HOLCOMB ORDERS HOOSIERS TO STAY AT HOME: 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 (Howey Politics Indiana). "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.

54K UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS FILED LAST WEEK: More than 54,000 Hoosiers filed for unemployment benefits last week, as restaurants, hotels and other businesses began shutting down temporarily amid the COVID-19 outbreak (IBJ). The same week one year ago had only 3,100 people file for unemployment benefits in Indiana. Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed the number Monday as he ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down through April 7, unless their employees are working from home.

TRUMP INTENDS TO REOPEN COUNTRY WITHIN WEEKS: As cases of coronavirus continue to rise, President Donald Trump said Monday that he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months, as he claimed, without evidence, that continued closures could result in more deaths than the pandemic itself (AP). “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” Trump told reporters at a briefing, echoing a midnight Sunday tweet. “We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems.” Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread. But with the economic impact now snapping into focus and millions out of work, businesses shuttered and the markets in free fall — all undermining Trump’s reelection message — the chorus of backlash is growing louder, with Trump appearing to side with them. “Life is fragile and economies are fragile,” Trump said, insisting he could protect both.

DR. ADAMS SAYS 'IT'S GOING TO GET BAD':  The surgeon general had a grim warning Monday that the coronavirus pandemic will get worse because Americans aren’t taking the threat seriously enough. “I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad,” Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said during an interview on NBC’s Today (CBS4). “We really need to come together as a nation.” Adams said too many people—especially those who are young—aren’t following social distancing protocols and guidance to stay at home. “Right now, there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously,” he said. “A lot of people think this can’t happen to them.” He pointed to people who flocked to beaches for spring break and others who went to the National Mall to view the cherry blossom trees.

TRUMP LOSING PATIENCE WITH DR. FAUCI: President Trump has praised Dr. Anthony S. Fauci as a “major television star.” He has tried to demonstrate that the administration is giving him free rein to speak. And he has deferred to Dr. Fauci’s opinion several times at the coronavirus task force’s televised briefings (Haberman, New York Times). But Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, has grown bolder in correcting the president’s falsehoods and overly rosy statements about the spread of the coronavirus in the past two weeks — and he has become a hero to the president’s critics because of it. And now, Mr. Trump’s patience has started to wear thin. So has the patience of some White House advisers, who see Dr. Fauci as taking shots at the president in some of his interviews with print reporters while offering extensive praise for Mr. Trump in television interviews with conservative hosts.

HOW SOUTH KOREA FLATTENED THE CURVE: No matter how you look at the numbers, one country stands out from the rest: South Korea. In late February and early March, the number of new coronavirus infections in the country exploded from a few dozen, to a few hundred, to several thousand (New York Times). At the peak, medical workers identified 909 new cases in a single day, Feb. 29, and the country of 50 million people appeared on the verge of being overwhelmed. But less than a week later, the number of new cases halved. Within four days, it halved again — and again the next day. On Sunday, South Korea reported only 64 new cases, the fewest in nearly a month, even as infections in other countries continue to soar by the thousands daily, devastating health care systems and economies. Italy records several hundred deaths daily; South Korea has not had more than eight in a day. South Korea is one of only two countries with large outbreaks, alongside China, to flatten the curve of new infections. And it has done so without China’s draconian restrictions on speech and movement, or economically damaging lockdowns like those in Europe and the United States. As global deaths from the virus surge past 15,000, officials and experts worldwide are scrutinizing South Korea for lessons. And those lessons, while hardly easy, appear relatively straightforward and affordable: swift action, widespread testing and contact tracing, and critical support from citizens.

VIRUS TESTING REMAINS SHARPLY LIMITED: Widespread testing in Indiana for COVID-19 does not seem to be anywhere on the horizon, despite the strong sentiment of some doctors and the general public that testing be made more widely available (IBJ). Hospitals are continuing to restrict tests to high-risk people—those with strong symptoms and who may have been in contact with others who have tested positive for the disease. Eli Lilly and Co. began drive-thru testing Monday morning, but said only front-line health care workers, with a note from their doctors, would be eligible. The Indiana State Department of Health has repeatedly said it will not offer tests to people with mild or no symptoms, for fear of running out of limited supplies and overtaxing health-care workers.“ The problem is there are limited tests available so it is unfortunately being severely rationed,” Dr. Richard Feldman, director of medical education at Franciscan Health Indianapolis and former state health commissioner, said in an email to IBJ. “It should be progressively liberalized as more tests become available,” Feldman said. “From a public health perspective, we cannot get the best handle on this unless we can identify those who are infected. This will also be important as we make progress in mitigation on a population basis and turn to case reporting on an individual basis to identify individuals infected and identify contacts to continue to contain the epidemic."

