ISDH SAYS 4TH HOOSIER DIES OF VIRUS; 76 NEW CASES: The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) confirmed the fourth Indiana death from COVID-19 on Saturday (CrossroadsReport.com). The patient is a Delaware County adult over age 60 who had been hospitalized. No additional information about the patient will be released due to privacy laws. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) today reported 76 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing to 201 the number of Hoosiers diagnosed through ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private laboratories. Four Hoosiers have died. A total of 661 results were reported, bringing to 1,494 the number of tests reported to ISDH to date. The new cases involve residents of Bartholomew (4), Boone (1), Delaware (1), Dubois (1), Floyd (1), Franklin (2), Grant (1), Hamilton (8), Hancock (2), Hendricks (2), Howard (1), Johnson (5), Lake (3), Madison (1), Marion (35), Monroe (1) Morgan (1), Putnam (1), Ripley (1), St. Joseph (2), Scott (1) and Tipton (1) counties. The list of counties with cases is included in the ISDH COVID-19 dashboard at https://www.in.gov/coronavirus/, which will be updated daily at 10 a.m. Cases are listed by county of residence. Private lab reporting may be delayed and will be reflected in the map and count when results are received at ISDH.

PRIMARY ELECTION DELAYED UNTIL JUNE 2: Saying all Hoosiers "have a right to elect our leaders in a safe and open environment," Gov. Eric Holcomb, Secretary of State Connie Lawson and the two major party chairs jointly announced the May 5 primary has been rescheduled for June 2 (Howey Politics Indiana). Lawson said she has been in contact with county clerks and said she would ask the Indiana Election Commission to "suspend all absentee ballot rules" to allow that option to a broader swathe of the public and have ballots delivered to polling officials by family members. While Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Democratic Chairman John Zody had pushed for universal vote-by-mail, Lawson said, "Clerks were concerned about capacity if everybody voted by absentee." Moving the election to June 2 would shift a number of pre-election deadlines, including campaign finance reporting, registration and the dispatching of military ballots. "The reason we all came to agreement for June 2 was to give both parties time to work through their state and national convention processes. All of these steps will be in concert," Lawson said. "It will be a learning process. I am confident we will conduct a safe and secure election."  Holcomb reiterated his view stated on Thursday that the May 5 primary "needed to be pushed back to ensure the safety of county employees, poll workers and voters." He added that he wanted to give Lawson, Hupfer and Zody "time to build a consensus."

HOLCOMB WARNS PANDEMIC HASN'T CRESTED: Indiana is bracing for the coronavirus pandemic to get worse. Between Sunday and Wednesday, the number of confirmed Indiana cases doubled. In the next two days, it doubled again, to 79 confirmed cases in 27 counties. State health commissioner Kristina Box warns the numbers will continue to rise, due both to the virus’s spread and an increase in the state’s testing capacity (Berman, WIBC). Box warns hospitals’ supplies of protective gear like masks and gowns are dwindling. She says the state received a fresh shipment of supplies Friday and will be distributing them to the hospitals most in need. Box and Holcomb say it remains critical for people to observe the social distancing recommendations they’ve been emphasizing for a week now, to slow the spread of the virus enough that hospitals can keep up. “My plea and my hope is that we all understand the gravity of what’s surrounding us on a 24-hour basis,” Holcomb says. “The more people practice what we’re preaching, the faster we’ll get through this.”

NW METHODIST ER DOCTOR TESTS POSITIVE: A Methodist Hospitals emergency room doctor tested positive for COVID-19, the Northwest Indiana hospital system has confirmed (Chase, NWI Times). The physician last worked at the hospital system between March 14 and March 16 and has tested positive for the coronavirus, a hospital statement noted Friday night. However, the hospital has not clarified whether the doctor last worked at the Merrillville or Gary campus. The doctor was wearing personal protective equipment while interacting with patients during the recent shifts, and the hospital believes the doctor contracted the virus outside of the hospital setting, according to a release from a hospital spokeswoman. The physician is now in isolation. Hospital co-workers of the physician who were on duty during the recent shifts have been notified, have been wearing protective equipment and have been regularly screened for symptoms, according to the hospital.

IU STUDENT TESTS POSITIVE: The Monroe County Health Department says it received a notification today of an Indiana University student living in Bloomington who has tested positive for COVID-19, giving Monroe County its first confirmed case of the coronavirus (Atkinson, Indiana Public Media). According to a news release from MCHD, “The student has been in isolation off of the Bloomington campus since March 13 and is now exhibiting only mild symptoms.” County Health Administrator Penny Caudill says she fully expects to see more confirmed cases in the coming days. IU Health Center Medical Director Dr. Beth Rupp says the student went to the IU Health Center on Friday, March 13, was swabbed for the coronavirus and began isolating that day.

211 LINE FOR COVID-19 PATIENTS: People with COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, can now call Indiana 211 to be connected with health and human services agencies. Indiana 211 is adding 20 to 30 new navigators to handle the increased call volume (Indiana Public Media). Those "Community Navigators" help people who contact 211 to identify their goals, prioritize their need and connect them to community resources. Indiana 211 has also created a new website to serve as a clearinghouse of information on resources for COVID-19. Indiana 211 is a confidential free service that connects Hoosiers with help and answers from thousands of health and human services agencies. That includes needs such as food, utility, health care and childcare assistance. Individuals seeking services within Indiana can dial 2-1-1 or 1-866-211-9966. The service is available 24/7, but it's only for those seeking services within Indiana.

