TODAY'S INDIANA ELECTION COMMISSION MEETING ON ZOOM: The Indiana Election Commission will convene a public meeting at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday, March 25, 2020. It is expected to delay the May 5 primary to June 2. The meeting will be virtual using Zoom (Howey Politics Indiana). Members of the public may join the meeting at 9:45 a.m. To join the virtual meeting go to https://stewartrichardson.zoom.us/j/457624019. Member of the public may also choose to call in at 1-646-876-9923. The meeting ID is 457 624 019.

TRUMP, CONGRESS AGREE ON $2T VIRUS PACKAGE: The White House and Senate leaders of both parties announced agreement early Wednesday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic (AP). The urgently needed pandemic response measure is the largest economic rescue measure in history and is intended as a weeks- or months-long patch for an economy spiraling into recession and a nation facing a potentially ghastly toll. The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. One of the last issues to close concerned $500 billion for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including a fight over how generous to be with the airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well. “After days of intense discussions, the Senate has reached a bipartisan agreement on a historic relief package for this pandemic,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a key negotiator. “It will rush new resources onto the front lines of our nation’s health care fight. And it will inject trillions of dollars of cash into the economy as fast as possible to help Americans workers, families, small businesses and industries make it through this disruption and emerge on the other side ready to soar.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said pointedly at the briefing, “No one is going to want to tone down anything when you see what is going on in a place like New York City.” The unprecedented economic rescue package would give direct a one-time payment of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child directly to the public.

WITH FEDS MOSTLY MIA, INDIANA RELIES ON 'HOMEGROWN' SOLUTIONS: With the state’s capital city poised to join the ranks of American cities under siege from the coronavirus, as supplies from the federal government are coming in at just a fraction of our needs, the Holcomb administration acknowledged Tuesday afternoon it is relying on “homegrown” solutions (Howey Politics Indiana). That includes state prison inmates making personal protective gear for medical workers and a GM plant in Kokomo preparing to produce ventilators. “We are going to do everything to throw back COVID-19 that we have,” Gov. Holcomb said at a Tuesday afternoon Statehouse press conference. “I will tell you this, the numbers don't lie and if they don't put the fear of God in you to act, and act now and fight back, I don't know what would. We're going to continue to lose people and we know what the timeline has been when you look at the coastal states. If you look out at the two-week increments ... now was the time to act, yesterday.” Of the 107 new cases reported, 51 were in Indianapolis. “When we look at Marion County with 161 cases now and we start to look at cities across the United States that were a couple weeks ahead of us, we can see that need for ICU beds and ventilators by about two times the amount that individual cities have, we really felt the strong need to decrease the spread from one individual to another,” Dr. Kristina Box, commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, said Tuesday as Gov. Eric Holcomb looked on. Read between the lines and it is becoming clear the Missing in Action element is the federal government. "We know personal protective equipment is still a concern and we've requested the rest of Indiana's share from the strategic national stockpile,” Dr. Box said. “We're also hoping to receive FEMA supplies. To supplement, industries from all over the state have donated PPE to local hospitals and their health departments. Department of Corrections is making gowns and masks and several manufacturing companies are stepping up to help us out. I was very happy to hear GM of Kokomo is partnering with VinTech Life System to ramp up production of ventilators soon.” Asked if she was confident the state will get the equipment it needs from the federal government, Dr. Box said, “We have been able to receive a percentage of what Indiana is allocated based on our population from the Strategic National Stockpile. I believe we'll be receiving more in the next 24 to 48 hours. Our hope is we'll see additional supplies from FEMA. But Indiana is pretty homegrown and we're figuring out some ways around this ourselves and making sure we are conserving our supplies as much as possible.”

365 VIRUS CASES STATEWIDE; 161 IN INDY AS EMERGING HOTSPOT: The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 365 after the emergence of 106 more cases (IBJ). The department reported that 2,931 people have been tested, up from 1,960 people in the previous day’s report. The ISDH said the test number reflects only those tests reported to the department and the numbers should not be characterized as a comprehensive total. The death toll in the state has risen to 12, up from seven the previous day. The department initially reported seven deaths Tuesday morning. Marion County reported 161 cases—up 51 cases from the previous day—with three deaths.

