INDIANA TO GET 'MASSIVE' MARCH MADNESS EXPOSURE: Media access to this year’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament is going to be as tightly guarded as a papal visit (Schoettle, IBJ). But nationwide exposure from the three-week event—from Selection Sunday on March 14 to the championship April 5—is still predicted to bring an enormous payoff to Indiana, which will host all 67 games, and to Indianapolis specifically, which will host 55 of them. Indianapolis (plus Bloomington and West Lafayette in the initial rounds) will be the scene for more than 200 hours of national TV coverage via CBS and Turner Sports. Normally, 14 host regions share that exposure. “Massive—that’s the first word that comes to my mind when I think about the exposure this event will bring to the city of Indianapolis,” said sports branding and analytics consultant Eric Smallwood. “It will be like no other.”

 

LIMITED NUMBER OF FANS FOR NCAA TOURNAMENT: A limited number of fans will be allowed to attend all rounds of next month’s NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Indiana (AP). The governing body said Friday venue capacity will be capped at 25% to allow for social distancing. That figure will include all participants, essential staff and family of team members. All must be masked. As one of the selected venues, Indiana University's Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall will host up to 500 fans during the tournament. A news release from the university said a limited number of seats will also be available for vaccinated healthcare workers and first responders from Monroe County. The NCAA says the decision came in conjunction with state and local health officials to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.

 

BRAY SCALES BACK PANDEMIC RESTRICTIONS IN SENATE: The Indiana Senate is scaling back some of the COVID-19 precautions it implemented for this year’s legislative session (Indiana Public Media). Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) said the improving COVID-19 numbers across the state prompted the change. The Senate has staggered its staff throughout session – half at home, half in the office – to avoid losing lots of people to quarantine if an outbreak occurred. Now, all staff will work in-person the whole week. And Bray said people wishing to testify in Senate committees will now do so in the same room as senators. Lawmakers and people testifying had been in separate rooms – connected via video stream – up to now. “We’re not going to fill the room with people observing or in line or in the queue to testify," Bray said. "Just – person comes in, testifies, goes back out. They’ll be able to watch from the hallway, still.”

 

HUSTON CALLS CONFRONTATION 'DISAPPOINTING': The Indiana Black Legislative Caucus wants racism and implicit bias training for House members after Thursday’s session turned ugly (Berman, WIBC). Caucus chair Robin Shackleford recommended bias training for House members last summer. She argues those Republicans who booed and shouted down two Black legislators who brought up segregation have shown why it’s needed. The caucus says House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) needs to “rectify the behavior of his fellow legislators before the situation escalates further.” Huston calls Thursday’s exchanges “disappointing” and says he’ll continue conversations with the caucus. He isn’t ruling out disciplinary action, but says he’s still trying to establish everything that happened. The speaker was on a bathroom break when hecklers first cut off Indianapolis Rep. Greg Porter (D), though he was back at the rostrum when Gary Rep. Vernon Smith was interrupted by boos, followed by a walkout by some Republicans who took umbrage at Smith’s accounts of his experiences with racism. And one shouting match took place outside the chamber, where colleagues reportedly had to separate two lawmakers.

 

BILL SUPPLANTING LOCAL HOUSING GUIDELINES SIDELINED: Legislative leaders have sidelined a proposed ban on adopting local housing design standards in Indiana cities and counties (AP). The move came after ethics experts questioned whether Republican Rep. Doug Miller of Elkhart should take the lead in pushing the bill, given that he owns a homebuilding company and represents Indiana in the National Association of Homebuilders. Miller said his proposal, which was endorsed by a House committee of which he is chairman, aimed to increase affordable housing options and restrain local government overreach. Miller argued that simply moving the garage door or changing exterior house materials can add $15,000 to the cost of a house. Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said Thursday that he pulled the bill from further consideration by the full House before Monday’s deadline for action. “There was not support in our (Republican) caucus for that,” Huston said.