GUNS, AMMO IN HIGH DEMAND IN SOUTH BEND:  It’s not enough to stock up on toilet paper, canned goods and medical supplies because of the coronavirus (Semmler, South Bend Tribune). Some people in our area and across the country are stocking up on guns and ammo, forcing gun stores to issue restrictions on how many people can be in a store at one time and how much they can buy. People say they’re scared about the virus, the potential for high unemployment and the possibility some of their neighbors might become desperate. Stores throughout the area were too busy to chat by phone this week, indicating they were overwhelmed by customers seeking ammunition, handguns or rifles. The parking lot at Femme Fatale at 1201 S. Main St., South Bend, was pretty much full from the time it opened on Thursday morning, with customers standing outside waiting to get in from the cold. A sign on the door read: “8 customers only allowed in the store at the same time.”

BATTLE FOR CONTAINMENT LOST AS SYSTEM BECOMES SWAMPED: Health officials in New York, California and other hard-hit parts of the country are restricting coronavirus testing to health care workers and people who are hospitalized, saying the battle to contain the virus is lost and we are moving into a new phase of the pandemic response (Washington Post). As cases spike sharply in those places, they are hunkering down for an onslaught, and directing scarce resources where they are needed most to save people’s lives. Instead of encouraging broad testing of the public, they’re focused on conserving masks, ventilators, intensive care beds — and on getting still-limited tests to health care workers and the most vulnerable. The shift is further evidence that the rising levels of infection and illness have begun to overwhelm the health care system. Health officials’ message to the public is to stay home and practice social distancing. Some go so far as to warn that widespread testing at this point could threaten the U.S. response by burning through precious supplies just as a tidal wave of sick people descend on the system — a message at odds with administration announcements that millions of test kits are finally becoming available. “In a universe where masks and gowns are starting to become scarce, every time we test someone who doesn’t need one, we’re taking that mask and gown away from someone in the intensive care unit,” said Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner for the Division of Disease Control of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

UNDERSTAFFED FEMA SUDDENLY COORDINATING AGENCY: The Federal Emergency Management Agency, understaffed and facing the coming spring-flood season along with expected hurricanes and wildfires, is racing to adjust to its new role as coordinator of the federal government’s response to the novel coronavirus, a challenge for an agency more accustomed to dealing with natural disasters (Wall Street Journal). FEMA had said it was playing a supporting role in fighting the pandemic as late as Thursday, answering to the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House Task Force. That same day, Vice President Mike Pence declared FEMA in charge. HHS operations are now essentially subordinate to FEMA when it comes to managing the federal government’s response, a FEMA spokeswoman said. The agency will be the central body through which state authorities can funnel their requests for help coping with the crisis, coordinating resources available at the federal level and parceling out funds to states as well as figuring out where to move medical supplies and testing, the spokeswoman said. Late Friday night, the Trump administration gave New York state “major disaster” status, making it the first in this pandemic to be granted access to a fund of more than $40 billion maintained by FEMA.

PANDEMIC COULD COST U.S. 5M JOBS: The fallout from the coronavirus outbreak is expected to have a significant negative impact on U.S. economic prospects, with predictions emerging for losses of up to five million jobs this year and a drop in economic output of as much as $1.5 trillion (Wall Street Journal). A recession is now all but certain, according to a Wall Street Journal survey of 34 economists, which projects a downturn that would last months at least, and would in some ways rival—and possibly even surpass—the severity of the 2007-09 slump triggered by the housing collapse and subprime loan debacle. “This shock is very big,” said Bruce Kasman, head of economic research at JPMorgan. “You are going to see in the next two months the consequences of the actions taken in terms of economic activity. That set of trade-offs is not really clear in policy makers’ minds right now.” Economic forecasts, which remained upbeat just two weeks ago, suddenly turned bleak as it became clear that a pandemic, one that started in Asia and spread to Europe, would now affect American life far more than originally understood.

PANDEMIC COULD BE FINAL STRAW FOR TEETERING NEWSPAPERS: Readers are flocking to news sites during the coronavirus pandemic. The media has a basic commodity — information — that people are craving as they try to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. And yet, financially, the crisis is delivering a punishing blow to already struggling local publishers, from big-city metro papers to small-town outlets (Wall Street Journal). Web traffic is up about 30% among the top news sites and has doubled for some publishers, according to data from comScore Inc. Many news sites have recorded solid gains in digital subscriptions, even as many have made coronavirus coverage available to nonsubscribers. But the immediate boost in readership won’t offset the virus’ brutal impact on the pillars holding up the business, publishing executives say. Local advertising spending could tumble this year by at least a quarter, amounting to a decline of more than $30 billion, according to one estimate. Newsstand sales are tanking, because fewer people are out on the streets. Some union contracts require publishers to pay printers and truck drivers even if the shops they were once delivering papers to are closed. Consumers could eventually trim subscriptions as the economic fallout settles. “So many papers were already teetering on the brink,” said Walter Hussman Jr., publisher of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “If we really see a collapse of ad revenue, this could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for a lot of places.”