TRUMP TARGETS REOPENING COMMERCE BY EASTER: With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter as he weighs how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak (AP). As many public health officials call for stricter, not looser restrictions on public interactions, Trump said he was already looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, closed schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” he said during a Fox News virtual town hall. Easter is nearly three weeks away — Apr. 12. “Wouldn’t it be great to have all of the churches full?” Trump said in a subsequent interview. “You’ll have packed churches all over our country.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, then said at a coronavirus briefing Tuesday evening that President Trump's target date of Easter to ease social distancing is "really very flexible."

U.S. KEEPS REACTING TOO LATE: The U.S. keeps reacting too late to the novel coronavirus, prolonging its economic pain and multiplying its toll on Americans' health.  The spread and impact of the coronavirus may be unfathomable, but it's not unpredictable. And yet the U.S. has failed to respond accordingly over and over again. First, it happened with testing — a delay that allowed the virus to spread undetected (Owens, Axios). Then we were caught flat-footed by the surge in demand for medical supplies in emerging hotspots. And the Trump administration declined to issue a national shelter-in-place order. The resulting patchwork across the country left enough economic hubs closed to crash the economy, but enough places up and running to allow the virus to continue to spread rampantly.  Proactive containment and mitigation steps would have required extraordinary political and economic capital, especially if they had come early in the process, when many Americans didn't grasp the full weight of this challenge. When I asked one senior Health and Human Services official how all of this keeps happening, the official said it's at least partially due to disconnects — between Trump and his administration; between the government and the private sector, and between the U.S. and the rest of the world. "At the end of the day, the virus has slipped through all those cracks that exist between all of these entities," the official said.

DOZENS OF CLINICAL TRIALS UNDERWAY WORLDWIDE: Scientists around the world have started dozens of clinical trials, on more than 100 drugs, in the hunt to find a product that could attack the new coronavirus, Axios health care business reporter Bob Herman reports. There are more than 100 coronavirus drugs and vaccines in development worldwide, according to Umer Raffat, an analyst at Evercore ISI who has been tracking progress. Coronavirus has become the pharmaceutical world’s top priority, but safety and efficacy haven’t been proven anywhere yet. Expectations need to be tempered. A vaccine is likely a long way off, and failures are inevitable. But some experimental treatments, while they still require more research, are showing promise.

IU PROF URGES BUSINESS 'HIBERNATION': A business economist at the Kelley School of Business at IUPUI says the stay at home order issued Monday by Governor Eric Holcomb was an expected ratcheting up of social controls that is being seen across the country. Phil Powell, associate dean of academic programs at the Kelley School, says the order will continue to contribute to a "very deep economic pain" that will be felt over the next two to three months (Brown, Inside Indiana Business). In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Powell said looking at Europe and Asia, there has been about a two-week ramping up period, followed by six to eight weeks of lockdown before things start to ease up. "For small businesses in Indiana, the goal is to survive, to go into hibernation and to just hit the pause button," said Powell. "That's what the Indiana economy is doing right now is we're hitting the pause button and if I'm a small businessperson, I've got to figure out how I survive this pause without going bankrupt."

CBS POLL SHOWS 58% BELIEVE ECONOMY WILL REBOUND: Assessments of the economy have plummeted, and many are concerned about a potential job loss, but most Americans are optimistic about the economy's ability to rebound in the future in a CBS Poll. Now, just over a quarter of Americans say the economy is in good shape, a drop of 32 points from December when six in 10 said the economy was at least somewhat good. Still, 58% of Americans are upbeat about the economy's ability to recover quickly.  Americans at all income levels are more likely to be optimistic than pessimistic, as are Americans across all age groups.

MONROE COUNTY USING FOOD/BEVERAGE TAX TO SUPPORT RESTAURANTS: A portion of Monroe County’s food and beverage tax fund is going to help local businesses recover from the coronavirus shutdown. The Food and Beverage Tax Advisory Committee approved a resolution Tuesday to take $200,000 from the county’s food and beverage tax fund, and give it to restaurants and businesses that promote tourism (Burks, Indiana Public Media). Customers have been paying the 1-percent tax since February of 2018. The money is supposed to be used for the Monroe County Convention Center expansion project. But it's been at a standstill. Monroe County Commissioner Julie Thomas says the funding comes from local business feedback. “This will help folks who work in the service industry, the businesses themselves and the business owners themselves," Thomas says. "These are always people who live on the margin of the economy."

