TRUMP EXTENDS SHUTDOWN ORDER: President Trump is extending his administration's "15 days to slow the spread" shutdown guidelines for an additional month in the face of mounting coronavirus infections and deaths and pressure from public health officials and governors (Axios). With the original 15-day period that was announced March 16 about to end, officials around the country had been bracing for a premature call to return to normalcy from a president who's been venting lately that the prescription for containing the virus could be worse than the impacts of the virus itself. "We had an aspiration" of Easter, Trump said, but when he heard the numbers of potential deaths, he realized he couldn't push a reopening of the economy as soon as he previously had foreshadowed. Trump explained his turnaround by saying his government's modeling shows the peak death rate will likely come in two weeks. He said that 2.2 million people could die if the government did nothing and the public didn't do the social distancing. "Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won," he said.

STATE ASKS SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO PROVIDE CHILD CARE: The pressing need for adequate child care access is being amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially for essential workers. Now, despite schools being ordered shut until May 1, the state is asking schools to open child care centers to bridge the gap (Lindsay, Indiana Public Media). State officials have grown increasingly vocal about a lack of child care resources for essential personnel, like hospital staff and public safety workers, as more people are directed to stay home. In a recent webinar, schools chief Jennifer McCormick urged education leaders across the state to consider the possibility of re-opening at least part of some school buildings to offer child care. "We're learning from other states child care is going to become - and is already - an issue," she says. In a memo sent this week, the Indiana Department of Education urged school leaders to consider allowing at least part of one school building to re-open to offer child care. But McCormick made clear the state is not requiring any schools to do so. "It is a request for you to review it and consider it based on your community needs, which I know are very different across the state," she says.

INDIANA REACHES ITS JOBS PEAK IN FEBRUARY: While there’s Mount Baldy in Michigan City, Fort Wayne is known as the “Summit City” and Brown County features Browning Mountain a few miles past the Story Inn, Indiana is essentially sans prominent elevation. But February 2020 will become known as Indiana’s peak when it comes to employment. It was that month that a record number 3.29 milliion of us went to work. There was an estimated 105,177 unemployed and seeking jobs. On Feb. 29, the United States also recorded a fateful milestone: It’s first coronavirus death (Howey Politics Indiana). It wouldn’t be until March 6 that the first Hoosier was reported with the virus, with just a dozen reported cases on March 12, and with an ominous pause, no new cases on Friday, March 13. Since then the cases have exploded, to 76 reported on March 22 and then 170 on Wednesday, and 338 on Thursday. According to Indiana Workforce Development Director Fred Payne, the week ending on March 21 saw 62,777 new unemployment insurance claims. That compares to the 23,000 claims filed during the entire month of January. “In February we had a record number of people working in the state; more people working in the state of Indiana than ever before,” Holcomb said, adding that the jobless rate of 3.1% is likely to tumble for at least a couple more months. With the Indianapolis 500 delayed from May until Aug. 23, the trough is going to be a steep descent. “It will compound itself over a 60-day period,” Holcomb said.

BIDEN SAYS AMERICANS WANT 'UNVARNISHED TRUTH': Former Vice President Joe Biden said Sunday that the worst thing the government could do is “raise false expectations” about the quarantine time periods. NBC’s Chuck Todd asked the Democratic presidential frontrunner on “Meet the Press” how he would convey to American residents that they may have to continue social distancing in their homes for at least another 60 days. Biden responded that the American public is “really strong and tough” and deserves to hear the “unvarnished truth.” “The American people have never shied away from being able to deal with the truth,” Biden said. “The worst thing you can do is raise false expectations and then watch them get dashed – then, they begin to lose confidence in their leadership.” Biden said if he were president now he would implement the Defense Production Act to ensure private companies were enlisted to develop ventilators, masks, gowns and other equipment for first responders and doctors. “Why are we waiting? We know they’re needed. They’re going to be increasingly needed,” he said.

