The Indiana State Department of Health reported 31 additional confirmed deaths over the weekend, bringing the state’s total to 2,500. The state announced more than 48,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 521,000 Hoosiers tested.
Many schools are still drafting their reopening plans for the fall, leaving families waiting for answers to a number of questions. But the president of the Indiana Association of School Nurses (IASN) says, as families wait for the official word from schools, they can – and should – take time to prepare kids for returning to the classroom.
Andrea Tanner is a school nurse at New Albany Floyd County Schools and president of IASN.
She says right now is a good time for children to practice wearing masks – and how to properly take them off – since many schools may require them at some point.
"So that you're not exposing yourself to extra germs in the process of trying to protect yourself from germs," she said.
Tanner said with so many changes, it's also important for parents to share a positive outlook about going back to school with their kids, especially to help schools keep them – and staff – safe.
"The more that children might hear their parents speaking negatively about whatever their schools plan, is the more the student is going to bring that to school and have negative feelings and emotions about returning to schools," she said.
Face masks will be required for all teachers and staff and students in sixth grade and higher when classes resume in Marion County school districts for the new academic year as part of the effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The Marion County Public Health Department released guidance Thursday on cleaning and disinfection, social distancing, face coverings, groups and overall health and safety.
The department also calls for students to be seated three feet to six feet apart in classrooms and a teacher should keep a six foot distance from students. Classes should be held outside when possible.
All 11 Marion County public school districts released a statement in support of following the guidance.
“These guidelines are the minimum standards and therefore, individual school corporations may develop procedures that are greater than, but not lesser than, these guidelines,” the statement said.
Purdue University researchers developed a new COVID-19 test that could be more affordable and time efficient. The test will first be used by health care providers before then offering it to consumers for use at home.
Most COVID-19 tests use nasal swabs that have to be stuck far up the patient's nose and can take days to receive results.
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Purdue University agriculture professor Mohit Verma, along with eight students, adapted a test to check cattle for Bovine Respiratory Disease. The test uses saliva to detect the virus. A portable heating device creates a color change to show a diagnosis in 45 minutes.
Verma says there are advantages to what he and his team developed over current methods.
“So, we’re using these paper-based devices, which means we put all the agents that are needed for this test onto a paper device so that it can be fabricated on a large scale in a reasonable; cost effective manner,” said Verma. “And also, in the end it provides a color change so that way you're able to see it visually whether it’s positive or negative.”
The Environmental Protection Agency plans to end its policy relaxing penalties for some violations during the pandemic. In an EPA memo, the agency said as states reopen, they're reducing the restrictions that make it difficult for industrial companies to comply with environmental laws.
In late March, the EPA said companies that failed to do routine things like monitor their pollution could be given a pass — as long as they keep a record of what happened and why they couldn’t comply with the law because of the outbreak.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management said it would use discretion in enforcement with companies that can’t comply due to COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis.
Face masks will be required in public places in Marion County and when indoors with other people starting July 9. Masks will also be required when outdoors and unable to social distance.
"I know many will not agree with this policy," Mayor Joe Hogsett said. "This is a major change to what normal means in Indianapolis."
Marion County will join the state in its reopening phase 4.5 on July 9. The city has lagged behind the state when it comes to reopening more businesses.
Indianapolis health officials said data has driven decisions concerning opening. Marion County has seen a steady decrease in cases, hospital admissions and the number of deaths.
Vanderburgh County reported 24 new cases Thursday. That makes 76 new cases in the past week.
After a downward trend, Vanderburgh County's COVID-19 infection rate jumped significantly. Thursday brought another new record number of cases, with 24 reported.
Local government and health officials updated the public on the spread of COVID going into the holiday weekend. At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Dr. James Porter with Deaconess showed a graph with the rate of positive coronavirus tests at Deaconess had more than doubled over the past month.
“If that line continues to grow as it is, we will find ourselves in a relatively short amount of time in a position where we need to be extremely concerned about our ability to handle the volume of infections that there are in the community,” Porter said.