 

COLUMBUS OFFICIALS WARN OF FALSE SENSE OF COVID SECURITY: Local health officials are concerned about pandemic fatigue and a “false sense of security” among residents as hospitalizations and infection rates start to fall from the sky-high levels seen during the winter surge because more cases of the U.K. variant of the virus are being detected in Indiana (East, Columbus Republic). A total of 163 Bartholomew County residents tested positive for COVID-19 from Feb. 12 to 18, down from 178 the week prior, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. By comparison, 587 Bartholomew County residents tested positive for COVID-19 the week ending Nov. 22 and 390 the week ending Jan. 10. Metrics from the COVID-19 Community Task Force also show a declining weekly per-capita positivity rate in the county falling to 25.4 per 100,000 residents on Wednesday, down from 106.4 per 100,000 on Nov. 20 and 60.7 on Jan. 13. Additionally, there were 11 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 at Columbus Regional Health this past Wednesday, down from 59 in early December, the hospital said. Dr. Slade Crowder, CRH vice president of physician enterprise operations, said he is concerned about “COVID fatigue” and the “logical but incorrect assumption that we’re out of the woods.”

 

STORMS STRESSING AGING U.S. INFRASTRUCTURE: Even as Texas struggled to restore electricity and water over the past week, signs of the risks posed by increasingly extreme weather to America’s aging infrastructure were cropping up across the country (New York Times). The week’s continent-spanning winter storms triggered blackouts in Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and several other states. One-third of oil production in the nation was halted. Drinking-water systems in Ohio were knocked offline. Road networks nationwide were paralyzed and vaccination efforts in 20 states were disrupted. The crisis carries a profound warning. As climate change brings more frequent and intense storms, floods, heat waves, wildfires and other extreme events, it is placing growing stress on the foundations of the country’s economy: Its network of roads and railways, drinking-water systems, power plants, electrical grids, industrial waste sites and even homes. Failures in just one sector can set off a domino effect of breakdowns in hard-to-predict ways. Much of this infrastructure was built decades ago, under the expectation that the environment around it would remain stable, or at least fluctuate within predictable bounds. Now climate change is upending that assumption.

 

PENCE DECLINES CPAC INVITE: Former Vice President Mike Pence has declined an invitation to attend this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, Fox News has learned. Pence was invited to speak at the annual event but turned it down, according to a source familiar with the event planning. Former President Donald Trump will be in attendance, however, as he is scheduled to make his first major public appearance since leaving office. Two sources told Fox News that Trump is planning to address the conference on Sunday, Feb. 28. The event will kick off in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday. Members of Pence's team had said that Pence harbored some "bitterness" toward Trump after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol building. Former Pence chief of staff Marc Short, however, told Fox News on Friday that Pence and Trump still speak.

 

INDY, MIDWEST CITIES ECONOMIES RESILIENT IN PANDEMIC: Midwest cities such as Columbus, Ohio, have had some of the most resilient job markets during the pandemic (Wall Street Journal). Indianapolis, Minneapolis and Cincinnati joined Columbus as having among the lowest unemployment rates of 51 major metro areas at the end of last year, on the unadjusted basis the Labor Department uses to rank cities. That placed the heartland cities well ahead of tech and financial powerhouses such as San Francisco and Boston. Economists said Columbus and other Midwest cities that are faring relatively well benefited from a diverse economy that includes a larger-than-average concentration of white-collar workers who could shift to remote work during the pandemic. They also have less reliance on tourism compared with other large metro areas, relatively low population densities, and their overall Covid-19 caseloads haven’t been as severe as some hardest-hit parts of the country. “In the case of this particular crisis, the stars are aligned for these places,” said Sarah Crane, an economist at Moody’s Analytics. “They basically have low exposure to the most damaged parts of the economy.”

 

HAYNES ALLOYS USED IN NASA MARS ROVER: For at least the next few centuries, a little piece of Kokomo will be laying quietly on the red surface of Mars, located about 128 million miles from the city (Gerber, Kokomo Tribune). That’s because a special alloy made at Haynes International was used on the Sky Crane thrusters that lowered NASA’s Perseverance rover onto the planet on Thursday to search for ancient signs of life. Keith Kruger, senior marketing manager at Haynes, said after the crane dropped off the rover, it sped off and crashed, on purpose, somewhere on Mars. And that means the thrusters made from Haynes 230 alloy, that was melted at its plant on West Defenbaugh Street, will rest comfortably on the Red Planet far into the future. “It’s not going to rust there,” Kruger said. “It’s such an environmentally resistant material that it will hold up for centuries.”