WORST OF MARKET SELLOFF YET TO COME: The most brutal stretch for global markets since the financial crisis likely isn’t over yet, say investors and analysts who believe it is too early to assess the possible scale of economic damage from the coronavirus (Wall Street Journal). In just a few weeks, U.S. stocks have lost roughly a third of their value. In recent weeks, investors have even fled assets like U.S. government bonds and gold that typically do well during times of turmoil, underscoring the extent of the panic and the shock to once-robust investor sentiment delivered by the global health emergency. But many analysts and portfolio managers warn that neither those declines nor recent extraordinary actions by the Federal Reserve are likely to signal the end of the market crunch. They note that by historical standards, stocks’ declines look modest compared with some prior downturns, given the early indications of how much damage virus-related shutdowns are likely to do to global growth. The S&P 500 is down 32% from its February peak. In comparison, stocks tumbled 57% during the financial crisis and 49% after the dot-com bubble burst in 2000 before beginning to rebound.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Gov. Holcomb and Sec. Lawson along with the two party chairs were wise to delay the primary election to June 2, though there is no guarantee that we will be out of the woods by then, or by the November election, which cannot be delayed. Indiana would  be wise to use these next six months to build a comprehensive vote by mail program that could be used in November. - Brian A. Howey

Campaigns

HUPFER, ZODY REACT TO ELECTION DELAY: Indiana Republican Chairman Kyle Hupfer said, “Hoosiers have always come together in times of crisis and today’s bipartisan announcement to move Indiana’s primary election to June 2 is yet another example of that unity (Howey Politics Indiana). Moving our primary is not a step we took lightly, but it is necessary. Moving to June 2 will provide for the safety and security of all involved in the election process and allow additional time for those tasked with the job of conducting the election to prepare." Hupfer added that he and the Republican Central Committee are "planning for an alternative if required" for the party's June convention. Democratic Chairman John Zody, who is on the ballot himself for an Indiana Senate seat, said of his party's June 13 convention, "We have been talking about what alternatives would be." He said that the election of delegates to the Democratic National Convention occurs at the state convention. Asked if the Democratic Central Committee was on board with the delay, Zody said, "We have had robust discussions. We have folks who have concerns and folks who are in support." The Indiana Election Commission was supposed to meet today, but pushed that back to 10 a.m. March 25.

DEE THORNTON LOSES COUSIN TO VIRUS: An Indiana woman running for Congress lost a family member to coronavirus. Now she’s speaking out about the dangers of the pandemic. Health officials say older people and those with underlying conditions are the most vulnerable to COVID-19, but Dee Thornton says she saw just how vulnerable they were when her first cousin was infected (WISH-TV). Thornton is one of five Democrats running for the 5th district seat currently held by Republican Rep. Susan Brooks, who announced in June that she wasn’t going to run for reelection. “To be honest, we were getting calls that said she’d been tested and then within an hour, we get a call that said she had passed,” Thornton said. “So, she literally had been tested on Wednesday and she passed Friday morning.” The 82-year-old woman lived in Indianapolis.

Presidential 2020

TRUMP GETS POLLING BUMP: President Trump is getting a bump in the polls over his recent handling of the coronavirus pandemic but analysts warn that the uptick does not yet represent a meaningful shift in support behind the president (The Hill). Two new surveys released Friday found majority support for Trump’s handling of the health crisis. One survey showed Trump’s job approval rating moving past the 50 percent mark, a rarity since he took office. Together, the polls indicate that voters have been encouraged by the president’s new tone and aggressive posture in dealing with the health and economic crises facing the country after a widely-panned Oval Office address this month. “Presidents tend to get a bump in wartime as Americans rally around the flag, so it would be no surprise that in a time of crisis the president’s approval rating took a turn in a more positive direction,” said Tim Malloy, the polling director for Quinnipiac University. At the moment, only the Harris Poll shows Trump’s overall job approval rating over the 50 percent mark. That bump has not been reflected in polling averages, such as FiveThirtyEight’s job rating aggregator, where Trump’s approval is at 43 percent. Several other surveys conducted over the past few days have put the president in the 46-47 percent range. “Looking at poll averages, there is no clear impact on Trump’s overall approval rating and that’s what’s most politically relevant,” said Mark Mellmann, a Democratic pollster. “We aren’t seeing the kind of rally around the president effect, that we see in cases of international crisis. That’s measured by the overall approval rating.”

TRUMP BEGINS CAMPAIGN IN WORST POLL SHAPE SINCE TRUMAN: A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds that former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 52% to 43% in a general election matchup (CNN). An average of all polls this month puts Biden's advantage at a similar 7 points. For all intents and purposes, the general election campaign is underway. Yes, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is still running, but he has no realistic path to winning the Democratic nomination. That means that it's Biden vs. Trump. And the President starts out in a very unusual place for an incumbent: behind. Trump is the first incumbent president to be trailing at this point in the general election cycle (i.e. late March in the election year) since Harry Truman in 1948.

