Coronavirus: Small Businesses Work To Reopen, Holcomb Says Churches Are 'Control Group'

May 5, 2020

Shopping malls, like Greenwood Park Mall, opened Monday at 50 percent capacity as part of Gov. Eric Holcomb's "Back On Track" plan.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 19 additional confirmed deaths on Monday, bringing the state’s total to 1,151. The state announced more than 20,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 113,000 Hoosiers tested.

Holcomb Says Indiana Churches Are 'Test Or Control Group' Under Reopening

Gov. Eric Holcomb says places of worship will serve as a “test or control group” under his reopening plan.

Holcomb’s guidelines still impose restrictions on businesses and recreation areas, keeping some closed and mandating capacity limits on others.

But religious institutions can hold worship services starting Friday without limitation. Holcomb says he thought they would be the “most responsible” group to let fully reopen.

“But I did say that we needed those church leaders to be responsible for their congregations,” Holcomb says.

Still Unclear How Businesses Will Enforce Reopening Restrictions

Governor Holcomb didn’t shed any more light Monday on how businesses can be reasonably expected to enforce new COVID-19 restrictions as they’re allowed to reopen.

Holcomb’s loosened regulations were unveiled last week. Many retail businesses can now reopen in most of the state – but only at 50 percent capacity. Holcomb general counsel Joe Heerens says they must also produce a safety plan in the next week, which includes an employee health screening process and enhanced cleaning.

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

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“Providing hand sanitizer and other disinfectants as well as complying with social distancing requirements and separation measures and wearing face coverings,” Heerens says.

Small Businesses Work To Reopen, Some Change Business Model

Holcomb’s five-stage plan to get the state up and running again took its second step Monday with some businesses able to reopen their doors for the first time in more than a month. However, not all businesses are rushing to reopen.

Excluding a few counties around the state, retail and travel are allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity for now. Manufacturing and construction are able to fully open, but must practice social distancing.

La Scala restaurant sits closed on Main Street in Lafayette after owners Kirsten Serrano and her husband made the decision to shut down during the pandemic.

Holcomb’s plan allows restaurants to start letting customers in – with limited capacity – as early as May 11.

Serrano says she’s not reopening the dining room. Instead she shifted her business model to a subscription home delivery service for the local community over the next few weeks and months.

“It’s much harder I believe for a restaurant to go through stops and starts and stops and starts. So, I would like to not do that,” says Serrano. “And this is a model that should be able to keep us open if we get enough support for it regardless of quarantine.”

East Central Small Businesses Deciding How To Reopen And Also Remain Safe

Many retail businesses opened Monday as part of the state’s reopening plan. Some are advertising regular hours and sanitizing practices to keep shoppers safe. But other small businesses are taking a more cautious approach.

For Open Gate Design & Décor in Anderson, it’s business as usual… with hand sanitizer, it says on Facebook.

“Hey, it’s Eric with Open Gate Design! And we are excited because we finally get to open our doors just for you to come join us. Hey, we’re trying to be safe – we’ve got hand sanitizer just to keep you safe.”

Flea King, a flea market in Marion, is also opening for regular hours at 50 percent capacity, as the state’s plans allow. But owners say it’s requiring everyone wear a face mask and children younger than 16 are not allowed.

Health Officials Urge Michiana Businesses To Take Precautions When Reopening

With Governor Holcomb’s “Stay-At-Home” order lifted, many Michiana businesses are preparing to reopen. The St. Joseph County Health Department is urging local employers to take precautions.

The county health department is concerned about how employers will access testing as workers return and the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the workplace increases.

Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox says right now, there is “reasonable” access to COVID-19 testing. The county is testing between 1,400 and 2,200 people per week and with the addition of a state testing site, that number will go up.

5 Things To Know About Indiana Special Education During The Pandemic

Special education students are disproportionately challenged by school building closures during the coronavirus pandemic. Their needs include speech therapy, behavior therapy and assistance with learning disabilities, and they rely on one-on-one time with educators. More than 170,000 Indiana students, or 15 percent, receive some type of special education accommodation.

Kim Dodson, executive director of The ARC of Indiana, says families' anxiety right now is very high. Parents and caregivers fear their children will fall behind in academics or ability while learning remotely. She says families should “take a deep breath” and focus on the health and safety of their child.

“So if you look into your child's eyes and you know that they are being fed, that they are healthy, they're not outside catching the virus or anything like that. That's a good place to start. Is it good that they are not making educational progress right now? Or that they might regress? No, it's not. But at the end of the day, those are things that we are going to be able to make strides towards in the future,” Dodson says.

IUPUI Study To Analyze Impact Of COVID-19 Executive Orders Across U.S.

Researchers at IUPUI's School of Public and Environmental Affairs are developing a database to better understand how states are reacting to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana’s centralized approach appears to be pretty middle-of-the-road. 

The study is designed to analyze the two main types of executive orders across the country: restrictions and suspensions. Restrictions are “Stay-At-Home” or “shelter-in-place” orders, and suspensions are postponing elections or extending tax deadlines. 

Different states are using different approaches. Peter Federman, one of the two faculty researchers, says some, including Indiana, lean more toward a centralized approach. 

"Many of the orders are coming through the governor’s office, are coming out of the governor’s mouth in some instances, on TV. And that’s not the case in every state," he says.

Monroe County Seeks 2-Week Decline In Coronavirus Numbers Before Reopening

As much of Indiana is set to begin the process of opening in-person businesses on Monday, some counties are taking a more cautious approach.

One of them is Monroe County, where officials say reopening will not begin until May 15.

According to health administrator Penny Caudill, that’s because Monroe County isn’t seeing a clear decline in a number of important COVID-19 metrics.

Those include reducing influenza-like and COVID-like illness, a reduction in the number of COVID-19 cases for two weeks, a reduction in the percentage of total positive tests, and an increase in the volume of testing.

Officials also want to make sure hospitals and healthcare providers can provide care without being in crisis mode, and they want to see a more robust testing program. Finally, they want more enhanced contact tracing in place.

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.