HHS, CDC MISSTEPS GROSSLY LIMITED TESTING: A series of missteps at the nation’s top public health agency caused a critical shortage of reliable laboratory tests for the coronavirus, hobbling the federal response as the pandemic spread across the country like wildfire, an Associated Press review found (AP). President Donald Trump assured Americans early this month that the COVID-19 test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “perfect” and that “anyone who wants a test can get a test.” But more than two months after the first U.S. case of the new disease was confirmed, many people still cannot get tested. In the critical month of February, as the virus began taking root in the U.S. population, CDC data shows government labs processed 352 COVID-19 tests — an average of only a dozen per day. The Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the CDC, has begun an internal review to assess its own mistakes. But outside observers and federal health officials have pointed to four primary issues that together hampered the national response — the early decision not to use the test adopted by the World Health Organization, flaws with the more complex test developed by the CDC, government guidelines restricting who could be tested and delays in engaging the private sector to ramp up testing capacity.

ROCHE SENDING OUT 3RD BATCH OF 400K TEST KITS: As the coronavirus pandemic continues, there are increasing examples of the business community coming together to attack the crisis, including here in Indiana. This week Roche Diagnostics will send the third batch of 400,000 coronavirus test kits from its North American headquarters in Indianapolis to laboratories across the United States (Dick, Inside Indiana Business). An all hands on deck approach included Roche scientists on the west coast, manufacturing on the east coast and instrument designers in Switzerland to get product ready for distribution from Indiana in record time. “Our standard process can be anywhere from an 18 to 24 month period,” said Roche Diagnostics Senior Vice President for U.S. Marketing Randy Pritchard. “In this situation, thanks to incredibly tight alignment with our research and development team, the Food and Drug Administration and many, many other officials, we were actually able to do this in six weeks.”

CONGRESSIONAL LEADERS EXPECT RESCUE PACKAGE TODAY: Top congressional and White House officials emerged from grueling negotiations at the Capitol over the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package saying they expected to reach a deal Tuesday (AP). Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said they had spoken by phone with President Donald Trump during the long night of negotiations. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some remain. At midnight Monday, they emerged separately to say talks would continue into the night. “We look forward to having a deal tomorrow,” Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer’s office.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: It's understandable how President Trump feels about the economic shutdown. Many of us have wondered whether the health experts were correct about the depth and reach of this pandemic. But they appear to be right, as the U.S. bell curve is now on the steepest rise on the globe. That's why Gov. Holcomb ordered the state's shutdown. If the mortality rate turns out to be 3.4% as the World Health Organization has predicted, that potentially means the deaths of more than 200,000 Hoosiers if the curve isn't flattened. I hope President Trump continues to listen to the health experts and not prematurely reopen the economy. Because the testing battle was lost in the early sequence, this war is now being fought in the broader economy. - Brian A. Howey


MITCHELL REACTS TO CONGRESSIONAL RESCUE DEFEAT: 5th CD Republican candidate Kelly Mitchell made the following statement in response to the inaction of Congress on the relief package (Howey Politics Indiana): "Outside the DC beltway, Americans are coming together to help one another during this time of need. But they are struggling. Small businesses are facing great uncertainty, our healthcare workers need resources, and our economy continues to decline. All the while, Democrat leaders in Congress are holding up a bipartisan relief package to play politics. Enough is enough. COVID-19 doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat, and right now, neither do Americans. Congress must put aside political differences and get this relief package done for the American people."

HOWARD COUNTY URGES VOTE BY MAIL: The Howard County Election Board is encouraging voters to vote by mail in the upcoming primary election (Kokomo Tribune). In-person voting for the primary election – which was moved to June 2 by Gov. Holcomb – will still be available as of Monday, but due to COVID-19, the county’s election board is recommending residents vote via mail. The Election Board is already working with nursing homes and assisted living facilities to sign up residents for voting by mail, according to a Monday press release from the board.

STATE CONVENTIONS COULD BE IMPACTED: Moving Indiana’s primary election to June 2 could have a ripple effect on this year’s Democratic and Republican state party conventions, slated for mid-June (Smith, Indiana Public Media). The governor, secretary of state and state party chairs announced the primary date shift Friday. Convention delegates choose their parties’ nominees for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Incumbent AG Curtis Hill faces a contentious fight for the GOP nomination against former Indiana Department of Revenue Commissioner Adam Krupp and attorney John Westercamp. That comes amid an ongoing disciplinary proceeding over allegations Hill groped four women. Indiana Republican Party Chair Kyle Hupfer says he can’t guarantee that race will get a full convention vote. “As anybody who’s lived the last five days, anyone who would stand up here and make any guarantees about anything over the course of the next several months would not be a sane individual," Hupfer says. "So, I’m not going to make any guarantees today.”