MNUCHIN SAYS CHECKS COMING IN 3 WEEKS: Americans who are eligible to receive one-time payments from the federal government as part of a massive coronavirus economic relief package will see that money deposited into their bank accounts "within three weeks," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday (CBS News). "We expect that within three weeks, that people who have direct deposit with information with us will see those direct deposits into their bank accounts, and we will create a web-based system for people where we don't have their direct deposit, they can upload it so that they can get the money immediately as opposed to checks in the mail," Mnuchin said on "Face the Nation."

SUPPLY CHAIN BEGINS TO CATCH UP: A plane from Shanghai arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York Sunday morning carrying an extraordinary load: 12 million gloves, 130,000 N95 masks, 1.7 million surgical masks, 50,000 gowns, 130,000 hand sanitizer units, and 36,000 thermometers (Axios). The flight is the start of what might end up being the largest government-led airlift of emergency medical supplies into the United States. That's according to Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, who runs the coronavirus supply chain task force at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Polowczyk spoke with Joann Muller and me Saturday night. The airlift is the most dramatic part of the Trump administration's frantic attempts to catch up with a nationwide medical equipment crisis. Polowczyk told Axios that he's already booked 22 similar flights over the next two weeks. This weekend's first load of medical supplies will go into the New York tri-state area, Polowczyk said, and subsequent flights will distribute supplies to other parts of the country.

ABBOTT LAUNCHING 5 MINUTE COVID-19 TEST KIT: Abbott Laboratories is unveiling a coronavirus test that can tell if someone is infected in as little as five minutes, and is so small and portable it can be used in almost any health-care setting (Bloomberg). The Chicago-based medical-device maker plans to supply 50,000 tests a day starting April 1, said John Frels, vice president of research and development at Abbott Diagnostics. The molecular test looks for fragments of the coronavirus genome, which can be detected in as little as five minutes when it’s present at high levels. A thorough search to definitively rule out an infection can take up to 13 minutes, he said. The U.S. has struggled to supply enough tests to detect the coronavirus, even as the outbreak threatens to overwhelm hospitals in New York, California, Washington and other regions. After initially restricting testing to high-risk people, and problems with a test designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. regulators have rushed out diagnostics made by the world’s leading commercial-testing companies. “This is really going to provide a tremendous opportunity for front-line caregivers, those having to diagnose a lot of infections, to close the gap with our testing,” Frels said. “A clinic will be able to turn that result around quickly, while the patient is waiting.”

DR. BOX THRUST INTO EYE OF PANDEMIC: She spent three decades delivering babies and counseling parents how to raise healthy infants. Now, as Indiana state health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box finds herself in the spotlight as the highest-ranking public health official in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens to overwhelm hospitals (Russell, IBJ). She regularly appears at Gov. Eric Holcomb’s side to explain the state’s response to the outbreak and to translate medical jargon into plain English. In her role, she has sweeping powers to regulate hospitals and nursing homes, inspect laboratories, oversee the health of prisoners and protect food supplies. She oversees the state’s ninth-large department, with 819 employees and a $336 million budget. But on some days, Box still sounds like a bedside physician, a carryover from her longtime role as an obstetrician and gynecologist in private practice and at Community Health Network. “If you’re sick, you should already be staying home,” she said at a March 24 press conference beamed around the state, as the state’s death toll from COVID-19 climbed to 12, and the number of people who had tested positive surged to 365.