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Congress has come up with a $2 trillion rescue package and now it needs to pass to get financial help to millions of Americans. Meanwhile, local governments continue to think outside the box. An example of this is Monroe County using its food & beverage tax to help support laid off restaurant workers. - Brian A. Howey



Presidential 2020

TRUMP POLL BUMP CONTINUES: After three-plus years of consistently negative approval ratings, President Donald Trump is getting better marks for his handling of the still-fledgling coronavirus outbreak ravaging the nation (Politico). But Trump’s higher job ratings from Americans are just relative: Voters are still mostly split on how he’s handling the pandemic, and the past two weeks have brought only a modest bump in his overall approval numbers, which still show more Americans disapprove of his performance as president than approve. In a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, a quarter of voters surveyed said Trump is doing an “excellent” job handling the virus, and another 17 percent said he is doing a “good” job. But almost as many, 39 percent, said he’s doing a “poor” job, and 13 percent rate his handling of the crisis as “just fair.”

BIDEN TELLS OBAMA HE'S CONSIDER 7 WOMEN FOR VEEP: Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said Sunday that he has talked with former President Barack Obama about a potential vice presidential pick (NBC News). Speaking to over 70 Georgia donors on a fundraising call, Biden said he and Obama recently agreed that his vice presidential nominee must have the political experience to step in as president if he were unable to serve. "The most important thing — and I've actually talked to Barack about this — the most important thing is that there has to be someone who, the day after they're picked, is prepared to be president of the United States of America if something happened," Biden said. Without mentioning names, Biden told donors his team is considering at least seven women.

BLOOMBERG GIVES DNC $18M: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is transferring $18 million left in the accounts of his now-defunct presidential campaign to the Democratic National Committee and forgoing, for now, creating his own independent political group to help Democrats in November (NBC News).  “While we considered creating our own independent entity to support the nominee and hold the President accountable, this race is too important to have many competing groups with good intentions but that are not coordinated and united in strategy and execution,” Bloomberg’s campaign said in a memo to the DNC. “The dynamics of the race have also fundamentally changed, and it is critically important that we all do everything we can to support our eventual nominee and scale the Democratic Party’s general election efforts.”

BIDEN GETS 4 MAJOR UNION ENDORSEMENTS: First came the National Education Association. Then the United Food and Commercial Workers. The American Federation of Teachers came next, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees followed (Politico). Joe Biden has racked up endorsements from four of the largest — and most politically influential — unions in the past 10 days, a show of force that has bolstered his standing as the de facto Democratic nominee for president and dealt a serious blow to Bernie Sanders’ flickering hopes. “Bernie has a real decision to make,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said without explicitly calling on Sanders to drop out. “I’m optimistic that Bernie always finds a way to meet the moment, and I’m optimistic he’ll meet the moment here. It’s obvious to me Joe Biden has earned this,” Weingarten said.

GOP FORGING AHEAD WITH CONVENTION: Republicans said Tuesday they're forging forward with their national convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, this summer, even as the coronavirus is shuttering high-profile events across the country (Politico). “We are fully committed to holding the Republican convention in Charlotte as planned and re-nominating President Trump. We have not had any substantive conversations about alternative scenarios,” said Richard Walters, the Republican National Committee chief of staff.

Congress

YOUNG INTRODUCES RURAL BROADBAND BILL: U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) today joined a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Keeping Critical Connections Act, which would help small broadband providers ensure rural broadband connectivity for students and their families during the coronavirus pandemic (Howey Politics Indiana). “Students and teachers across Indiana are struggling to complete e-learning days with broadband connections that are unreliable at best,” said Sen. Young. “I’ve joined this bipartisan bill to improve remote learning for Hoosier students and telehealth for seniors most at risk during coronavirus.” The Keeping Critical Connections Act would appropriate $2 billion for a Keeping Critical Connections fund at the FCC under which small broadband providers with fewer than 250,000 customers could be compensated for broadband services—if they provided free or discounted broadband services or upgrades—during the pandemic for low-income families who could not afford to pay their bills or provided distance learning capability for students.