Presidential 2020

BIDEN TELLS TRUMP 'START ACTING' LIKE WARTIME LEADER: Joe Biden delivered his first shadow briefing on the coronavirus Monday, faulting President Trump for giving false information about the pandemic, not taking it seriously enough and not moving faster (Politico). “Trump keeps saying that he’s a wartime president. Well, start to act like one,” Biden said, drawing attention to his own coronavirus response plan. “To paraphrase a frustrated President Lincoln writing to an inactive General McClellan during the Civil War, ‘if you don't want to use the army, may I borrow it?’”

DNC DEVELOPING CONVENTION CONTINGENCY PLANS: Planners for the Democratic National Convention are looking at “contingency options” in case the mid-July gathering in Milwaukee can’t take place because of the coronavirus, officials said on Monday for the first time (New York Times). “As we navigate the unprecedented challenge of responding to the coronavirus, we’re exploring a range of contingency options to ensure we can deliver a successful convention without unnecessary risk to public health,” said Katie Peters, a convention spokeswoman. “This is a very fluid situation — and the convention is still more than three months away. We are committed to sharing updates with the public in the coming weeks and months as our plans continue to take shape.”


BRAUN, YOUNG BACK FAILED SENATE RESCUE PLAN: U.S. Sen. Mike Braun said Monday that Congress must be ready to “reposition on everything” as it responds to the coronavirus pandemic. Federal lawmakers in coming weeks should focus most on helping health care providers treating the outbreak, Braun added (Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Washington's role is “to put the real tools out there financially, and it's to tell the American public to restore confidence,” Braun, R-Ind., said in a telephone interview from his office on Capitol Hill. But the Republican-controlled Senate later Monday failed for the second straight day to advance a $1.8 trillion economic rescue package. Democrats blocked the legislation both times, arguing it gives preference to large companies. The legislation would provide $500 billion in loans for businesses – including $58 billion for passenger and cargo airlines, expand unemployment benefits and send $250 billion in cash payments to people earning less than $100,000 a year. Braun and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., supported the package on both procedural votes. “The longer it takes us to come together, the more damage that's going to be done. This is an emergency,” Young said in an emotional floor speech broadcast by C-SPAN. “This is bad. The Senate needs to act,” he said. Among sticking points is that the legislation would allow the U.S. Treasury to keep secret for six months the identities of businesses receiving financial assistance. “I don't like that,” Braun said about the confidentiality provision. “I'm a believer in full transparency on everything. ... I see no point in that.” He repeated his opposition later during a floor speech in which he also said he could go along with Democrats' requests to prevent worker layoffs and stock buybacks by companies receiving assistance. But Young complained that Democrats are also insisting on amendments for regulating airplane emissions, granting permanent paid leave to workers and easing voting access in elections. “Let's not allow this legislation to be hijacked,” Young said in his floor speech. “Let's live up to the high standards of the American people. At this difficult moment, let's come together like we did in 9/11, like our country has so consistently when the chips are really down.”

General Assembly

BRAY REACTS TO STAY AT HOME ORDER: Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray (R-Martinsville) made the following statement today on the latest updates from Gov. Holcomb regarding the state's COVID-19 response (Howey Politics Indiana):  “Today the governor made the difficult decision to order all Hoosiers who are able to stay at home to do so except for essential purposes. State leaders, myself included, recognize that this is a difficult decision to make – it is hard on our economy and it is hard on Hoosiers who want and need to work. However, it is our hope that making these tough choices now will ultimately shorten the life of the virus and the effect it is having on our public health and economy. We do not want our health care system to become overwhelmed to the point it must turn people away. We can work to avoid that by heeding the governor's advice.”

HUSTON REACTS TO HOLCOMB ORDER: House Speaker Todd Huston (R-Fishers) reacted to Gov. Holcomb's announcement today to implement further protections for Hoosiers in order to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (Howey Politics Indiana): “Rest assured, the governor and all state leaders are working together to engage necessary resources to protect our most vulnerable while understanding the tremendous urgency to get employees and businesses back to work as soon as possible. We all have to pull together now and do our part to protect our families, friends and communities, so that we can accelerate our state's recovery."

GIAQUINTA SUPPORTS ORDER: State Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) released the following statement regarding Governor Holcomb's "shelter in place" announcement (Howey Politics Indiana): "Thanks to Gov. Holcomb's recent mandate, keeping Hoosiers safe isn't a suggestion anymore. Protecting the folks of our state has always been the top priority of House Democrats, especially during these unprecedented times. I stand with the governor's decision to require Hoosiers to stay at home unless performing essential activities such as buying food or seeking medical attention. We can only work with the information we have at any given moment, and this is one action we can take right now to reduce the risk to Hoosier lives. However, we also recognize the pressure and inconvenience this puts on families and workers. We know it will put a strain on already tight incomes and decrease the accessibility of vital resources. House Democrats will continue serving Hoosiers first by providing updates on available services that may be helpful to those struggling in the coming weeks."