DEMS FRET PRIMARY DELAYS: Democrats are increasingly nervous about the coronavirus pandemic upending the Democratic primary calendar. As more and more states postpone their primaries — delaying their elections as far back as June — some Democrats say that it will make the job of defeating President Trump more difficult (The Hill). “I think there's a desire for closure to the primaries and getting on with the business of beating Donald Trump,” said Addisu Demissie, who served as campaign manager on Sen. Cory Booker's (D-N.J.) presidential campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a big delegate lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and is widely seen as the inevitable Democratic nominee. But it could still take a number of contests for Biden to win enough delegates to clinch the nomination, and the scheduling delays would only push that back further. That could hamper Biden’s candidacy, say Demissie and other observers. “In theory, the Biden campaign could spend the next seven months with a singular focus instead of keeping one eye on a primary opponent whose chances of victory are virtually zero,” Demissie said.



Sunday Talk

FEMA'S GAYNOR SAYS MASKS ARE BEING SHIPPED OUT: Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter Gaynor said Sunday that masks are currently being shipped to states, particularly hot spots like New York City and California — an announcement that comes as health care workers grow increasingly desperate for critical medical gear (Politico). However, Gaynor was unable to give more detail on when the masks would arrive or provide specific numbers. “They have been distributed. They've been distributed over the past couple of weeks. They're shipping today. They'll ship tomorrow,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” ABC’s Martha Raddatz asked Gaynor if facilities would get them in time before the health system in critically affected states is overwhelmed. “Again, they're shipping today, they shipped yesterday and they're shipping tomorrow.”

BOSSERT SAYS 3 STATES ABOUT TO BE OVERWHELMED: A former  homeland security adviser to President Trump said Sunday that three U.S. states “have a problem that is going to grow” and could “overwhelm” their health-care systems amid the coronavirus outbreak. Washington state, New York state and California have been considered hotspots in the country, with 94, 76 and 27 deaths happening in the states, respectively. “I would say there’s a dichotomy … between the 47 states that seem to have a problem but one that they can continue to control,” Tom Bossert said on ABC's "This Week," “and the three states, led by New York unfortunately, that seem to have a problem that is going to continue to grow now in a way – and I say this and hope I’m wrong – that is going to overwhelm the New York health system in the coming days.” Bossert added that the U.S. needed greater testing capacity earlier to prevent the entire country from shutting down, as it is today. “It seems to have worked if people stick to this plan,” he said. “I’m upset for those who don’t stick to it because we’re all paying a very heavy cost here, economically, and if you don’t follow these rules then you’re slapping us all in the face.”

MNUCHIN SAYS RELIEF PACKAGE WILL BE DONE TODAY: The Trump administration is hours away from finalizing a $1.6 trillion stimulus deal with Congress to battle the coronavirus epidemic, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday. “I‘ve been speaking to Mitch McConnell, Chuck Schumer, the speaker, and I think we have fundamental understanding,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.“ “We look foward to wrapping it up today.” The bill would tide the U.S. economy over for 10 -12 weeks, Mnuchin said, adding that he expects a vote Monday morning. Under the bill, a family of four can expect a direct payment of about $3,000, Mnuchin said.

GOV. WHITMER CRITICAL OF FEDERAL RESPONSE: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) criticized the federal government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying on Sunday that “lives will be lost because we weren’t prepared.” Whitmer told ABC’s “This Week” that she thinks the officials should have begun addressing the impending crisis earlier to allow for the U.S. to prepare. “Had the federal government really started focusing when it became clear that the whole world was going to be confronting this, we would be in a stronger position right now,” she said.

GOV. PRITZKER SAYS HE'S COMPETING WITH OTHER STATES FOR SUPPLIES: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said Sunday he’s competing with states across the country for medical equipment needed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s a wild, wild West out there, and indeed [we’re] overpaying for PPE because of that competition,” Pritzker said on CNN’s “State of the Union,” in reference to the personal protection equipment needed for healthcare workers to treat COVID-19 patients. Pritzker said Illinois received a fraction of the hospital supplies it requested from the federal government, forcing him to compete on the open market with governors in other states impacted by the virus, including California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), as those supplies become depleted.

NJ GOV SAYS PEOPLE 'NEEDED TO BE JOLTED': New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said Sunday that he issued a stay-at-home order for his state in the midst of the coronavirus crisis because “folks needed to be jolted.” The New Jersey governor told ABC’s “This Week” that the state government wants to alleviate the expected “overwhelming amount of pressure in our health-care system” by ordering residents to stay home. “Folks needed to be jolted,” Murphy said. “You mentioned in the tape that it's no time to panic, but just the same, it's no time for business as usual.” “We won World War II not because we panicked,” he added. “We were smart. We were aggressive. We worked hard. That's what you're going to need right now.”

FRIEDEN WONDERS ABOUT CDC ROLE: Former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Tom Frieden on Sunday expressed concern over what he perceived as the CDC’s relative lack of involvement in the public response to the coronavirus outbreak. “I would feel a lot safer if it were clear that the CDC were both at the table and at the podium,” Frieden said on “Fox News Sunday” after guest host John Roberts noted that it had been several days since the CDC's current leader, Robert Redfield, made a public appearance. “They have more than 700 medical professionals … fighting this without the CDC central to the response has never been done with an infectious disease in the U.S. before and it’s like fighting with one hand behind your back,” Frieden said.

