HOLCOMB, HEALTH LEADERS DETAIL VIRUS 'SURGE' PLAN:  Indiana unveiled its coronavirus “surge plan” Monday afternoon, with Gov. Eric Holcomb signing several executive orders while health officials said they are doubling the number of Intensive Care Unit beds and ventilators. “Just as the world turns, coronavirus knows no geography,” Holcomb said during a virtual press conference (Howey Politics Indiana). “There will be a beginning, a middle and an end.” Clearly, Hoosier leaders believe the beginning surge is at hand and the governor indicated he is likely to extend the stay at home order past the original April 7 date. Dr. Jennifer Sullivan, who heads the Family Social Services Administration, described how the “upcoming surge is being planned in Indiana.” It began with each hospital updating its disaster plan. Based on modeling, “Indiana’s COVID-19 surge will begin soon and will peak mid-April to mid-May," Sullivan said. "Every hospital has developed a surge plan. We are helping to streamline those plans and communications are at unprecedented levels.” She said that Indiana’s baseline had 1,432 ICU beds, and “as of today, it has increased to 1,940, which is an increase of 35%.” She put the state’s baseline ventilator capacity at 1,177. “Based on surge models, our goal is to double critical care capacity in response to the surge,” Sullivan said. “Indiana already has hospitals that can turn every bed into critical care beds and we have identified those by region.” Sullivan said the state has been divided into 10 regions, adding, “Our goal is to have hospitals plan together for a surge plan.” Gov. Holcomb observed, “It took a month for the United States to record its first 1,000 deaths, and then it took just two days to record the next 1,000. In Indiana we went from one COVID-19 case on March 6 to 1,786 today. Those are the ones we know of. Our first COVID-19 death in Indiana was two weeks ago today and we’re now at 35 Hoosiers who have passed.” He praised Hoosiers, ranging from truckers who are working overtime to deliver supplies, to the 5,300 retired medical personnel who have volunteered to join the fight. “I want to thank everyone doing your part to help contain this uber-contagious and lethal virus,” Holcomb said. “Just hunkering down is making a huge difference. It’s literally saving lives.”

HOLCOMB CALLS FOR MEDICAL VOLUNTEERS: During a news conference on Monday, Governor Eric Holcomb asked for volunteers ahead of an expected surge in COVID-19 patients (WPTA-TV). “We see a surge coming and we’re calling in the reinforcements, bolstering Indiana’s capacity to provide additional health care services during this emergency,” said Gov. Holcomb. “By eliminating licensing barriers and tapping in to the available talent pool of healthcare workers, Hoosiers are staffing up and stepping up to meet this challenge head-on.” The volunteers could be used to fill a variety of roles including patient treatment and administrative work. State leaders are looking for people who meet certain criteria. Those are are interested in volunteering must first register with the state's Professional Licensing Agency. That can be done online.

PANDEMIC REVIVES VOTE BY MAIL DEBATE: As the coronavirus pandemic knocks primary election after primary election off schedule, Democrats argue the outbreak shows the country needs to move toward one of their longtime goals — widespread voting by mail — to protect the November election (AP). But Democrats’ hopes for using the crisis to expand voting by mail face firm Republican opposition, as well as significant logistical challenges. In some states, it would amount to a major revamp of their voting system just eight months before an election. Vote-by-mail boosters already lost the first round of the fight. Democrats tried and failed to insert a broad mandate expanding voting by mail in the stimulus bill, a proposal that could cost as much as $2 billion. Instead, the bill included $400 million to help states adjust elections however they see fit before November. But Democrats in Washington say they will keep pressing the issue, pointing to the increasing number of states that are shifting to mail-in voting for primaries as evidence that the time is right. A poll from the Pew Research Center released Monday found that about two-thirds of Americans would be uncomfortable voting at polling places during the outbreak. “Practically every single Tuesday, we see another state reacting to their inability to run their election in the middle of this incredible health care pandemic,” said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the first state to vote entirely through the mail. He called expanded mail voting “not even a close call.”