GM, VENTEC RACING TO MAKE VENTILATORS IN KOKOMO: While much of the U.S. economy has ground to a halt because of the coronavirus outbreak, several dozen workers in orange vests and hard hats were hauling heavy equipment on Sunday at a General Motors plant in Kokomo, Ind. (New York Times). The crew was part of a crash effort to make tens of thousands of ventilators, the lifesaving machines that keep critically ill patients breathing. The machines are in desperate demand as hospitals face the prospect of dire shortages. New York State alone may need 30,000 or more. President Trump on Friday accused G.M. and its chief executive, Mary T. Barra, of dragging their feet on the project and directed his administration to force the company to make ventilators under a 1950s law. But accounts from five people with knowledge of the automaker’s plans depict an attempt by G.M. and its partner, Ventec Life Systems, a small maker of ventilators, to accelerate production of the devices. With deaths surging as cases snowball, the two companies have moved urgently to find parts, place orders and deploy workers, the people said. Tasks that normally would take weeks or months have been completed in days. The companies expect production to begin in three weeks and the first ventilators to ship before the end of April. Over the weekend, G.M. called in workers to clear out the Kokomo plant, which has been idled because of the outbreak, of machinery previously used to make electrical components for cars. Over the next few days, the automaker and Ventec plan to begin setting up an assembly line. G.M. is already taking applications for the hundreds of jobs. “We continue to work around the clock on our efforts with Ventec,” G.M. said in a statement on Sunday night. “We are working as fast as we can to begin production in Kokomo.”

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: We are in for a grim three weeks, as model projections show Indiana on the steep coronavirus climb before we reach the apex around April 17. The Chicago area is being described as the next New York type hot spot. President Trump made the correct call to extend the shutdown at least through the end of April. FEMA appears to be getting a handle on the supply chain after several months of chaos. We need to be strong and unite even as we maintain our social distancing. - Brian A. Howey



Presidential 2020

TRUMP CAMPAIGN TARGETS KLAIN: Joe Biden has had limited success with his live-from-Wilmington, Del., coronavirus briefings. His longtime adviser, Ron Klain, is a different story (Politico). The nation’s former Ebola czar recently cut a video for the Biden campaign making an animated case against Donald Trump’s handling of the contagion — a white board presentation that racked up 4.4 million views on Twitter alone. Now, the president’s reelection campaign is drawing a bead on Klain. Over the past week, the president’s allies have trained their fire on him, seeking to undermine his credibility and use Klain’s high-profile role as the face of Biden’s coronavirus response to bolster their own arguments about Biden’s own competence. “Ron Klain is the puppeteer. To define Gepetto is to define Pinocchio,” said Michael Caputo, a former adviser to Trump, who pointed out the Biden campaign released the Klain video at the same time Biden had gone dark during the presidential campaign.

LATINOS FOR TRUMP ONLINE BROADCAST: Donald J. Trump for President, Inc. today announced a Latinos for Trump online broadcast (Howey Politics Indiana). Participants will discuss President Trump's strong leadership and decisive action regarding Americans' healthcare and the United States economy. This online broadcast will take place on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 at 7:30 PM (EDT).

Sunday Talk

BIRX WARNS GOVERNORS, MAYORS TO PREPARE FOR NY SCENARIO: The White House coronavirus task force coordinator said Sunday that the administration is “asking every single governor and every single mayor to prepare like New York is preparing now.” Dr. Deborah Birx told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that state and city leaders need to know where each hospital in their jurisdiction is located, where the surgical centers are, where “every piece of equipment is in the state” and how to move equipment around the state “based on need.” “So it's not just what you have inside your doors today. It's how you can surge and move things around,” she said. “We know this epidemic moves in waves. Each city will have its own epidemic curve. And so we can move between states, we can move within states, to meet the needs of everyone.”

DR. FAUCI WARNS OF 'MILLIONS' OF CASES, 100K DEATHS: Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the faces of the Trump administration's coronavirus task force, on Sunday warned that the novel coronavirus could infect millions of people in the United States and account for more than 100,000 deaths. Speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," Fauci said that, based on what he's seeing, the U.S. could experience between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths from Covid-19. "We're going to have millions of cases," Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, noting that projections are subject to change, given that the disease's outbreak is "such a moving target."

GOTTLIEB SAYS TOO EARLY TO LIFT RESTRICTIONS: Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, cautioned against any easing of restrictions in the coming weeks as the nation continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, instead saying those restrictions should stay in place as the country heads into a "difficult" April. "It's too early to lift these measures," Gottlieb said Sunday on "Face the Nation." "It's going to be a difficult April. We're going to get through this. April is going to be a hard month. Come May, we'll be coming out of this, we'll be able to contemplate starting to lift some of these measures as we see the epidemic curve come down."