LANANE SUPPORTS ORDER: Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane (D-Anderson) issued the following statement in response to the governor's latest actions to stem the COVID-19 outbreak (Howey Politics Indiana): "The governor is correct when he says that this is a serious time that demands action from all Hoosiers. Our ability to recover from this outbreak will be determined by how much we can limit the virus's exponential spread in the coming weeks. I think the governor's actions today are warranted, and I implore all Hoosiers to listen to the executive order and stay at home. The more we limit our movement and contact now, as difficult as it can be, the higher chance we have of stopping this virus before even more lives are affected. Let's work together and look out for one another during this crisis."


GOVERNOR: FAQ ON STAY AT HOME ORDER - Here are FAQs on Gov. Holcomb's stay at home order (Howey Politics Indiana): Q. When does the order take effect? A. The Stay-At-Home Order takes effect Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Q. When does the order end? A. The order ends on Monday, April 6, at 11:59 p.m. ET, but could be extended if the outbreak warrants it. Q. Where does the order apply? A. The Stay-At-Home Order applies to the entire state of Indiana. Unless you work for an essential business or are doing an essential activity, you must stay home. Q. Is this mandatory or a recommendation? A. This order is mandatory. For the safety of all Hoosiers, people must stay home and prevent the spread of COVID-19.

GOVERNOR: HOTLINE OPENS ON GOVERNOR'S STAY AT HOME ORDER - Indiana will open a call center to field industry questions about Governor Eric J. Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-08, which provides for essential and non-essential business operations, infrastructure and government functions while the state observes a stay-at-home order from March 25-April 7 (Howey Politics Indiana). The Critical Industries Hotline will open Tuesday at 9 a.m. to help guide businesses and industries with the executive order. This center, reachable by calling 877-820-0890 or by emailing covidresponse@iedc.in.gov, is for business and industry questions only.

GOVERNOR: CHAMBER BACKS HOLCOMB ORDER -  Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar responds to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s decision today to issue a statewide stay at home order and for all non-essential businesses to be closed (Howey Politics Indiana). “The Governor didn’t make today’s decision lightly – it was out of necessity to protect the citizens of Indiana as we fight our way through this pandemic. We applaud Gov. Holcomb for allowing businesses that provide essential services either directly or through supply chains to continue their operations to the best of their ability. “The announcement obviously will impact more employers and their workers. There is no way around that and the economic disruptions that will accelerate. But we want employers to know that we are here for them. The Indiana Chamber will do everything it can to help get the business community through this and recover as quickly as possible.”

GOVERNOR: HOOSIER PHYSICIANS APPLAUD ORDER -  Hoosier physicians applauded Gov. Eric Holcomb for the “Stay-at-Home” order issued today, effective March 25 to April 7, and other measures the governor announced to contain the spread of COVID-19 (Howey Politics Indiana). Dr. Lisa Hatcher, MD, president of the Indiana State Medical Association, issued the following statement: “Indiana’s physicians are on the front lines in the COVID-19 pandemic, leading medical teams that are working around the clock to prevent the virus while treating other patients. We applaud the actions taken by Gov. Holcomb to help contain the spread, which has continued to put greater stress on our health care system. Now it’s up to the citizens of Indiana to do their part. Given the limited supplies necessary to protect health care workers and patients with COVID-19, staying home is the only way Hoosiers can prevent becoming infected with the coronavirus and overwhelming our hospitals.

GOVERNOR: HOSPITAL ASSN BACKS ORDER - Statement from IHA President Brian Tabor (Howey Politics Indiana): "We are grateful for the Governor’s continued, strong leadership to address the spread of COVID-19, and we echo his comments honoring the health care heroes on the front lines in hospitals across the state. Now is also the time for bold action in Congress, and we call on Indiana’s delegation to provide no less than $100 billion in immediate relief for hospitals and providers so that they can continue to care for patients 24/7. Many facilities will struggle to keep their doors open even in the coming weeks without emergency assistance. More will be needed, but time is of the essence.

GOVERNOR: WORKFORCE CABINET APPROVES 5-YEAR PLAN - The Governor’s Workforce Cabinet has finished a months-long process to create a comprehensive federally-funded workforce plan for the state. The cabinet formally voted via teleconference to approve the plan’s submission to the U.S. Department of Labor (Hicks, Indiana Public Media). The plan is titled “A Better Future for Every Hoosier” and impacts education from early learning programs to K-12 schools to colleges. It stresses that education and workforce agencies will do more to share data and co-locate more state services. Major outcomes of the plan are to raise median household income and ensure that 60 percent of Hoosiers have some form of post-secondary education.