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: The Texas disaster is proving to be a cautionary example of what happens to aging infrastructure during the extreme weather events that scientists attribute to climate change. - Brian A. Howey

 

Sunday Talk

 

FAUCI CALLS 500K DEATH TOLL 'DEVASTATING': Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Sunday that despite positive trends in coronavirus infections, it is "devastating" to see the U.S. approaching 500,000 deaths from it. “[I]f you look at what has gone on now, and we're still not out of it, a half a million deaths. It's terrible. It is historic. We haven't seen anything even close to this for well over a hundred years since the 1918 pandemic of influenza,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “It's something that is stunning when you look at the numbers, almost unbelievable, but it's true," he added. "This is a devastating pandemic, and it's historic. People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now.”

 

PSAKI SIDESTEPS QUESTIONS ON CUOMO: White House press secretary Jen Psaki avoided answering questions on Sunday on whether President Biden still believes New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) represents the “gold standard” when it comes to leadership during the coronavirus pandemic. On ABC’s “This Week,” host Jonathan Karl played a tape from last April of Biden saying Cuomo was “sort of the gold standard” as New York battled with skyrocketing cases in the early months of the pandemic, adding that the governor "has done one hell of a job." Cuomo's office's handling of coronavirus outbreaks in the state's nursing homes is now the subject of a federal investigation by the FBI and the U.S attorney in Brooklyn, who is probing unidentified members of Cuomo's administration.

 

TEXAS CONGRESSMAN ON FEDERAL DISASTER AID: A Texas congressman said Sunday that homeowners in his state who are facing shockingly high electric payments and damage to their homes resulting from recent winter weather would be eligible for aid from the federal government. Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) thanked President Biden for approving an emergency disaster declaration for the state, and pointed to that declaration when asked by host Dana Bash about reports of Texans facing massive utility bills following days of blackouts and water outages across Texas. "Yeah, that's the current plan, is that the federal assistance will help homeowners, both with the repair...and with the utilities' cost," McCaul told CNN.

 

GATES ON EMISSION GOALS: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said on Sunday that he considers efforts to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 “completely unrealistic.” Host Chris Wallace asked Gates on "Fox News Sunday" how he responded to critics on his left who say the solutions he advocates are insufficient when compared to reaching zero emissions over the next decade. “It’s completely unrealistic to think we could eliminate emissions by 2030,” Gates replied, adding that “not seeing that this problem is hard will be part of the difficulty of getting engaged in it.”

 

General Assembly

 

SUPPORT FOR LOCAL VIRTUAL MEETINGS BILL: Indiana legislators are supporting proposals that would permanently allow members of local government boards to participate virtually in public meetings (AP). Similar bills approved by the House and Senate would permit boards to adopt policies allowing members to vote virtually as long as they can be seen and heard. State and local government boards have generally been allowed to hold all-virtual meetings since Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an exemption to the current state law requiring in-person meetings last spring as part of the COVID-19 public health measures that are ongoing. The proposals would require at least half of the board members to attend public meetings in person and members participate virtually in no more than half of the meetings except for limited reasons such as illness or military service. The House-passed version would require meetings with virtual participation to also allow the public to observe the meeting online starting in July, while the Senate version would delay that requirement until January 2023.

 

PANDEMIC SHIFTS EDUCATION POLICY FOCUS: Education policy experts in Indiana say public schools had to adapt quickly to teach in a pandemic last year, and because of this, policy focus has shifted (Bouthier, Indiana Public Media). In recent years, teacher pay and school safety issues were at the forefront, but Indiana School Board Association, executive director Terry Spradlin said we’re seeing less of that this session, and more focus on helping schools make up for learning loss and financial strains created by moving to virtual and hybrid classrooms. “Last year ISBA tracked nearly 40 bills that were specific to school safety," Spradlin said. "To my knowledge there are no school safety bills moving presently.” WFYI’s education editor Eric Weddle said topics like teacher pay aren’t going away, and anticipates teacher pay will likely come up and budget bills are debated this year. “The report that came out from the governor’s office estimated $600 million per year was needed to raise teacher pay and in this budget proposal from the governor and then the house budget, we don’t really see that in there.”