BIDEN CALLS MTP QUESTION 'A LITTLE TOO HARSH': NBC News anchor Chuck Todd raised eyebrows Sunday morning when he asked if President Trump had "blood on his hands" for his delayed response to the coronavirus outbreak (Fox News). During an interview with former Vice President Joe Biden, Todd pointed to the Democrat's campaign messaging on the pandemic, which says a failure to take aggressive action "could cost lives." "Do you think there is blood on the president's hands considering the slow response?" Todd asked. "Or is that too harsh of a criticism?" Even Biden, who has been critical of the president throughout the crisis, thought the question was "a little too harsh." "I think that's a little too harsh," he said. "I think ... he should stop thinking out loud and start thinking deeply. ... He should listen to the health experts. He should listen to his economists."

GOV. WHITMER SAYS STATES ARE COMPETING AGAINST EACH OTHER: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) said Sunday that bidding between states for personal protective equipment (PPE) is creating problems as hospitals across the country are seeing depleted supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic. Whitmer said that in some cases, contracts in place have been set aside, delayed or cancelled and the goods are instead going to the federal government. “It’s a source of frustration not unique to Michigan, but it’s a unique situation that we have in our country right now and it’s ... creating a lot more problems for all of us,” Whitmer said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Whitmer voiced similar concerns on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” telling host Chuck Todd that there’s not enough ventilators or personal protective equipment. “But we've got to keep working to get all of these other pieces of equipment and when we're bidding against one another, it's creating a lot of frustration and concern,” Whitmer said. “And that's exactly what I was trying to convey ... the same thing that's been conveyed by others on both sides the aisle.”

GOV. HOGAN SEES FUTURE LIKE NY: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said on Sunday he didn't "see any way that we're going to be opening back up in a couple weeks." Hogan, appearing on "Fox News Sunday" responded to questions about President Trump's stated desire to see portions of the country lift strict social-distancing guidelines that have kept people at home and shuttered large swaths of the economy by Easter. "I think in two weeks, around Easter, we're going to be looking a lot more like New York," Hogan said.

GRAHAM CALLS PELOSI 'SHAMEFUL': Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Sunday railed against Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) after she said President Trump's response to the coronavirus outbreak was having deadly consequences. "She's blaming the president of the United States for people dying because of the way he's led the country," Graham, a vocal Trump ally, said on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures." "That's the most shameful, disgusting statement by any politician in modern history."

SEN. KENNEDY SEES 'SPENDING PORN': Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said Sunday that “a lot” of people are “very upset at the spending porn on pet projects that was slipped into” the third stimulus bill, which President Trump signed into law late last week. Fox News host Maria Bartiromo asked the Louisiana senator on “Sunday Morning Futures” what “falls under the word ‘porn.’” “There's an enormous amount of spending porn on pet projects that was put into this bill by some powerful members of Congress,” Kennedy said. “They think the American people, I guess, are morons and won't notice, but they did.”

Congress

SEN. YOUNG RELEASES COVID-19 TOOL KIT: U.S. Senator Todd Young released a toolkit on March 28 to help Hoosiers understand the resources available to them from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law on the 27th (ABC57). “Now that the CARES Act has been signed into law, immediate relief is on the way to Hoosiers. To help Hoosiers navigate the CARES Act, and the relief it will provide, my team created a comprehensive toolkit to help individuals, small businesses, health care workers, and patients understand the relief measures that are available. Hoosiers can also visit my coronavirus relief webpage and contact my office with specific questions. We are standing by and ready to help,” said Senator Young. Resources in the toolkit are as follows: Helping small businesses and employees; Support for individuals and families; Bolstering our health care response; Frequently asked questions about relief payments for individuals; Unemployment insurance information; Paycheck protection program for small businesses. Further assistance or questions can be directed to COVID_19@young.senate.gov.

HOUSE, SENATE PREVIEWS: The House is on recess for the foreseeable future. The Senate is on recess through April 20 (Axios). Preliminary talks continue behind the scenes between the White House and Capitol Hill about a Phase 4 stimulus bill to combat the coronavirus.