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SAYS KOKOMO PLANT MAY SHIFT TO VENTILATORS - The Kokomo General Motors Components Holding plant could pivot to begin temporarily making medical ventilators instead of automotive parts to boost the supply of the machines that will be sorely needed during the COVID-19 pandemic (Kokomo Tribune). Gov. Eric Holcomb said Monday that the GM facility was “redeploying their Kokomo workforce and converting their production line to make ventilators.” He made the statement during a televised update on the state’s effort to combat the spread of coronavirus. In a statement issued to the Tribune after Holcomb’s address, GM said it’s “exploring the feasibility” to build ventilators at the GM facility in Kokomo. Greg Wohlford, shop chair of United Auto Workers Local 292, which represents the plant, said Monday he had not yet been informed by GM of any plans to redeploy the local workforce to begin making ventilators.

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SIGNS GRIFFITH TOWNSHIP BILL - There weren't any fireworks launched to celebrate it — this year — but March 21 could be commemorated in the future as Griffith's independence day. On Saturday, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed into law Senate Enrolled Act 365, assuring Griffith's voter-approved exit from Calumet Township and likely transfer into Lake County's North Township (Carden, NWI Times). "We're ecstatic," said Rick Ryfa, the Republican town council president. "Our citizens are very thankful that this got through this year." Under the new law, which took effect immediately, Griffith has until June 30 to continue attempting to voluntarily join either North or St. John townships — despite both previously rejecting Griffith's entreaties. Should no deal be reached, the law states Griffith automatically will join North Township. The town's transfer out of Calumet Township becomes final Jan. 1, 2022.

SUPREME COURT: NEW OPERATIONAL MEASURES ORDERED - The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered new operational measures in response to COVID-19. Today, Governor Eric Holcomb announced a statewide “Directive for Hoosiers to Stay at Home” and among other things closed the Indiana State House to the general public. Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush supports the Executive Branch orders (Howey Politics Indiana). Chief Justice Rush explained, “We are balancing the health and well-being of our communities with the need to maintain essential court operations and to provide legal services to Hoosiers at this time. The Governor’s Executive Orders take that balance into account. The Supreme Court is directing appropriate actions to provide guidance to the bench and the bar.”

ATTORNEY GENERAL: HILL ADVISES TRAVELERS OF THEIR RIGHTS - Attorney General Curtis Hill today said if you are unsure about following through with your travel plans or are wondering what to do if your flight is impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is important to know your rights (Howey Politics Indiana). Airlines have slashed hundreds of flights since this public health crisis emerged, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says crowded travel settings such as airports may increase chances of getting the coronavirus. “The coronavirus outbreak has upended every aspect of our lives and has understandably caused consumers to hesitate before continuing with their air travel plans,” Attorney General Hill said.

DNR: STATE CLOSES PARK INNS, CABINS - The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is now closing state park inns, restaurants, and cabins, along with welcome centers, playgrounds, camper cabins, fire towers, nature centers, forest education centers, and shooting ranges (Pete, NWI Times). Indiana's state parks, state forests, fish and wildlife areas, nature preserves and state recreation areas remain open to the public for walking, running or biking but any visitors are encouraged to practice social distancing. Archery ranges will be open but unmanned.

UTILITIES: NIPSCO SUSPENDS SHUTOFFS - NIPSCO is voluntarily suspending shutoffs for nonpayment during the coronavirus pandemic (Pete, NWI Times). The Merrillville-based utility, which provides both electricity and gas to Northwest Indiana, said the suspension would apply to all of its residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Aimed to mitigate financial hardship many people are suffering during a period of widespread shutdowns and closures, the suspension will stay in effect for the time being. “The safety of our employees and customers is at the forefront of everything we do at NIPSCO,” NIPSCO President Violet Sistovaris said. “We are taking a proactive, coordinated approach to prevent, mitigate and respond to COVID-19.”

EDUCATION: McROBBIE SAYS IU EMPLOYEES WILL BE PAID - Indiana University will continue to pay employees even if their jobs cannot be completed remotely, according to a Monday afternoon announcement from IU President Michael McRobbie (Rasnic, Indiana Public Media). The university is not closing campuses and will still be open to employees whose duties are essential services. Otherwise, faculty and staff are instructed to work remotely if possible. Employees will not have to use vacation, paid-time-off or sick leave for COVID-19 related issues. The announcement said these new policies will remain in place until one of the following: "Until the normal end of their employment, which may align to the end of the academic term or another defined time period, Until the end of the COVID-19 situation at IU, or Through the end of this academic year (June 30, 2020)." Hiring of all staff and temporary workers has been halted and McRobbie urges departments to work together to meet their needs. Faculty hiring will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of Executive Vice Presidents.


