Coronavirus: State Releases ICU Bed Numbers, EPA May Waive Some Pollution Penalties
The Indiana State Department of Health announced Monday three new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing Indiana’s total to 35. More than 11,500 have been tested, and as of Monday, 1,786 Hoosiers have tested positive for the virus.
Indiana is preparing for a surge in COVID-19 patients – which state officials believe is coming soon – by allowing unlicensed medical professionals to practice.
The state also detailed specific numbers of ICU beds and ventilators statewide, which officials had refused to do before now.
Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Dr. Jennifer Sullivan says Indiana has 1,940 ICU beds and 1,177 ventilators – with the goal to double that amount.
Industrial companies and others likely won’t be penalized for failing to comply with certain pollution control laws due to the coronavirus outbreak. That’s according to an Environmental Protection Agency announcement last week.
Companies that fail 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.
Eric Schaeffer used to work in EPA enforcement and now leads the group the Environmental Integrity Project. If companies aren’t monitoring, he says, how will they know if they release too much pollution?
“You would never know. These pollutants are invisible. They don’t knock on your door and say hello,” he says.
Personal shoppers for Instacart, a service that sends personal shoppers to pick up groceries for users, are on strike across the country.
They're asking for personal protective equipment and better pay. Some workers in the state are joining the strike, but feel conflicted about leaving vulnerable people without groceries during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Deirdre Hesser in northwest Indiana has shopped for Instacart for two years and decided to strike. She says the company isn’t providing masks, gloves, or hand sanitizer. And while demand is surging, she says the company is forcing workers to fulfill multiple orders for the same pay as just one.
“We are only getting $7 to shop for three different people,” Hesser says. “Instead of Instacart stepping up and being like ‘Hey let’s throw you guys some extra money for these’, they haven’t done anything.”
The ACLU of Indiana wants the state to release some jail and prison inmates at risk from COVID-19.
The Holcomb administration didn’t indicate it would do so.
The ACLU’s petition to the Indiana Supreme Court says prisons and jails are particularly vulnerable to virus outbreaks. And it’s urging the state to – at least temporarily – release jail and prison inmates who are in high-risk categories for death from COVID-19.
Department of Correction Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kristen Dauss would only say the agency is taking all precautions.
The FBI is warning people to watch for scams targeting federal stimulus payments tied to the coronavirus outbreak. Last week, the federal government passed legislation that would provide checks to most Americans for as much as $1,200.
Special Agent Douglas Kasper says to watch for phone calls, emails and texts asking for personal information needed to receive the money. He says these are not real.
“I would just tell people to keep their guard up,” Kasper says. “This is a very tricky time and unfortunately we have a lot of people that like to prey on vulnerable people during this crisis.”
Indianapolis and the Indy Chamber established a fund to help small businesses. The goal is to raise $10 million for food service, retail and other small businesses hit hard by closures related to COVID-19.
The new Rapid Response Loan Fund already raised nearly $3 million, including $1.5 million from the city. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett says businesses need this money now.
"To stay solvent, avoid layoffs and prepare for the economic recovery that is sure to come," says Hogsett.
The announcement came with a call for other community leaders and large area businesses to give to the fund.
Indiana University police broke up multiple off-campus parties this weekend because students were not following proper social distancing guidelines.
Deputy Chief Shannon Bunger says IUPD shut down three separate parties Saturday.
“The houses were very cooperative,” Bunger says. “They said they totally understood and anybody that didn't live at that residence was asked to leave. And they did. There were no issues.”
IUPD did not issue any citations but did send three conduct reports to IU’s dean of students for the three students who hosted the parties.
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.