State

COMMERCE: KROGER HIRING 23K WORKERS - Kroger announced it has hired some 23,000 employees since announcing new openings due to COVID- 19. The company started looking for the hires due to increased demand related to the pandemic (WLFI-TV).  Kroger, which also operates as Payless, says many of the new hires had been laid off from hard-hit industries like restaurants and hotels. They are still looking to hire as many as 20,000 more nation-wide. In Indiana and Illinois, that could be as many as 35 new hires per store.

EDUCATION: IU EXTENDS ADMITTANCE DEADLINE TO JUNE 1 - Indiana University has extended the time admitted students have to decide whether they plan to enroll or not. It’s just one of several changes to this year’s admissions process taking place at IU and other universities because of the COVID-19 pandemic (Bloomington Herald-Times). March and April are typically some of the busiest months for campus visits, said Sacha Thieme, assistant vice provost and executive director of admissions. But those visits, as well as all recruitment events, have been canceled through May 9. “This is a really unfortunate experience for everyone, but it’s certainly unfortunate that we’re unable to invite students to our beautiful campus, which presents so well in the spring months,” Thieme said. Normally, high school seniors who have been accepted to IU would have until May 1 to let the university know whether they plan to attend. This deadline, known as the national candidate reply date, has been changed to June 1.

CENSUS: INDIANA COMPLIANCE AT 33% - Every household in Northwest Indiana by now should have received a letter in the mail with instructions on how to participate in the 2020 U.S. Census, either using the online questionnaire or filling out and returning a paper form (Carden, NWI Times). In fact, households that last week had yet to comply with the obligation to respond to the census, likely received a reminder letter encouraging them to submit their information as soon as possible. Through Thursday, the national census response rate is 30.2%, with a majority of all census respondents submitting their information online, according to the Census Bureau. Data show Indiana's response rate is above the national rate at 33.4% — the 10th best response rate in the country — and ahead of Illinois' 33%.

GREAT LAKES: LAKE MICHIGAN FLOODING EXPECTED - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is projecting even higher water levels on Lake Michigan than last year. That means Indiana lakeshore towns could see more flooding this spring and summer (Indiana Public Media). Deanna Apps is the lead forecaster for Great Lakes water levels through the Army Corps. “If you had impacts last year, you know, you're likely going to see impacts again. That includes shoreline flooding and erosion. So this is the time to be getting prepared," she says.

Nation

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SAYS U.S. WON'T PAY TO PROTECT EX-ROYALS - President Trump tweeted Sunday that the U.S. government will not pay for Prince Harry and Meghan's security if the royal couple move to Los Angeles as reported (Washington Post). A spokeswoman for the royal couple said the family had not asked for any help. “The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have no plans to ask the U.S. government for security resources. Privately funded security arrangements have been made,” the spokeswoman said.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP/PENCE SCHEDULE - President Trump will have lunch with VP Mike Pence at 1 p.m. in the private dining room. The coronavirus task force will have a briefing at 5 p.m. Tomorrow is acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's last day at the White House, Axios' Alayna Treene reports. Rep. Mark Meadows, who is expected to resign from Congress tomorrow, formally starts as Trump's new chief on Tuesday.

PENTAGON: 38 ROOSEVELT SAILORS TEST POSITIVE - More sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier currently in the western Pacific have tested positive for coronavirus and officials fear the number will continue to rise (Fox News). There are now 38 Navy sailors who have been infected with COVID-19, U.S. officials told Fox News on Sunday. Early last week, there were only three known cases aboard the massive warship with a crew of 5,000. It marked the first U.S. naval vessel at sea to have infected people onboard.