 

TEACHERS UNION DUES BILL ADVANCES TO HOUSE: The Indiana House will soon weigh in on whether teachers need extra steps to authorize union dues taken from their paychecks, but it comes after the bill passed the Senate in an unusual way (Hicks, Indiana Public Media). In order to pass a chamber, a bill needs what’s called a “constitutional majority,” meaning a “yes” vote from more than half of all members. When the bill regarding teachers unions was voted on in the Senate Tuesday, it failed to achieve that with just 24 “yes” votes. But since the “no” votes were also shy of a majority, it was brought back on Thursday. Several senators changed their position and it passed 27-22. Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and other statewide issues. Jennifer Smith-Margraf, Indiana State Teachers Association vice president, said her union is being targeted by lawmakers, and will continue to fight the legislation in the House. “Educators are watching this bill, among many others, to see what the legislature thinks of teachers,” she said. “Right now this vote shows that they do not respect us.”

 

REP. KING CITES TOUGH VOTE ON VOUCHERS: Indiana Rep. Joanna King called voting for new school legislation, which would open school vouchers up to more people and set up education savings accounts for eligible students, was one of the hardest she’s made as a state lawmaker (Ambrose, Goshen News). “It has been the hardest vote I’ve had to make at the Statehouse,” King said during a Third House meeting Friday. King joined State Sen. Blake Doriot in speaking during the event, via a Zoom gathering, sponsored by the Goshen Chamber of Commerce. The two local state representatives addressed updates on legislation they’re working on while the Indiana General Assembly prepares to begin the second half of this year’s session. During the online video call, questions came in about House Bill 1005, which would expand eligibility for the state’s school voucher program and create the new Education Scholarship Account program. The plan, reportedly estimated at $144 million, would amount to more than one-third of the $378 million spending increase House Republicans have proposed for education over the next two years in their budget.

 

Congress

 

BRAUN CONTINUES SPEAKING OUT AGAINST $15 MINIMUM WAGE: Speaking to a collection of business owners and local elected officials Thursday, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said he opposed the $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package and warned of “unintended consequences” of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour (Juranovich, Kokomo Tribune). “I’d really be giving it the benefit of the doubt if one-fourth of it was related to coronavirus stuff,” Braun said about the $1.9 trillion package. “Of the $4 trillion we’ve spent so far, there’s $1 trillion unspent or obligated that’s still out there. It doesn’t add up to me why you’d find the need to do three-fourths of this current bill that you can’t really directly relate to the impacts of coronavirus when you haven’t spent a fourth of what we’ve already done.”

 

CARSON BILL AIMED AT PRESIDENTIAL BURIALS: House Democrats introduced a bill this week that would “prohibit the use of Federal funds for the commemoration of certain former Presidents, and for other purposes” (WIBC). Under House Bill 484, introduced in late January by Indiana’s own Democratic Representative Andre Carson, the bill states that federal funds would not be allowed to be used to: “Create or display any symbol, monument, or statue commemorating any former President that has been twice impeached by the House of Representatives on or before the date of enactment of this Act or has been convicted of a State or Federal crime relating to actions taken in an official capacity as President of the United States on Federal public land, including any highway, park, subway, Federal building, military installation, street, or other Federal property.”

 

GARLAND CONFIRMATION ON MONDAY: Judge Merrick B. Garland plans to tell senators on Monday that he will restore the Justice Department’s commitment to equal justice under the law, combat a resurgent domestic terrorist threat and work to root out widespread discrimination should he be confirmed as attorney general (New York Times). Judge Garland laid out his top three priorities in an opening statement that he intends to deliver before the Judiciary Committee on Monday when he begins confirmation hearings. When President Biden nominated Judge Garland last month for the top law enforcement job, he said that the Justice Department’s 20th-century fight against the Ku Klux Klan showed that addressing domestic terrorism and systemic racism were historically one and the same.