BROOKS FOCUSED ON PANDEMIC RESPONSE: Rep. Susan Brooks (R-IN) is focused on the pandemic response (CBS4). "Billions of dollars to try to really stop this virus and get life back to normal, but it is going to be a while," said Brooks. "Everyone kind of has to do their part. We are asking everyone to be more lenient, landlords, banks and everyone to figure out how to give some flexibility for customers to make payments." Brooks passed legislation before the COVID-19 outbreak that provided federal funds to prepare for a pandemic. "I'm pleased to say it was a strong bipartisan piece of legislation," said Brooks. Now, she wants Congress to pass more strong bipartisan efforts to get us through this public health emergency. “I don't think we can do too much,” said Brooks.

MYERS PUSHES VIRUS TASK FORCE: This week, we spoke with gubernatorial candidate and former state health commissioner Dr. Woody Myers (CBS4). “Indiana has not been acting as quickly as it should to control the spread of the coronavirus,” Myers said, upon releasing an 11-point plan earlier this week to deal with the virus. One aspect of that plan has already been enacted by the state- the closing of all Indiana schools. Gov. Holcomb announced Thursday that Indiana’s schools would be closed until at least May 1- if not the rest of the school year. Myers also told us he wants to form a task force that includes experts with backgrounds in health, education, and other aspects of life.

Congress

RESCUE PACKAGE NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE: Congressional negotiators made progress Saturday on a sweeping stimulus package meant to blunt the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic, a deal that is expected to inject upward of $2 trillion into a reeling U.S. economy over the coming months (Washington Post). But Republicans and Democrats failed to secure an agreement ahead of a self-imposed 5 p.m. deadline, and hopes of a rapid resolution were thrown into doubt when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) indicated his party would begin drafting “final legislative text” without a deal with Democrats. “I believe we are poised to deliver the significant relief that Americans need with the speed that this crisis demands,” McConnell said in a Saturday night statement, with the Senate poised to take its first procedural votes on the package Sunday.

CONGRESSMEN DESCRIBE VIRUS SICKNESS: Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart spoke out Saturday about his battle with COVID-19 after testing positive for the coronavirus, saying he believes the “worst part" has passed (Politico). “It’s a tricky bug because just when I thought I was over it or I was pretty close to getting over it, the fever will come back,” the Florida Republican said during his first on-camera interview on NBC's "Nightly News." Diaz-Belart, 58, recalled the symptoms he said “hit him like a ton of bricks” last Saturday after he voted on a coronavirus response bill on the House floor, describing a headache that quickly developed into a fever and cough. “Now luckily, I have not had an issue breathing so I’ve never had a scary moment but obviously very, very unpleasant with headaches, with coughing, and with a pretty intense fever — all coming at the same time it seems,” he recounted. Rep. Ben McAdams, 45, the second congressman who has tested positive for the coronavirus, detailed a similar experience. “I’m feeling about as sick as I’ve been,” the Utah Democrat said during a CNN interview on Friday. “I got really labored breathing. I feel like I have a belt around my chest, really tight. When I cough, my muscles are so sore so I just feel pain every time I cough, which is frequently. I feel short of breath, and I have a fever of about 102. So, it’s pretty bad.”

State

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS PANHANDLING, COAL BILLS - Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed bills into law that will make it harder for Indiana utilities to shut down coal-fired power plants before May 2021 and all but prohibit panhandling in downtown Indianapolis, a provision expected to be challenged in court (IBJ). Holcomb signed 33 bills on Saturday, a list that also includes legislation that eliminates a requirement that teacher pay be based in part on student performance and cancels a planned reduction in the tax businesses pay into the unemployment insurance fund. Holcomb signed House Bill 1022, which makes panhandling illegal within 50 feet of any ATM; entrance or exit of a bank, business or restaurant; public monument; or place where any “financial transaction” occurs. The definition of “financial transaction” includes any exchange of money received by a business, parking meter, parking garage, public transportation authority facility or pay station, or restaurant. The Legislature approved the unemployment bill because federal officials told the state last year the fund needs to have more money on hand to prepare for a future recession. Holcomb signed House Bill 1414, a controversial bill that is meant to ensure electric companies don’t shut down any coal-fired power plants in the next year or so. The bill comes as large utilities across Indiana have announced plans to shut down thousands of megawatts of coal-fired generating capacity in favor of cheaper fuel sources, such as natural gas, solar and wind. However, no Indiana utility has announced plans to shut a coal-fired plant by May 2021.

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS 33 BILLS - The governor signed 33 bills today. You can view more details at the 2020 Bill Watch webpage.

