginning Nov. 30, classes will go virtual for the remainder of the fall semester.

IU spokesman Chuck Carney says the university hasn’t worked out specifics on what classes will be in-person and what classes will be virtual.

“We’ll be scheduling for what will work best for the schedules, will work best for classes being offered, and also the type of class that it is,” he says.

He says staff and students can expect more information on what classes will be in-person in the next several weeks.

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

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