WHITE HOUSE: DR. FAUCI DESCRIBES WORKING WITH TRUMP - The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, described the challenges of working with the Trump administration during the coronavirus pandemic in an interview with the journal Science published Sunday (CNN). Asked how he responds to falsehoods from the President during press conferences, Fauci said, "I can't jump in front of the microphone and push him down," according to the interview. "OK, he said it. Let's try and get it corrected for the next time," Fauci said. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Fauci has advised six presidents and has played a central role in the White House's Coronavirus Task Force. "I'm sort of exhausted," Fauci said in the interview. "But other than that, I'm good. I mean, I'm not, to my knowledge, coronavirus infected. To my knowledge, I haven't been fired."

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP'S 'SHOW' MOVES FROM RALLIES TO BRIEFING ROOM - President Trump’s campaign rallies have been canceled for the foreseeable future. His noisy back-and-forths with reporters on the South Lawn, half drowned out by the whir of Marine One behind him, have also disappeared (New York Times). And with almost no meetings or foreign leaders visiting the Oval Office, Mr. Trump can no longer invite the news media to view him at work — photo ops that doubled as chances for him to engage in impromptu question-and-answer sessions with the news media that he could end on his own terms. Instead, Mr. Trump, who has always scripted his presidency like a reality show, has found his new favorite stage: the dust-covered briefing room, unused since Sarah Huckabee Sanders, his previous press secretary, ended daily sessions with reporters. “I’ve gotten to like this room,” Mr. Trump said, though he had virtually shut it down for months.

WHITE HOUSE: 50% APPROVE OF TRUMP'S HANDLING OF PANDEMIC - Half of Americans give President Donald Trump positive marks for his management of the coronavirus outbreak, according to a new survey, and his approval rating has seen a marginal improvement over the past month as the pandemic has worsened (Politico). A Monmouth University poll released Monday reports that 50 percent of respondents believe Trump has done a “good job” dealing with the outbreak, while 45 percent say he has done a “bad job.” Three percent of those surveyed said they had a mixed review of Trump’s performance, and 1 percent did not have an opinion.

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE SAYS MORE AMERICANS BEING TESTED - Vice President Mike Pence told Sean Hannity on Fox News on Monday he was disappointed that a bill to put money directly in the hands of the American people did not pass the Senate over the weekend. But, he said he’s optimistic lawmakers will reconcile (WIBC). “We’re still hopeful that maybe before the day is out Tuesday we will see Republicans and Democrats pass a bill,” he said. “It provides immediate financial assistance. The average family of four would receive a direct payment of $3,000 to help weather the storm.” In the meantime, he said more and more Americans are being tested every day. “A week ago the total number of tests that had been reported back to the CDC was 53,000,” Pence added. “Seven days later we are at 313,000 tests that have been done, completed.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump will participate in a Fox News virtual town hall at 12:30 p.m. in the Rose Garden. There is no coronavirus briefing on the schedule, though the vice president is meeting with the task force itself at 3 p.m. in the Situation Room.

MEDIA: NEWSPAPERS DEALT A HARSH BLOW - The pandemic is one of the biggest stories most publications will ever cover. But it has left many of them struggling to stay solvent (New York Times). Alternative weeklies and daily papers in small and midsize cities across the United States were already suffering because of the recession last decade, the migration of readers from print to online and the decline of the advertising business. Since 2004, roughly one-fourth of American newspapers — more than 2,000 — have been lost to mergers or shutdowns, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina. Most were weeklies. The arrival of the coronavirus shook the industry’s already weakened economic foundation. As ad revenue and the money generated by events sponsored by small publications started to evaporate, many papers have canceled print editions, laid off workers or asked readers for donations.

MICHIGAN: GOV. WHITMER ORDERS STAY AT HOME ORDER - Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with an exemption for certain workers, outdoor exercise and trips to the grocery store or hospital (AP). The order, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, will allow essential employees necessary to sustain and protect life to continue going to work. Businesses also can exempt workers needed to conduct minimum basic operations. Michigan has more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Nine deaths have been reported.


FORT WAYNE: TEACHERS WILL CONTINUE TO BE PAID - Fort Wayne Community Schools board members made the “very easy” decision Monday night to provide some certainty to employees while the coronavirus pandemic upends daily life: Paychecks will continue (Sloboda, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). In a meeting closed to an in-person audience but televised on cable and livestreamed on YouTube, the six board members also learned how FWCS will provide learning opportunities while classrooms sit empty.