NATIONAL GUARD: DISTRIBUTING SUPPLIES AT STOUT FIELD - Following their activation, Indiana National Guard members were put to work in the state’s capital aiding in the coronavirus pandemic response (Ortiz, NWI Times). Members have taken on many responsibilities since the Guard was activated by Gov. Eric Holcomb. “This means that thousands of Indiana’s guardsmen stand by ready to help the state respond to the coronavirus outbreak,” Indiana National Guard’s Brigadier Gen. R. Dale Lyles said. “The National Guard’s mission is to aid our fellow Hoosiers and state agencies during this crisis.” National Guard members are currently working at Stout Field in Indianapolis with the Indiana Department of Transportation to help distribute needed medical supplies and equipment to Indiana hospitals with urgent needs.

HEALTH: IU HEALTH UPS NEGATIVE PRESSURE ROOMS BY 300% - IU Health Bloomington Hospital officials say they’re enacting plans to deal with an influx of patients as the confirmed number of coronavirus cases rises. Brian Shockney is the IU Health South Central Region’s president (Indiana Public Media). He says as a larger system, IU Health has taken inventory of what resources they have so they can transport those as needed. “We feel confident right now that we’ve got what we need projecting out however, we do not know what the future holds," he says. Shockney says this week, the Bloomington hospital increased their number of negative pressure rooms by 300 percent. Negative pressure rooms are pressurized so that no airborne contaminants can drift to other areas. He says the IU Health system is taking inventory three times a day of ventilators and negative pressure rooms they have available.

IHSAA: NEIDIG NAMED NEW COMMISSIONER - The IHSAA executive committee named John (Paul) Neidig its next commissioner on Friday, less than 24 hours after outgoing commissioner Bobby Cox announced the first cancellation of the boys basketball tournament in more than a century. In January, Cox announced he would be retiring. Neidig will officially take over Aug. 1 (AP). The 56-year-old Neidig, a native of Poseyville in southwest Indiana, has spent 34 years in secondary education and athletic administration and has served as an IHSAA assistant commissioner since 2017. During his career, he’s presided over boys basketball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls track and field and unified track and field. He will become the 11th commissioner in the governing body’s history. “I’m very humbled to be chosen to become the next commissioner of the IHSAA,” Neidig said in a statement. “I’m proud to be a part of this organization and lead it into the future. Our primary focus will continue to be promoting and supporting education-based athletics in our state. Also, I ask everyone to please be safe during these unprecedented times. Listen to our state’s health experts and take care of yourselves and your family and we will get through these difficult times.” Neidig spent 31-years working in the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp., serving in various roles including chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, chief administrative officer and athletics director in addition to working as a teacher and head coach of the boys basketball team.

EDUCATION: BSU CLOSING MORE CAMPUS BUILDINGS -  Ball State University is closing more buildings on its campus, urging more employees to work from home if possible, and encouraging people living on and off-campus to move (WRTV). The updates to the university's response to the COVID-19 pandemic comes after the City of Muncie and Delaware County declared a joint emergency on Thursday, Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns said in an update posted Saturday afternoon. Mearns is also encouraging all students still living in residence halls to leave as soon possible. Students who live off-campus are encouraged to return to an alternative location if possible.

EDUCATION: IU EXPERT SAYS DON'T CHANGE INVESTMENT STRATEGIES - Despite last week being the worst for U.S. markets in decades, a personal finance expert at Indiana University is advising against making drastic changes to your investments. Even if you’re close to retirement (Reschke, Bloomington Herald-Times). “If you, say you’re 64 and all this is going on, I don’t really think there’s anything you can do,” said Todd Roberson, senior lecturer of finance at the IU Kelley School of Business. Concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and measures taken to curb its spread, have caused stocks to plummet. For instance, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell nearly 3,000 points Monday, its biggest drop in a single day. This has left some people wondering what they should do. Roberson’s advice: probably nothing. “Continue with your retirement plan as established,” he said. There are several reasons for this. First, Roberson is convinced this economic downturn will be short lived. He expects a “V”-shaped uptick once restrictions related to COVID-19 are lifted. Another reason is that investors need to take a long-term perspective. They should have a plan in mind and avoid changing that based on the events of the day, he said.

DNR: STATE PARKS, REC AREAS REMAIN OPEN - The Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced Saturday what facilities will face shutdowns and which will remain open (NWI Times).  All Indiana DNR properties including state parks, state forests, fish and wildlife areas, nature preserves and state recreation areas will be open and entrance fees have been temporarily suspended amid the global coronavirus pandemic. Campgrounds, cabins, inns and state park inn restaurants that serve carryout meals only will also remain open. In addition, facilities managed by the DNR will be open, including facilities at Brookville, J.E. Roush, Salamonie, Mississinewa, Cecil M. Harden, Cagles Mill, Patoka and Monroe lakes, including campgrounds, wildlife areas and boat ramps. Public facilities managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at or below the dams at these lakes, such as tailwater areas and observation mounds, are closed. Fees will be waved for anyone who cancels or reschedules at cabins, inns or campgrounds through April 30, the DNR said. There will be restricted public access at property offices, which will remain open, and additional contact information will be provided at the main entrance. Nature centers, historic buildings, visitor centers, forest education centers, recreation buildings and enclosed picnic areas will be closed until further notice.

