Coronavirus: Holcomb Closes Schools Until May 1, Indiana Companies Work On Testing

Mar 20, 2020

El Arado, a Mexican restaurant in Indianapolis's Fountain Square neighborhood, has shifted entirely to carry-out orders under Mayor Joe Hogsett's disaster declaration.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced new measures to help halt the spread of COVID-19 in the state, including closing all public and non-public schools. And two Indiana companies are helping make testing more efficient. 

There are more than 50 cases of confirmed COVID-19 in the state. 

All Public, Non-Public Schools Closed Until May 1

Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered all Indiana schools – public and non-public – to remain closed until at least May 1 while all standardized tests are canceled for this school year.

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State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick says the state-required school closures could be extended through the end of the school year. 

The governor previously signed an executive order allowing schools to waive up to 20 instruction days, but officials say more days may be needed in districts not using e-learning during the closures.

Districts Help Feed Kids Out Of School

Both MSD Wayne Township and Northwest Allen County Schools are helping feed students in need during COVID-19 closures. 

In Wayne Township, the district set up “grab and go” meal pick-ups at nine schools. Thousands of meals will be distributed that way. But the district is also using its buses to deliver meals to kids at their regular bus stop. Of the 16,000 students who attend Wayne Township schools, 70 percent qualify for free and reduced meals, that’s nearly 12,000 children.

Northwest Allen County Schools is offering both breakfast and lunch to students who might otherwise not get these meals during the day when school is closed.

The meals can be picked up at one of the two pick-up locations, Huntertown Elementary and Carroll High School, or can be delivered if transportation isn’t available.

Holcomb Takes Additional Measures 

The governor’s announcement is far-reaching and adds flexibility around everything from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to mental health care to insurance coverage. Among the other steps being taken – Indiana is delaying state income tax filing and payments until July 15. Small businesses are now eligible to apply for federal disaster loans. And Holcomb says the state is hoping to broaden its unemployment laws, including allowing those who file late to still get benefits. He says one year ago this week, 3,100 people filed for unemployment while 22,583 Hoosiers have filed the past three days.

The governor is also banning any utility company from shutting off service during the health crisis and stopping any foreclosure or eviction proceedings.

Still up in the air is the fate of Indiana’s May 5 primary. Holcomb says he’s talking with election officials and state party leaders.

“They all know that I personally support postponing the primary election,” Holcomb says.

The Tippecanoe County Board of Elections is recommending residents at higher risk for a COVID-19 infection vote by mail in the May 5 primary. 

Two Companies In Indiana Work To Improve Testing

The number of people being tested for the coronavirus has been limited by national shortages in tests and days-long waits for results. Two companies in Indiana are working to increase public testing.

After six weeks in development, Roche Diagnostics is shipping about 400,000 tests for COVID-19 each week after receiving approval from the Food and Drug Administration last Friday. The company’s North American headquarters in Indianapolis has been managing the logistics of sending the new test kits to labs across the country.

To help increase testing, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and the Indiana State Department of Health are partnering to speed up processing of COVID-19 tests.

Lilly will take and process samples from Indiana hospitals, nursing homes and emergency rooms.

U.S. Sen. Todd Young Outlines Federal Measures

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) says he supports a Treasury Department proposal to send direct money to Americans and economic support to small businesses. 

President Donald Trump has already signed two federal emergency relief packages for the novel coronavirus – one for ramping up testing resources and a second one to cover the cost of testing and increase in unemployment.

Young says this third package, a proposal from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, would send $1,000 to every American adult and provide $500 for children. Though those details may change dramatically over the next few days.

The Treasury Department proposal would also mark $300 billion for small business loans for up to six weeks of payroll. 

Vanderburgh, Vigo Counties Report First COVID-19 Cases

Vanderburgh and Vigo counties each have a positive case of COVID-19. Both Deaconess & Union Hospitals reported that Thursday afternoon.

The Vanderburgh County resident was diagnosed by first contacting Deaconess Clinic through a video streaming session before being sent for curbside testing where the test confirmed a positive result.

Wayne County also reported its first case of the novel coronavirus, which was reflected in the Indiana State Department of Health’s update Thursday morning. And Tippecanoe County reported its second case.

Cities, Counties Make Disaster Declarations

St. Joseph and Delaware counties, along with the city of Carmel made disaster declarations Thursday and restricted non-essential travel. 

Some examples of essential travel are going to work, doctor visits, going to the grocery store, and picking up food from restaurants.

Marion and Vanderburgh counties made disaster declarations earlier this week.

Health Care Facilities Open Emergency Childcare Centers For Employees

With schools closed and daycares possibly next on the list to close amid the COVID-19 pandemic, finding childcare can be difficult. Some healthcare workers are finding alternatives for their children while fighting the virus on the frontline.

Some states have started closing daycares, while making exceptions for parents who are nurses, doctors, first responders, and other critical staff.

Beacon Health, near South Bend, turned its health and fitness centers into free emergency childcare centers for its employees. The YMCA of Michiana is also offering emergency childcare for health professionals.

Contact Lauren at 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.