BANKS CALLS FOR REPARATIONS FROM CHINA: China should be held accountable for the spread of the coronavirus and should be forced to pay the United States reparations, says Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.). He’s signed on to a resolution in Congress that calls for that repayment, supported by Republicans and Democrats (Davis, WIBC). “There is a strong bipartisan push in Congress to hold China accountable for their negligence and role in the spread of COVID-19 or coronavirus,” said Banks, on Tony Katz Today.

General Assembly

HUSTON COMMENTS ON COVID-19 RESPONSE: Speaker Huston responds to governor's latest update, continued efforts to fight COVID-19 (Howey Politics Indiana): “Governor Holcomb has shown tremendous leadership during this complicated and overwhelming public health crisis, which continues to evolve daily. All levels of government and the private sector are coordinating efforts at an unprecedented level to slow the spread. I appreciate the level of transparency his administration continues to provide, and I encourage Hoosiers to stay informed and do their part to protect themselves and others so that we can all bounce back more quickly."

GiaQUINTA URGES SOCIAL DISTANCING: Indiana House Democratic Leader Phil GiaQuinta (D-Fort Wayne) released the following statement urging Hoosiers to comply with the governor’s order to stay-at-home and practice social distancing to protect those on the frontlines and for the greater good of our state (Howey Politics Indiana): "Please listen to our top medical professionals in the state: Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Michael Kaufmann, and Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services Director Dr. Dan O’Donnell when they tell you to stay at home and practice social distancing. "We are all in this together as we use this critical time to ‘flatten the curve’ of the coronavirus to protect each other and those on the frontlines tirelessly fighting back against this pandemic."

REP. LUCAS DOESN'T LIKE SHUTDOWN ORDER: Some people are questioning whether or not the governor has the authority to essentially shut the entire state down because of the coronavirus. On Tuesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) issued a “stay at home” order for all Hoosiers. This means you should not be outside your home unless you are getting groceries, medicine, or for some other essential reason. This also means all “non-essential businesses”, as deemed by the state, must close up entirely until Apr. 7 (Darling, WIBC). State Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour) is not a fan of the order. “As a small business owner I see all these big businesses allowed to stay open,” he told Hammer and Nigel on 93 WIBC. “I’ve asked the question and I’ve called the state wondering how we are supposed to be flattening the curve when all these big businesses are allowed to stay open but they’re shutting down small businesses.” Lucas said we’re are allowed to not like the order, but he also said Holcomb has every right to issue it. “I’m not happy with the governor’s orders, but he has full legislative authority to do what he did,” said Lucas. “Article 10, Section 14-3 gives him full authority to do it.” Lucas said even though he doesn’t like the order he is willing to give Holcomb the “benefit of the doubt” since he said Holcomb knows a lot more about the situation that he does.

State

GOVERNOR: SUPT. CARTER DISCUSSES ENFORCING ORDER - On Monday, with a growing number of cases, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order defining essential businesses and limiting all other Hoosier travel. Doug Carter, the superintendent of the Indiana State Police, described the order as a “common sense approach,” he said his officers would use their discretion with enforcement (Kokomo Tribune). “I have offered direction to all Indiana State Troopers, all police chiefs, all sheriffs… we are all seeing that our citizens are afraid or confused,” Carter said. “Please know that we will help you along the way.” Carter said that the order allowed for “tremendous” mobility but didn’t elaborate on enforcement further.

GOVERNOR: HOTLINE SWAMPED - The state hotline the Holcomb administration set up to provide answers to businesses about the governor’s stay-at-home order has been so swamped with calls that it went down temporarily before on Tuesday morning (IBJ). State officials said at about 11:30 a.m. that the line is operating again, but they encouraged businesses or industry officials with questions to consider emailing them to covidresponse@iedc.in.gov. Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order on Monday that require non-essential businesses to shut down, unless their staff was working from home. He also ordered Hoosiers to stay at home unless they are buying food, seeking health care or taking care of a few other essential tasks. The order is good through April 7.