TOURISM: NATIONAL PARK A GAME CHANGER FOR REGION - The rebranding of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore as the Indiana Dunes National Park caused visitation to spike by more than 20% in the first year and is expected to continue to drive tourism to Northwest Indiana in the coming decades (Pete, NWI Times). Northwest Indiana's tourism leaders said trends to watch for over the next 20 years include capitalizing more on the Indiana Dunes as an attraction, the growing popularity of youth travel sports, and existing assets like the Stardust Event Center at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City that recently doubled in size. The leaders of the Region's tourism agencies have lofty ambitions that include building a convention center in Lake County, bringing cruise ships to Northwest Indiana and encouraging developers to build more hotels.

Nation

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SEEKS TO BLOCK BUYBACKS - As Congress rushes to bail out industries slammed by the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has joined Democratic lawmakers demanding corporate aid include new restrictions on the stock buybacks that executives use to support the value of their shares (Wall Street Journal). “I am strongly recommending a buyback exclusion,” Mr. Trump said at the daily briefing of his coronavirus task force on Saturday, laying out his views on terms for government business assistance. “You can’t take a billion dollars of the money and just buy back your stock and increase the value.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP OFFERS VIRUS HELP TO KIM - President Trump sent a letter to Kim Jong Un offering help in the North's battle against the coronavirus, the North Korean leader's sister said on Sunday, while warning that it wasn't enough to improve relations (Washington Post). The United States and North Korea are at loggerheads over the reclusive state's nuclear weapons program. Trump has often attempted restart negotiations by cultivating a personal relationship with the North Korea leader. “We view such a personal letter of President Trump as a good example showing the special and firm personal relations with Chairman Kim Jong Un,” said Kim Yo Jong, who is also a senior ruling party official.

WHITE HOUSE: PENCES TEST NEGATIVE - Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence have tested negative for the coronavirus, the vice president’s office announced Saturday (Politico). “Pleased to report that the COVID-19 test results came back negative for both Vice President @Mike_Pence and Second Lady @KarenPence," Katie Miller, Pence’s press secretary, tweeted.

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE STAFFER TESTS POSITIVE - Mike Pence and his wife will be tested for coronavirus on Saturday afternoon, a day after one of the vice president's staffers tested positive for the infection (Politico). Pence said here was "no reason to believe" he or his wife, Karen Pence, were exposed to the virus. But he said he will get tested because of his sensitive role in the Trump administration. Pence made the comments at a Saturday afternoon press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic alongside President Donald Trump. "We've done all contact tracing and while the White House doctor has indicated that he has no reason to believe that I was exposed and no need to be tested, given the unique position that I have as vice president and as the leader of the White House coronavirus task force, both I and my wife will be tested for the coronavirus later this afternoon," Pence said. The White House learned on Friday that a member of Pence's staff had tested positive for the coronavirus. Pence said the staffer "had mild cold-like symptoms" for about a day and a half but is "doing well."

WHITE HOUSE: PANDEMIC A TRUMP FOE LIKE NO OTHER -  During his campaign for the White House in 2016, President Trump’s advisers briefly tried to run through with him how he would address a large-scale disaster if he won. What, for instance, would he have done during Hurricane Katrina? “I would have fixed that,” Mr. Trump replied with certitude, referring to the government’s bungled rescue and recovery efforts, according to a campaign official who was present for the exchange (Baker & Haberman, New York Times). “I would have come up with a much better response.” How? He did not say. He just asserted it would have been better and advisers did not press him to elaborate. Mr. Trump is no stranger to crisis. He has spent a lifetime grappling with bankruptcy, fending off creditors, evading tax collectors, defending lawsuits, deflecting regulators, spinning reporters and dueling with estranged wives, usually coming out ahead, at least as he defines it. But these were crises of his own creation involving human adversaries he knew how to confront. Nothing in his background in business, entertainment or multiple marriages prepared him for the coronavirus pandemic now threatening America’s health and wealth. Mr. Trump’s performance on the national stage in recent weeks has put on display the traits that Democrats and some Republicans consider so jarring — the profound need for personal praise, the propensity to blame others, the lack of human empathy, the penchant for rewriting history, the disregard for expertise, the distortion of facts, the impatience with scrutiny or criticism. For years, skeptics expressed concern about how he would handle a genuine crisis threatening the nation, and now they know.

Local

NEW ALBANY: SERVICE WORKER FUND ESTABLISHED - Develop New Albany, in conjunction with the Urban Enterprise Association, the City of New Albany and private donors, have created a fund to help the local service industry workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis in New Albany (News & Tribune). “Develop New Albany is proud to partner with our city to serve some of those hit hardest and support our local restaurants who continue to serve the community,” Rob Dunn, board president, said in a news release issued Saturday. Restaurants and bars have been ordered closed throughout the state, but can still provide curb side food service. Unfortunately, this adversely affects a substantial segment of service industry workers. The program is designed to provide employees affected by the closures a $25 daily stipend to order curb-side service at a participating New Albany restaurant.

