Coronavirus: Holcomb Policy Unclear On Abortion, Unemployment Claims Double
The Indiana State Department of Health announced 14 new deaths from the novel coronavirus on Tuesday morning, bringing the state’s total to 49. As of Tuesday, 2,159 Hoosiers have been confirmed positive for the virus with more than 13,373 tests reported to the health department.
Planned Parenthood says it will continue to provide abortion services in Indiana under Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order banning elective surgical procedures.
It’s unclear whether Holcomb wants to halt abortions.
Holcomb’s order requires all health care facilities to postpone or cancel elective, non-urgent surgical or invasive procedures during the COVID-19 crisis, unless doing so would risk the patient’s health, as determined by their doctor.
Asked directly whether that means abortions shouldn’t be performed, Holcomb repeated the words of his executive order.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky said medical experts deem abortion services “essential” and it will continue providing that care. Planned Parenthood adds it, too, is conserving resources to help the COVID response.
More than 120,000 Hoosiers filed for unemployment insurance last week, according to the Department of Workforce Development. The numbersreleased Tuesday represent the dramatic effect social distancing measures are having on the state’s workforce.
The amount of initial claims more than doubled from the previous week’s already high numbers. It means that more than 3.5 percent of Indiana’s entire labor force applied for unemployment benefits last week.
Compared to the same week last year, several manufacturing-dependent counties saw unemployment claims increase more than 10,000 percent.
A new federal law gives states the ability to open up their unemployment insurance benefits to self-employed workers. But it could take weeks before Indiana receives guidance on how to actually implement that change.
The CARES Actmakes self-employed workers and independent contractors eligible for pandemic unemployment assistance. They could get money to compensate for full or partial unemployment or an inability to work due to COVID-19.
But states can’t offer the benefits until they get specific information from the federal Department of Labor.
Hospitals, State Officials Prepare For COVID-19 Surge
The state is preparing for a surge in COVID-19 patients, and hospitals are working to prepare. Like many Indianapolis hospitals, Eskenazi Health shifted staff, ordered more machines and supplies and is moving patients to telehealth.
Eskenazi Chief of Internal Medicine Graham Carlos says they’ve been in contact with and are monitoring what’s happening in other cities that got hit by the pandemic earlier.
"That helped get us in gear to order more supplies such as IV pumps and tubing, ordering more ventilators, ordering more PPE early," says Carlos.
In St. Joseph County, local officials are trying to repurpose non-hospital facilities to care for less critical patients.
Hotels, dorms, and vacant health care facilities could soon be turned into makeshift hospitals.
Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox says this is to make room in area hospitals in case of a surge in patients with COVID-19
“We have to have space for all the usual patients in St. Joseph County that are having babies and heart attacks and get admitted to the hospital for other reasons,” Fox says. “We also need to be prepared to take care of patients with the COVID-19 infection.”
Fox says the hospitals in St. Joseph County have room for more patients as of right now, since they’ve stopped doing elective procedures.
He says preparing other facilities to handle patients is a precautionary measure.
Indiana will receive millions of dollars in education funding under the federal CARES Act – the stimulus package to help mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19. And while state officials and finance experts in the state say it's appreciated, it will likely have to be just the start.
Indiana will receive education funding from the stimulus package two ways: a roughly $60 million grant for higher education, K-12 and early childhood education to be distributed by the governor and other state leaders. Schools will also receive about $215 million, dispersed based on low-income student enrollment, or Title I status.
But state officials cautioned school leaders about the limited amount of additional dollars during a webinar Tuesday.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick said during Tuesday's webinar the department is looking at several questions about the potential future impact on school revenue, including things like tax collections and school referendum measures scheduled for the upcoming primary election.
Purdue President Mitch Daniels announced the creation of a “Safe Campus Task Force” Tuesday, charged with rethinking how the school might function as COVID-19 continues its spread.
“This fall, as always, there will be a flu season,” Daniels said in a statement. “But this fall, the COVID-19 strain will be a part of that season. Most faculty, students, and staff will not have acquired a natural immunity to it, and there will not yet be a vaccine.”
A group of Purdue faculty and staff will “propose every change they can conceive” to how campus life could be restructured to protect people from illness.
“This fall semester, and perhaps every one that follows it, will be different because of the COVID-19 experience,” Daniels said in a statement.
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.