FSSA: $5M LILLY GRANT TO FOCUS ON HOMELESS - The Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded $5 million to the state of Indiana that will be used to establish a center in Indianapolis where homeless individuals who test positive for COVID-19 can be quarantined (IBJ). State officials announced the grant during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, but few details were immediately available. The homelessness population is considered vulnerable to the coronavirus because individuals are in close proximity to one another in shelters and are more likely to have existing health conditions. “A general spread of COVID-19 in this population quickly becomes a public health emergency and an additional burden on our health care system,” said Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Jennifer Sullivan.

DOE: GUIDANCE FOR LOCAL LEADERS ON VIRUS - The Indiana Department of Education is working to stay on top of questions and provide guidance for educators as they navigate a new week of extended closures amid the novel coronavirus pandemic (Lanich, NWI Times).  In a new weekly webinar series directed toward state school leaders, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick gave an update of steps taken to date to best maintain operations during this extended period of school closures. School leaders have since worked to plan their exempt waiver days through the 20-day period, some spacing out eLearning days throughout the week. But, questions still loom among school leaders about providing special education services remotely, distributing technology to families in need and proper reporting and use of waiver days. McCormick said her team has been in contact with the governor's office about technology distribution in schools after a number of executive orders issued this week take effect at 10:59 p.m. Region time Tuesday.

EDUCATION: PURDUE REPORTS VIRUS CASE - The Tippecanoe County Health Department notified Purdue that a West Lafayette student has tested positive for the coronavirus. According to a statement from Purdue, on Monday afternoon the campus was alerted by the TCHD. The student currently is in Marion County (WLFI-TV). As we reported Monday, Purdue Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Head Dimitrios Peroulis sent an email out to faculty saying an undergraduate student of theirs was diagnosed with coronavirus. The university is in the process of investigating the student’s relevant personal contacts and will reach out to them directly. Tippecanoe County has three confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

RVs: INDUSTRY WILL BE HAMMERED - An economics professor at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business thinks the COVID-19-related shutdowns in Indiana’s recreational vehicle industry will not have the same, extended economic impact as the plant closings during the 2008 recession (Mills, Inside Indiana Business). But they will have an immediate effect. “I think that RV sales can be hit hard by this, certainly in 2020,” said Kyle Anderson, an economist at the Kelley School. “And really how long that lasts, I think now is the big question that we're really trying to, get a sense of from the economic data.”

Nation

WHITE HOUSE: PENCE SAYS FDA APPROVES MALARIAL DRUG FOR VIRUS - Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that “the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] is approving off-label use for the [anti-malarial drug] hydroxychloroquine right now" to help coronavirus patients. Pence made the comment during Fox News’ virtual coronavirus town hall in response to a question from Dr. Mehmet Oz about the drug, which has shown encouraging signs in small, early tests. A similar drug, Chloroquine has also showed positive signs.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP/PENCE SCHEDULE - President Trump will participate in a phone call with nonprofits regarding the coronavirus response at 2 p.m. in the Oval Office. The coronavirus task force will hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.

NTSB: ROCHESTER HEARING CANCELLED - The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that in light of the coronavirus pandemic it has canceled an April meeting to determine the probable cause of a 2018 crash that killed three siblings crossing a rural northern Indiana highway to reach their stopped school bus (AP). The federal agency said that in place of the April 7 meeting in Washington, D.C., NTSB board members will use an online link to vote on the staff’s investigative report, which contains the crash’s probable cause, findings and safety recommendations. “NTSB puts safety first, and we believe that, during this stage of the pandemic, this approach to social distancing protects our staff and the public,” said NTSB Managing Director Sharon Bryson.

MEDIA: MANNING TURNS DOWN ESPN FOR MNF - Peyton Manning has turned down ESPN's offer to work on Monday Night Football, according to the New York Post's Andrew Marchand (Sports Illustrated). Sources told Marchand that Manning did not want to work in the broadcast booth and sign on for the job's weekly fall schedule. The former NFL quarterback has worked with ESPN+ on the shows Peyton's Places and Details. ESPN was hoping to bring Manning and Al Michaels together in the booth, but NBC denied the network's request to discuss acquiring the broadcasting veteran. Michaels has two years remaining on his Sunday Night Football contract with NBC Sports. At the time, ESPN had reportedly begun talks with Manning "in hopes of signing him with Michaels or not." 