BREMEN: 100 KIDS EXPOSED TO VIRUS -  A person now hospitalized with COVID-19 potentially exposed nearly 120 people to the virus at the Bremen Boys and Girls Club on March 9 (Spaulding, South Bend Tribune). The incubation period for the illness is thought to be 14 days, and Monday marked two weeks since the potential exposure of about 10 staff members and more than 100 children. As of Monday morning, no one known to have been exposed had reported symptoms of the disease, according to Marshall County public health nurse Lisa Letsinger. Marshall County on Monday morning had no confirmed cases of COVID-19. The patient, who is a staff member of the Bremen County Boys and Girls Club, resides in a surrounding county, although Letsinger declined to say which county. The patient has been hospitalized, she said.

SOUTH BEND: 5 FIREFIGHTERS QUARANTINED - Five South Bend firefighters have been quarentined after interacting with a patient who has now tested positive for the coronavirus (South Bend Tribune). The firefighters interacted with the person March 14 during a 911 call that was unrelated to COVID-19. The department was informed later in the week that the patient tested positive for the virus. All five firefighters are in quarantine awaiting test results. They are all quarantined at their homes, a city spokesman said.

GARY: MAYOR PRINCE VOWS TO ENFORCE GOV'S ORDER - Funerals, church services and other gatherings must cease immediately to curb the spread of the serious and potentially fatal respiratory virus, COVID-19, Mayor Jerome Prince warned Gary residents on Monday (Cross, NWI Times). Gary police, along with the Indiana State Police, will fully enforce Gov. Eric Holcomb's stay-at-home order issued Monday, Prince said. “Please do not try your luck or think anything other than absolute seriousness on this particular issue," Prince said during a livestreamed news conference Monday.

MUNCIE: 8 FIREFIGHTERS, COPS QUARANTINED - Eight emergency personnel in Muncie are in quarantine following possible exposure to the coronavirus (WIBC). Those affected are members of the Muncie Fire Department and Muncie Police Department, Mayor Dan Ridenour announced Monday morning. The group is in quarantine at Fire Station Number 4 on S. Mock Avenue in Muncie. The public is asked to stay away from the fire station for the time being. Ridenour said coronavirus tests will be administered to the group. None of them are currently showing symptoms of the virus, according to The Star Press newspaper.

SOUTH BEND: 5 FIREFIGHTERS QUARANTINED - Five South Bend firefighters have been quarentined after interacting with a patient who has now tested positive for the coronavirus (South Bend Tribune). The firefighters interacted with the person March 14 during a 911 call that was unrelated to COVID-19. The department was informed later in the week that the patient tested positive for the virus. All five firefighters are in quarantine awaiting test results. They are all quarantined at their homes, a city spokesman said.

INDIANAPOLIS: MARION COUNTY COURTS REMAIN CLOSED - The Marion Superior Court system is entering its second week of shutdown and has its first confirmed coronavirus warning (CBS4). Court operations were already on a limited basis, at least until early April. Late Saturday night, the following message was sent out judges and staff by the court’s chief operations officer. “This email is to notify you that you may have come into contact or been exposed to an individual in the west wing of the City County Building who has tested positive to COVID-19. That individual was in the west wing on March 9th, 2020.”

INDIANAPOLIS: HOGSETT ORDERS TRAVEL WARNING - Mayor Joe Hogsett issued a series of "stay at home" orders including a "warning" travel status (WTHR-TV). “As we have watched the spread of COVID-19 across our community, it is clear that every one of us has a personal obligation to do our part to combat the scourge of this virus,” said Mayor Hogsett. “These restrictions are burdensome and disruptive, but they are necessary – this crisis is real, it is here now, and through this action I am confident that we will save lives in Indianapolis.”

EVANSVILLE: WINNECKE BACKS GOVERNOR'S ORDER - Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke spoke Monday afternoon in front of the Civic Center (WFIE-TV). He said Evansville is taking Governor Holcomb’s stay home order seriously, and directed people to Indiana’s website to determine if you or your business is exempt. The Mayor says the city’s emergency order has been extended to fall in line with Governor Holcomb’s executive orders.

BLOOMINGTON: TRANSIT CENTER CLOSES; BUS FEES DROPPED - Bloomington is closing the indoor passenger waiting area at the Downtown Transit Center on South Walnut Street (Indiana Public Media). City officials say riders can continue to use the outdoor areas of the transit center for boarding buses, but the waiting area will remain closed as a precaution against further spread of the new coronavirus. A stay-at-home order from Gov. Eric Holcomb goes into effect Wednesday. It says Hoosiers should limit use of public transit to essential travel only. Bloomington Transit will operate at no cost to commuters beginning Tuesday. This includes all fixed route and BT Access services buses.