 

REP. GONZALEZ FEELING HEAT OVER IMPEACH VOTE: To Shannon Burns, the betrayal that local Republicans felt when Ohio State and Indianapolis Colt wide receiver-turned-Republican-congressman Anthony Gonzalez voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump was analogous to only one other disloyalty: Suiting up for Michigan (CNN). "This is like him playing for the Buckeyes again, getting down to the two-minute warning, running into the locker room, getting a Michigan jersey and running back out," said Burns, who runs the Strongsville GOP, a grassroots organization that once backed Gonzalez. "It's not that you turned your back or you did something that we didn't like. You did the unthinkable." Gonzalez's decision to join just nine other House Republicans and all House Democrats to impeach Trump in January has unearthed profound anger in his northeast Ohio district, kicking off a localized fight over the future of the Republican Party that pits the two-term congressman against irate constituents eager to expel any Republican who crosses the former President.

 

35 CAPITOL COPS UNDER PROBE: Thirty-five U.S. Capitol Police officers are being investigated for their actions during the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, and six have been suspended with pay, the police department said in a statement on Friday (Reuters). Five people, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, died in the violence when throngs of former President Donald Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol, overpowering security forces. Two law enforcement officers later died by suicide. “Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman has directed that any member of her department whose behavior is not in keeping with the department’s rules of conduct will face appropriate discipline,” police department spokesman John Stolnis said.

 

State

 

ISDH: SATURDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health announced Saturday that 1,449 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 654,660 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. A total of 11,912 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 14 from the previous day. Another 424 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. To date, 3,076,245 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 3,069,866 on Friday. A total of 7,721,658 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26, 2020.

 

BIG TEN: PURDUE DEFEATS NEBRASKA -  Jaden Ivey scored 15 points, Sasha Stefanovic added 14, and Purdue beat Nebraska 75-58 on Saturday night (AP). The Boilermakers pulled away with a 19-4 run to lead 67-53 with about six minutes left. Stefanovic made consecutive 3-pointers during the stretch and Ivey capped it with a dunk. Nebraska cut the deficit to 10 points but didn’t get closer. Purdue (15-8, 10-6 Big Ten) has won consecutive games for the first time since a four-game winning streak ended with a 17-point loss to then-No. 7 Michigan on Jan. 22.

 

BIG TEN: IU FALLS TO MSU - Aaron Henry scored 16 of his career-high-tying 27 points in the second half and Michigan State rallied to beat Indiana 78-71 on Saturday (AP). Though the Spartans (11-9, 5-9 Big Ten) may miss taking part in the NCAA Tournament after 22 straight appearances, they picked up their first win at Indiana since February 3, 2018 and dealt a blow to the Hoosiers (12-10, 7-8), who are seeking to get back to the tournament — to be held in its entirety in Indiana — for the first time since 2016.

 

ACC: NOTRE DAME BLOWS 20-POINT LEAD TO SYRACUSE - Buddy Boeheim scored a career-high 29 points with six 3-pointers and Syracuse rallied from a 20-point second-half deficit to beat Notre Dame 75-67 on Saturday (WSBT-TV). Trailing 55-35 with 16:49 left, Syracuse used a press to get back in the game and outscored the Fighting Irish 40-12 the rest of the way to win its third straight game and reinforce its NCAA Tournament resume.

 

NBA: PACERS GAME IN HOUSTON POSTPONED DUE TO STORM - The game between the Houston Rockets and the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night was postponed because of continued utility shortages in the area from this week’s winter storm (AP). It’s the second straight home postponement for the Rockets. Friday’s game against Dallas was called off on Thursday.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN DECLARES TEXAS DISASTER - The extreme winter weather that left residents of Texas and other Southern states shivering through an unseasonably cold spell is testing President Joe Biden’s disaster management skills (AP). The White House announced Saturday that Biden had declared a major disaster in Texas, and he’s asked federal agencies to identify additional resources to address the suffering. Part of the job of being president includes responding to the destruction that natural disasters leave behind. Biden says he hopes to travel to Texas next week, but he doesn’t want his presence to distract from the recovery.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN NOT READY TO ABANDON TANDEN NOMINATION - The Biden White House is signaling publicly and privately that it is not prepared to abandon Neera Tanden’s nomination to head the Office of Management and Budget (Politico). But almost immediately after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced on Friday that he would vote against her confirmation — deeply imperiling her bid — behind-the-scenes jockeying began for those seeking to be the fallback option. Two early contenders to replace Tanden are Gene Sperling, a two-time director of the National Economic Council, and Ann O’Leary, who just came off a stint serving as California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff, and who was considered a leading alternative to Tanden back in November when Tanden’s nomination was announced, according to people familiar with the matter.