SPORTS: 2020 OLYMPICS POSTPONED - The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been postponed to no later than the summer of 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Tuesday (CBS News). The Games were scheduled for July 24-August 9, but after telephone discussions between IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a joint decision was taken for the first postponement of an Olympics in peacetime. Earlier, Abe said Bach agreed "100%" to a proposal of postponing the Olympics. Abe said after his telephone talks with Bach that he requested a postponement of about one year "taking into consideration the current circumstances" and to secure an environment in which athletes can perform in their best conditions and the sense of safety and security for the audience.

Local

EVANSVILLE: DEACONNESS SETS UP DOWNTOWN RESPIRATORY CLINIC -  Deaconess is expanding its COVID-19 testing operations, adding a new immediate respiratory clinic at Deaconess Downtown Clinic (Holbrook, WFIE-TV). Primary Care Physician Dr. Brad Scheu says the new services work by having a patient first call their nurse triage line. Then, he says they’ll refer you to set up an online appointment. Deaconess officials say anyone can make an online appointment, though. Once you do that, you’ll come in and be screened at check-in. If you are a candidate for COVID-19 testing, Dr. Scheu says you’ll be tested. He says they can also test for other things like the flu. “The downtown location is a really good central location really easy to get into," Dr. Scheu said. "It has the radiology already here, so if x-ray is needed, that was going to be an easy process for us to make available for patients. Then, it also has a location that is easy for us to perform the COVID-19 testing. Which is being performed outdoors, but it is connected to that office location where we’re doing this clinic.”

SOUTH BEND: COUNCIL PUTS $550K FOR VIRUS RESPONSE - Local issues quickly emerging from the coronavirus pandemic were addressed Monday night by the South Bend Common Council (South Bend Tribune). The council set aside $500,000 in economic development income tax funds to use toward costs associated with the city's dealings with a range of virus-related issues, from emergency pay for employees to assisting the city's homeless services providers dealing with any guests or staff members who may become symptomatic or test positive for COVID-19. Mayor James Mueller told the council there was no specific list of immediate needs, but their action in setting aside the money would allow the city to quickly act should needs arise. Rather than use emergency powers from the city administration to secure money for upcoming fiscal needs, Mueller said the city was getting "ahead of the curve" by setting aside the money.

SOUTH BEND: CITY EMPLOYEE TESTS POSITIVE -  A South Bend city employee who works in the County-City Building tested positive Tuesday for coronavirus, according to a release from the office of Mayor James Mueller (South Bend Tribune). The employee apparently is in self-isolation at home. City officials are notifying others who may have come into contact with the person, asking them to quarantine themselves. The city has had its employees working from home instead of the County-City Building.

SPEEDWAY: FIREFIGHTER TESTS POSITIVE - A firefighter with the Speedway Fire Department has tested positive for COVID-19, the fire department announced Tuesday (CBS4). “We were notified this morning that one of our firefighters has tested positive for COVID-19 and has been ordered to self-quarantine at home,” stated SFD Chief Robert Fishburn. SFD says four other firefighters who had contact with the firefighter who tested positive have been instructed to self-quarantine as well. All five firefighters will stay in self-quarantine for 14 days to prevent the spread of the virus in accordance with the CDC's guidelines, according to officials.

FORT WAYNE: LEADERS RESPOND TO VIRUS - Local government, public safety, and health leaders today came together to provide an update on the community's response to COVID-19 (Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Participants included Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, Allen County Commissioners Rich Beck, Therese Brown, and Nelson Peters, Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed, Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan, and Jay Fawver, MD, Parkview Behavioral Health Institute. With more cases of COVID-19 being confirmed in Allen County, leaders today continued to stress the importance of practicing social distancing, washing hands thoroughly and regularly, using hand sanitizer often, and limiting activities in group settings. The public is reminded to be vigilant and use good judgment as a result of Governor Holcomb's stay-at-home order announced yesterday.