TERRE HAUTE: UNION HOSPITAL OPENS PORTABLE CENTER - Union Hospital has now opened its portable medical tent outside the main entrance of its Emergency Department under its COVID-19 protocol (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). The medical tent is for patients being referred by their physician for respiratory evaluation. Medical staff in the Emergency Department determine while the patient should be placed. "It's a matter of streamlining each patient efficiently and as safely as possible," the hospital said in a news release issued today, adding medical officials say there is no reason for alarm. The decision came from the Incident Command Center, which opened the tent at 1 p.m. Union Hospital has tested 48 people for COVID-19, with 16 negative results and three positive results.

MADISON COUNTY: ELECTION MACHINE DISPUTE HEADS TO COURT - The dispute between two governmental bodies in Madison County over the purchase of additional voting machines is likely to be settled in court (de la Bastide, Anderson Herald-Bulletin). Last week the Madison County Election Board approved a contract with Election Systems & Software (ES&S) to purchase an additional 170 voting machines and 15 tabulators at cost of $766,376. The election board approved a four year lease/purchase agreement with ES&S and directed Madison County Auditor Rick Gardner to pay the claim. Last Tuesday County Attorney Jonathan Hughes with Bose McKinney & Evans sent a letter to ES&S attorney that since the contract to purchase the additional voting machines was not approved by the commissioners, the company might not be paid. In his letter Hughes said state law requires all contracts and all payments to be approved by the commissioners and that the election board acted outside the scope of its authority. Madison County Clerk Olivia Pratt, a member of the election board, said Friday the additional voting equipment has been ordered and is ready to be shipped. “ES&S wants to be confident that they will be paid,” she said.

ELKHART COUNTY: POISED TO LOSE THOUSANDS OF RV JOBS - Elkhart County will likely lose thousands of jobs this week with the closure of RV plants operated by Thor Industries, Winnebago Industries and others (Semmler, South Bend Tribune). Early Monday, Winnebago announced plans to shut down most of its operations across the country, potentially idling many of its 5,500 employees in Iowa, Indiana and Florida, including roughly 3,500 in Elkhart County. The company said it was taking the action to protect its employees, customers and communities where it operates, but that it would cover the base pay and benefits of impacted employees with the hope of being able to resume operations on April 12.

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY: OFFICIALS EXPECT VIRUS CASES TO RISE - Bartholomew County health officials say they expect an increase in local cases of COVID-19 and are urging the public to take the pandemic seriously (Columbus Republic). On Sunday, the Indiana State Department of Health confirmed four new cases of COVID-19 in Bartholomew County, increasing the local total to five. Local health officials, however, “expect that number to start increasing because we are fully aware it is present and spreading in our community,” said Dr. Brian Niedbalski, county health officer. Local health officials are investigating how the four individuals may have been exposed to the virus and will not comment until the investigation is complete, Niedbalski said.

SCOTT COUNTY: 1ST VIRUS DEATH - Scott County Health Department officials say the county's first coronavirus victim was between 50 and 60 years old and had a pre-existing condition. They died on March 22 (Indiana Public Media). Scott County Public Health Nurse Brittany Combs says the victim tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday. That’s when health officials last made contact with the patient. “This person was doing fine at that time, and unfortunately took a turn for the worst, and passed away at their home, very early Sunday morning,” says Combs.

SULLIVAN COUNTY: 1ST VIRUS CASE - The Sullivan County Health Department issued a notice today that people who have been in contact with the patient are being identified and monitored, and that infection control protocols are being followed (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Reported symptoms for COVID-19 have ranged from mild to severe illness for confirmed cases. Symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure, and may include cough, shortness of breath and fever. Anyone who experiences the symptoms should contact their health provider.

HANCOCK COUNTY: TRIAGE CENTER OPENS - Hancock County residents experiencing coronavirus symptoms have a new resource available to them (CBS4). Hancock Health has opened a dedicated COVID-19 triage center, Hancock Triage, with appointments available by referral only. There are no walk-up appointments, and the address of the center is being kept private to protect patients and healthcare workers. Residents who are experiencing symptoms or have questions are encouraged to call the COVID-19 hotline, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (317) 325-COVD.

CLARK, FLOYD COUNTIES: HEALTH DEPT RESTRICTIONS SET - The Clark and Floyd County Health Departments have issued further restrictions on area businesses to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (News & Tribune). Starting at 9 p.m. today, all non-essential retail businesses are mandated to close to walk-in service until further notice, according to news releases from both the Clark and Floyd County health departments.  Those affected include, but are not limited to, automobile dealers (auto service still available), furniture stores, electronics and appliance stores, cosmetic stores, salons and barber shops, tattoo parlors, clothing and shoe stores, jewelry stores, sporting good stores, music stores, hobby and craft stores, florists, office supply and stationary stores, libraries, fitness centers, karate schools and auctions.