 

WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN VISITS PFIZER IN KALAMAZOO - resident Joe Biden toured a state-of-the-art coronavirus vaccine plant Friday as extreme winter weather across broad swaths of the U.S. handed his vaccination campaign its first major setback, delaying shipment of about 6 million doses (Nexstar). The disruptions caused by frigid temperatures, snow and ice left the White House and states scrambling to make up lost ground as three days’ worth of vaccine shipments were temporarily delayed. The president’s trip to see Pfizer’s largest plant had been pushed back a day due to a storm affecting the nation’s capital. At the Michigan plant, Biden walked through an area called the “freezer farm,” which houses some 350 ultra-cold freezers, each capable of storing 360,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. Double-masked, the president stopped to talk with some of the workers, but it was difficult for reporters on the trip to hear what was said. “All of you here are doing some of the most important work in this facility, right here, that can be done,” Biden said in an address to plant workers.

 

WHO: AVIAN FLU REPORTED IN HUMANS IN RUSSIA - Russian authorities say they have detected what is believed to be "human infection with avian influenza H5N8," the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed to CNN. Russia notified WHO of the possible strain. "If confirmed, this would be the first time H5N8 has infected people," a WHO Europe spokesperson said in a statement Saturday. The reported cases were workers exposed to bird flocks, according to preliminary information, the statement added.

 

Local

 

INDIANAPOLIS: CIB HAS $40M DEFICIT - The city’s Capital Improvement Board ended 2020 with a deficit of nearly $40.7 million—a direct result of the pandemic walloping the Indianapolis agency’s event calendar (Shuey, IBJ). The board on Friday said preliminary end-of-year revenue of $74.8 million—composed of operational funding and tax-based revenue from throughout last year—was off by about 52% from the prior year and 51% off budget.  The figures must still be verified and audited, a process expected to be completed later this year. The CIB anticipates financial strains throughout 2021 as well, with an anticipated deficit of nearly $42 million. The Indiana Convention Center, which is operated by the CIB, stopped hosting events for several months in mid-March, but by early July was able to host dozens of socially-distanced and reduced-capacity events, most of which involving youth sports and small meetings.

 

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY: VACCINE SUPPLY REBOUNDS AFTER THE STORM -  COVID-19 vaccinations in Bartholomew County have started to bounce back after a snowstorm last week delayed shipments of vaccines and forced the closure of dozens of vaccination sites in Indiana, including clinics operated by Columbus Regional Health and the Bartholomew County Health Department (Columbus Republic). CRH and the Bartholomew County Health Department closed their vaccination sites Tuesday and scrambled to reschedule hundreds of appointments as a snowstorm swept across the state. The end result was a steep decline in the number of Bartholomew County residents getting vaccinated, state records show. On Tuesday, just 22 Bartholomew County residents received COVID-19 vaccinations, down from 387 on Monday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

 

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: OFFICIALS MONITORING NOTRE DAME COVID CASES - Right now it is too early to tell if the new restrictions on Notre Dame’s campus are working to bring campus cases down (WSBT-TV). While they wait to see the effects, the health department is worried students aren’t being honest in their contact tracing. The hope is new restrictions will stop transmission of COVID-19 in dorms, clubs and dining halls. “The risk is that you drive some risky behavior into the shadows, which does not solve the problem,” said Dr. Mark Fox with the St. Joseph County Health Department.

 

LaPORTE COUNTY: FRIEDMAN FILES DEFAMATION SUIT V. AUDITOR — A war of words between a La Porte County elected official and the county attorney could eventually play out in a St. Joseph County courtroom (Mayes, LaPorte Herald-Dispatch). County Attorney Shaw Friedman has filed a civil lawsuit alleging defamation of character against County Auditor Timothy Stabosz, who has been a vocal critic of Friedman since being elected last November.