MARYLAND: GOV. HOGAN WOULD HAVE IGNORED REOPEN ORDER - Maryland's Republican Gov. Larry Hogan told me in a blunt interview on Thursday that he was prepared to ignore President Trump if he reverted back to his "very harmful" message of reopening large sections of the economy by Easter (Swan, Axios). "It would be very harmful, because we would obviously not listen to that. We would listen to the scientists and the doctors and make the decision we thought was necessary to save the lives and protect the health of our citizens. But the messaging would hurt because lots of people would listen to that and say, 'But they said it was OK. Why is the governor telling us we have to continue social distancing, why can't we go back to work? Why can't we open our business? Why can't the kids go back to school now?' I just wish that we would have a consistent message from the federal government," Hogan said.

SPORTS: NFL SEASON MAY BE CANCELLED - As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the United States, there is an increasing sense that the NFL season won’t proceed as normally scheduled (Yardbarker). There has already been some concern voiced by NFL coaches that the season may be delayed. Then on Sunday, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk made it clear that “everything is on the table” looking ahead at the 2020 season, including no games being played at all.

Local

NEWBURGH: TORNADO CONFIRMED - Homeowners and emergency responders spent Sunday assessing damage by daylight after a tornado ripped through Newburgh and parts of Henderson Saturday night (Evansville Courier & Press). The storm left thousands without power for much of the night as trees and powerlines scattered downtown Newburgh and many streets in Henderson. Sunday morning, Warrick County Sheriff Mike Wilder said one person was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. They received no other reports of injuries. After surveying damage, the National Weather Service in Paducah, Kentucky, determined the storm that hit Newburgh and Henderson County Saturday night spawned an EF-2 tornado. In Newburgh, the tornado had peak winds of 125 mph with a path length of 5.2 miles and width of 575 yards. The path started .5 miles southwest of Newburgh and ended 4.5 miles northeast of Newburgh. NWS said there were two minor injuries, although Wilder said there was just a report of one.

LOGANSPORT: WALK-IN TESTING AVAILABLE - Logansport Memorial Hospital is now offering a walk-in respiratory clinic for COVID-19. Doctors and nurses will be on sight screening and testing people with signs and symptoms of the virus (WLFI-TV). "We’d like to think that at this point we’re a little bit ahead of the curb in some of the rural areas with opening up this intermediate respiratory clinic," said Logansport Hospital CEO/President Perry Gay. Gay said the goal for this clinic is getting patients the help they need without overloading the hospital or other healthcare providers. "We have had a lot of patients that have been going to our express medical center but now they have an opportunity to come here where we separate the patient population," said Gay.

FORT WAYNE: HALL'S GUESTHOUSE CEASES OPERATIONS DUE TO VIRUS - Don Hall's Guesthouse Hotel & Conference Center will be "ceasing operations" due to the hardships associated with the COVID-19 outbreak, the company announced Sunday afternoon on Facebook (WPTA-TV). In a post from Timothy Hall and the Hall family, the owners explained that the company -- which has a storied history in the local hospitality industry -- has lately faced conditions unlike anything it has ever experienced. "While we dislike adding more sad news to the community during these trying times, we want to let you all know that we are ceasing operations at Don Hall's Guesthouse & Conference Center," it continued. The Hall family said informing its staff of the decision was "one of the hardest things we have had to do in our 75 years of business."

ADAMS COUNTY: CHURCHES ORDERED TO CANCEL SERVICES - The Adams County Health Department is directing all in-person church services in the county to be cancelled (WPTA-TV). In a letter sent to religious organizations, Adams County Health Officer Dr. Michael Ainsworth said in light of directives from the Federal and State governments, and the increase in cases of and deaths from the Coronavirus, he is directing all faith services be cancelled "until such time as officials determine it is once again safe for everyone."

MONROE COUNTY: MAKESHIFT MORGUE PREPARED - The Monroe County coroner is setting up a makeshift morgue to prepare for the possibility of a large number of COVID-19 deaths (Indiana Public Media). So far, no one in Monroe County is confirmed to have died of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. However, the county coroner said on Sunday that she was working with IU Health, the state Health Department and Emergency Management to set up a makeshift morgue should the need arise for one. “There are things in the works which include maybe refrigerated trucks, if need be,” Joani Shields said. “We do not have any in place as of yet. It’s still a work in progress.”