RICHMOND: NON-ESSENTIAL INTERACTIONS ORDERED TO CEASE - The message was repeated over and over again Friday by city, county and health officials: a surge of sick patients is going to hit our local health care system. Whether that surge arrives as a manageable wave or a disastrous tsunami depends on how cooperative citizens are in complying with new restrictions being put in place (Truitt, Richmond Palladium-Item). Richmond and Wayne County officials spent the day Friday debating how far to go with new directives aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19. "From 7:30 on until 5:30 today, we've been discussing Wayne County and the health of all the folks in Wayne County and how we keep the people in Wayne County safe," County Commissioner Ken Paust said. "We've worked all day through this with all the parties ... to get to where we are this evening." They ultimately decided on an order that calls for citizens to cease "all non-essential interaction" and asks that employers reduce the number of people who normally would work in their buildings by 30 percent through remote or in-home work, among other measures.

COLUMBUS: 2 FIRMS SUSPEND OPERATIONS - Two local manufacturers have announced the temporary suspension of certain operations due to their customers shutting down production (Columbus Republic). Cummins, Inc. announced that it has closed the Cummins MidRange Engine Plant in Walesboro for two weeks due to a shutdown at all Fiat Chrysler Automobiles production facilities in North America. The shutdown occurred at 10 p.m. Friday. NTN Driveshaft has confirmed that it will suspend production at its facility in Columbus at the end of second shift on Tuesday because “all of our customers have announced they will stop production beginning next week,” according to a letter sent to employees on Friday. Currently, company officials are unsure when the company will restart production, said Barry Parkhurst, company vice president and chief financial officer.

FRANKLIN COUNTY: 6 DIE AFTER CARS SWEPT AWAY - The body of a 13-year-old boy was recovered Saturday in a southeastern Indiana creek, the last of six people presumed to have drowned when two vehicles were swept off a roadway after torrential rainfall deluged the region’s hill country, authorities said (AP). The boy’s body was found Saturday morning in Sanes Creek, where the bodies of his sisters, ages 7 and 4, and the siblings' mother, Felina Lewis, 35, of Laurel, Indiana, were recovered Friday, said Franklin County Coroner Brian Baxter. The children’s names were not expected to be released, he said.

ALLEN COUNTY: 5 VIRUS CASES - Allen County has confirmed another posted case of COVID-19, bringing the total of cases to five (WANE-TV). On Sunday, the Allen County Department of Health announced that another Allen County resident had tested positive for the virus the day prior. Details on the most recent patient were not released. The department said in a news release that it would not continue to provide specific patient information “due to the anticipated increase in the number of confirmed cases.”

VIGO COUNTY: 2ND VIRUS CASE - Vigo County has its second confirmed case of COVID-19 infection (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). The individual was not in the hospital and is in self quarantine, said Joni Wise, administrator of the Vigo County Health Department. "We will begin a case contact investigation, " Wise said this morning. The department's website showed the following numbers this morning: - Total Confirmed Cases in Vigo County: 2; - Total Active Cases in Vigo County: 2.

MONROE COUNTY: STUDENTS, TEACHERS EXPOSED AT EDGEWOOD HS -The Richland-Bean Blossom Community School Corp. was notified by the Monroe County Health Department on Friday that a “limited number” of students and faculty at Edgewood High School were in contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, according to a news release from the school district (Bloomington Herald-Times). According to the release, the Monroe County Health Department is in the process of contacting the individuals and conducting contact tracing to determine others who may have come in contact with the individual who tested positive for COVID-19. The district said in the release the Monroe County Health Department will follow up with the individuals from Edgewood High School to determine when they can be released from isolation.

JEFFERSON COUNTY: COURTS IMPLEMENT NEW POLICIES - Jefferson County courts are implementing new policies and procedures to ensure safety and continuity of operations during the COVID-19 virus pandemic (Madison Courier). The courthouse, on lockdown with business conducted by appointment only since earlier this week, has led the courts to adjust the way they operate to keep the courts open for essential business only.

LAKE COUNTY: SHERIFF WARNS OF VIRUS SCAM - From house visits to phone calls, scam stories have circulated and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department is aware of several reports of coronavirus-related fraud attempts (Ortiz, NWI Times). “I’d like to remind everyone to keep an eye on your neighbors, especially the elderly, who may need help getting supplies they need during this crisis,” Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. said. “We can all take part in helping each other endure these difficult times.” Residents have reported scenarios where people visit their homes claiming they must administer coronavirus tests on everyone in the household. “We have confirmed that the Lake County Health Department is not sending representatives to test residents at their homes,” Martinez said. “And, in fact, the health department says that no one is being tested without an order from their doctor. If anyone attempts to come to your home offering this kind of test, call 911.”

PORTER COUNTY: MONITORING KANKAKEE DRAINAGE - Porter County officials are planning to watch carefully what happens to drainage projects along the Kankakee River (NWI Times). The Kankakee River Basin and Yellow River Basin Development Commission was formed in 2019 by the Indiana General Assembly to address drainage issues in the watershed for the two connected rivers. The commission’s work is to be funded by a new assessment on properties in the watershed, beginning in 2021. “This board is not really happy with how that whole thing went down,” said Porter County Commissioner Jeff Good, R-Center, who heads both the county’s Board of Commissioners and its Storm Water Management Board. Agricultural money will be going straight to the multicounty agency instead of to Porter County, Good said.