MICHIGAN CITY: PD DISCUSSES ENFORCEMENT - Almost as soon as Gov. Eric Holcomb announced his Stay at Home Order on Monday, people began questioning how police would handle the situation (Michigan City News-Dispatch). The order asks everyone to stay at home unless going to work for an essential business; going out for groceries, home supplies, carry-out food or medical equipment; checking on family and friends; or taking part in recreational walks and other outdoor activities while practicing "social distancing." In response to questions about how Michigan City Police would be handling the situation, the department issued a statement saying it would not be stopping cars and questioning pedestrians over the order, which took effect late Tuesday and runs through April 6. The statement from Chief Dion Campbell explained that while state law gives law enforcement the authority to enforce the Stay at Home order – and makes it a Class B misdemeanor to violate it – the department will not "proactively" enforce it. "Michigan City Police will be using a commonsense approach and operate from a position of community good faith while citizens are traveling for essential needs," the chief said.

LAFAYETTE: MAYOR ROSWARSKI RELEASES VIRUS VIDEO - Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski released a special statement via video Monday night to the residents of Lafayette. In the video he discussed actions being taken to keep our community safe, to ensure your access to essential services, and to minimize the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic (WLFI-TV). Topics he covered include what is the city doing to keep people safe, what is being done to keep essential city operations running, and what can residents do to help keep the local economy running.

BLOOMINGTON: CITY HALL CLOSED - The City of Bloomington announced it will close City Hall along with public playgrounds and workout stations effective Tuesday night, in accordance with Gov. Eric Holcomb's Stay-At-Home order (Indiana Public Media). A news release from the city says the temporary closure, which will also affect other city facilities, is meant to "limit the opportunity for viral transmission in the community and the City workforce." City Hall, playgrounds, workout stations, the Twin Lakes Recreation Center, the Allison-Jukebox Center and the Banneker Center are all closed beginning Tuesday night at the end of business hours through April 6. City parks and trails will remain open. The news release also says plans for the upcoming 2020 Bloomington Community Farmers' Market will be announced soon — according to the city's website, patrons of the April market will be able to buy from market vendors online.

HOWARD COUNTY: 1 CANDIDATE FOR GOP CHAIR - Only one person has filed to fill the currently vacant leadership position of the Howard County Republican Party (Kokomo Tribune). To be eligible in the caucus, a person had to file a written declaration of candidacy at least 72 hours before the caucus, which is scheduled for Wednesday. Jennifer Jack, the county’s current recorder, is the only person to seek the local party’s highest position, according to a Monday press release from the Howard County GOP. Because of COVID-19, the caucus will be conducted over the phone. Jack, a graduate of Indiana University with a degree in criminal justice, began her career in government in 2002 as the domestic violence caseworker in the Howard County prosecutor’s office.

ALLEN COUNTY: 'EXCRUCIATINGLY LONG' WAITS FOR TESTING - Prompt testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, remains a problem for Allen County residents, Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan said Tuesday (Rodriguez, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). At a news conference with other Fort Wayne and county officials, McMahan said it's likely there are many cases awaiting confirmation, although only one new case was reported Tuesday. “We have a lot pending,” she said of tests. McMahan told The Journal Gazette samples tested by private labs are subject to longer testing times than the state laboratory, which generally has had turnaround times of one to two days. Private lab times have been “inconsistent,” with some taking four or five days, she said. “But it seems so excruciatingly long.”

DeKALB COUNTY: HS STAFFER HAS VIRUS - A member of the staff at DeKalb High School has tested positive for COVID-19 -- the first such case in the county (WPTA-TV). DeKalb Central Schools Superintendent Steve Teders notified the community that the patient has been self-quarantined since March 17 and was last on campus one day earlier. "After consulting the DeKalb County Health Department, it is advisable for individuals, including a limited number of students picking up school supplies,  who were present in the high school on Monday, March 16 to continue to self monitor, stay home, and contact your health care provider should you become ill or show symptoms of COVID-19," he said in an email that was sent out shortly after noon on Tuesday.

