By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - Hoosiers were ordered to stay at home to battle the COVID-19 pandemic by Gov. Eric Holcomb in an unprecedented statewide address at noon Monday.

"I’ve signed another Executive Order that calls on all Hoosiers?to hunker down, stay at home, unless you’re going out on an essential?errand, or essential work or essential business and operations," Holcomb said. "If you’re watching this at home, I’m grateful. That means, hopefully, you’re social distancing, not spreading the contagious coronavirus COVID-19, for which there’s still no cure. That means, you’re being part of the solution, not the problem. So on behalf of the state, I thank you."
"Other states have recently come out with similar directives. Ohio has stay at home. Kentucky yesterday evening rolled one out. Illinois a few days before them both. We’re all seeing the same trends or waves coming, especially in the dense areas, but it is spreading to all counties. So, stay home, get groceries only when you really need them and buy only what you really need. I’m telling you, the next two weeks are critical – that’s March 24 through April 7 – if we’re going to slow the spread, and we must slow the spread."

The state, in conjunction with the city and all hospital systems in Marion County, has activated a comprehensive emergency operations center to maximize hospital capacity and provide joint coordination. The center is charged with tracking the inventory of all hospital beds, supplies and personnel as the number of COVID-19 patients grows.

"Friday, Marion County had 47 positive cases. On Saturday, there were 82. Today, the number is 110," Holcomb said. "On March 6, Indiana had one positive case. Today, we have 259. Think about this, on March 1, New York had one positive confirmed case of coronavirus. Today, 22 days later, they have more than 15,000! And it’s growing, not slowing. Their hospitals are being overrun. That’s what we’re trying to manage and avoid, which is why we need to slow the spread – now.

"Yes, we started with the central Indiana hospitals, only because that’s where we’ve seen the most community spread," Holcomb said. "This hybrid approach will be replicated across the state to ensure we are the best prepared to address the spread in each quadrant of our state. Because we know COVID-19 is spreading statewide."
 
“I am proud of our hospital systems that are participating in the initial phase of this process, Eskenazi Health, IU Health, Franciscan Health, Community Health Network, and Ascension,” said Holcomb. “Marion County is where we’ve seen the most community spread to date, but we will expand this model to other parts of the state.”

In other action, Holcomb issued three other executive orders:

1. All state government offices will be closed to in-person public activity from Tuesday until at least April 7. This includes the Government Center complex in Indianapolis and other offices throughout the state, including Bureau of Motor Vehicle branches. State employees will work remotely whenever possible and continue to provide core functions online and by phone. All public safety functions will continue. In conjunction with the closures, Gov. Holcomb ordered an automatic extension of all state-issued licenses and will advise law enforcement to refrain from issuing citations for a driver’s license or registration that expires during this emergency.

2. That state and local boards of health and the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) take all available administrative and enforcement actions against establishments that continue to offer in-house dining services, in violation of the governor’s executive order of March 16. Health departments will deliver letters ordering restaurants that continue to provide in-person dining to cease such operations. If they do not comply, fines will be levied. For restaurants with alcohol permits that continue to offer in-person dining, the ATC will issue an order in writing for the establishment to cease such operations. If the activity continues, the ATC will suspend the entity’s liquor license and will consider the non-compliance at the time of permit renewal.

3. Relaxed the sale of carryout alcoholic beverages for dining establishments. This includes establishments that allow for on-premises consumption only and those that are permitted carryout permits dependent on a percentage of on-premises sales.

"To all our healthcare heroes out there pulling double shifts,?everyday, putting their lives on hold so they can tend to others, this is your finest hour, and our entire state’s depending on you like never before," Holcomb said. He also praised faith leaders for livestreaming Sunday services.
Links to all executive orders may be found by clicking here.