LAKE COUNTY: SHERIFF TO ENFORCE GOV'S ORDER - Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr. said his department and other law enforcement agencies are working to enforce Gov. Eric Holcomb's executive order to stay home during the COVID-19 outbreak (Cross, NWI Times). "We believe the residents of Lake County will use common sense when it comes to this directive. We all have a responsibility to ourselves and each other to do what we can to help stop the spread of this new coronavirus or COVID-19,"  Martinez said in a statement. Under Indiana law, all law enforcement has the power to enforce any of the governor's orders. He said anyone who knowingly, intentionally and recklessly violates the order can be faced with a Class B misdemeanor. But most people will likely only be reminded of the governor's stay-at-home order and instructed to return home, Martinez said. "I'm instructing my officers not to stop individuals just because they see a car traveling, or someone is walking down the street. Officers are being instructed to stop people if they believe, in good faith, that an infraction or crime has been committed," Martinez said.

LAKE COUNTY: RESTAURANTS LOBBY FOR RELIEF - Lake County restaurant owners are appealing to state and federal lawmakers for relief, warning of potential widespread closures could follow the temporary shutdowns of unknown duration meant to halt the spread of coronavirus (Pete, NWI Times). "Closing restaurants and bars to the public was the necessary thing to do to help our community. Now, we need you to implement a plan of relief that will allow us to reopen to serve our community in the future. Carryout and delivery will not help restaurants, bars and breweries attain the razor-thin margins of profit needed to survive this crisis," Crown Point-based attorney Michael Massucci wrote in a letter to state lawmakers and members of Indiana's Congressional delegation. "As others in the industry have said in recent days, restaurants are pass-through businesses. We do not hold a million-dollar nest egg like big corporations, and the insurance industry will not cover our loss of business for this pandemic."

TIPPECANOE COUNTY: 4TH VIRUS CASE REPORTED - The Tippecanoe County Health Department announced its fourth positive case of coronavirus (WLFI-TV). The health department said the person does have recent travel history to Aruba. They are currently isolating at home. On March 18th, we reported the first Tippecanoe County resident tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: 18 VIRUS CASES - One woman has tested positive for coronavirus in St. Joseph County, bringing the county’s total number of confirmed cases to 18 (South Bend Tribune). Of the total cases, nine are females and nine are males, according to  information released Tuesday afternoon from the St. Joseph County Health Department. Of all these cases, two are over the age of 60, health officials said.

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY: HEALTH OFFICER CLOSES BARBER SHOPS; BEAUTY SALONS - Bartholomew County Health Officer Brian Niedbalski has issued a public health order closing barber shops, beauty salons and nail salons, along with tanning salons and tattoo parlors (Columbus Republic). The order also closes any facility which can not meet current guidelines about proper social distancing between customers (6 feet apart).

MIAMI COUNTY: PUBLIC BUILDINGS RESTRICTED - Miami County was placed under an orange travel advisory Monday afternoon following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order requiring residents to stay at home except for essential travel (Gerber, Kokomo Tribune). County commissioners elevated the travel status during an emergency meeting Monday afternoon. According to the county, the travel advisory means conditions are threatening to the safety of the public. Only essential travel, such as to and from work or in emergency situations, is recommended, and emergency action plans should be implemented by businesses, schools, government agencies and other organizations. Commissioners last week also voted to close the courthouse to the public, except for those already scheduled for an in-person court appearance. Those people are only allowed to enter the courthouse Tuesday through Thursday, and are required to be screened at the door before entering. The city of Peru is also restricting access to government buildings. City Hall is closed, but workers are available for essential business via phone or e-mail, according to the city’s Facebook page.

WAYNE COUNTY: EMPLOYEES WILL BE PAID - Wayne County employees who have been told not to report to work because of the coronavirus pandemic will be paid (Richmond Palladium-Item). The Wayne County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution Monday afternoon so county employees maintain income while county government practices social distancing to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The resolution was scheduled to take effect at midnight Tuesday to coincide with the implementation of the statewide stay-at-home order issued Monday by Gov. Eric Holcomb. The commissioners' resolution includes full- and part-time employees. Commissioner Denny Burns said that through discussions with Wayne County Council members he was not sure that they supported payments for part-time employees. Commissioner Mary Anne Butters stressed that part-time workers needed to be included. "We need to take that loss of income very seriously," she said.