GROUPS SEEK VOTE BY MAIL: Common Cause Indiana, Indiana Vote By Mail, and the League of Women Voters of Indiana sent a joint letter to the Indiana Election Commission, praising them for beginning “to create an environment that will ensure the safety of Indiana voters, poll workers, and election staff for our primary election.” But, the organizations called on the IEC to do more to ensure that all Hoosiers will be able to not only easily and safely cast their ballot in the upcoming election but to also have confidence their vote will be counted (Howey Politics Indiana). Specifically, the groups urged the Commission to: Extend access to “no-excuse” absentee voting to all voters in the general election, as well as the primary; Send all registered voters an absentee ballot by mail, with the state covering those costs (as opposed to requiring all voters to apply for an absentee ballot); Clarify how the signature match process to verify voter identity will be done; Provide rules for the efficient counting of a significantly larger number of mail-in ballots. Linda Hanson, Co-President of the League of Women Voters of Indiana said, “We recognize that this will be a challenging year for everyone involved in elections and we stand united in our belief that Indiana’s electorate deserves every opportunity to vote, and to have confidence in the voting process. We believe the suggestions in our letter to the Commission further that cause.”

PORTER, HAMILTON COUNTIES STRUGGLING TO FIND POLL WORKERS: With many experienced poll workers choosing to stay home rather than risk exposure to COVID-19, Porter County election officials hope to recruit more high school students to serve as poll workers (Ross, NWI Times). The county is now allowed to use 16- and 17-year-olds not only as poll workers on election day but also for early voting. “This could be helpful as we get closer,” Porter County Clerk Jessica Bailey told the county Board of Elections and Registration on Monday. As many “seasoned” poll workers “hit the criteria for staying at home longer whether it’s their age, health condition or something else,” they’re opting to do so instead of working the polls like they normally would, she said. “I’m struggling” to fill positions, Democratic Party Chairman Jeff Chidester said. Hamilton County needs people to work the polls during the June 2 Primary Election (WIBC). Many of the volunteers who work the polls on Election Day are unable to do so this year because they fall into the high-risk category for coronavirus, according to Hamilton Co. Clerk Kathy Williams. “If you’re out of school and would like to help us we’d love to have you,” Williams said. “A lot of the seniors who typically fill these roles just can’t do it this year, so we’re hoping the younger generation will step forward and fulfill their civic duty.”

TIME RUNNING OUT ON CHANGES TO VOTING SYSTEM: Time is running out to allow millions of Americans to vote this fall without fear of contracting the novel coronavirus. Mail voting — the voting method that best preserves social distancing — is infrequently used in many states, and those that don’t have extensive mail voting might be unable to implement systems before November (Politico). And while 33 states, including most 2020 presidential battlegrounds, already allow any voter to cast a ballot by mail who wants to, a number of those states aren’t prepared to handle the crush of mailed-in ballots that could be coming their way in November. In interviews with POLITICO, eight election administrators and voting rights advocates said it is still too difficult for many voters to cast absentee ballots, even as two-thirds of American adults say they would be uncomfortable going to a polling place to vote, according to a new Pew Research Center survey — and as local, state and federal governments encourage or require Americans to stay home. The consequences could shake the 2020 elections: Turnout had been expected to break modern records but instead could turn sharply downward, based on the path the coronavirus pandemic takes over the next few months. “It is going to be a real challenge to do these kinds of fundamental shifts,” said Trey Grayson, a Republican and former Kentucky secretary of state. “Election administrators have their work cut out for themselves. The country and the states need to make decisions now to put those administrators ... in [the] position to pull these things off.” The coronavirus economic relief law President Donald Trump signed last week contains $400 million in election security grants to help states “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” But that’s a number many warn is not nearly enough.

WHITE HOUSE TO ROLL OUT VIRUS MODELS; PREDICTS 100K-200K DEATHS: Like forecasters tracking a megastorm, White House officials are relying on statistical models to help predict the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and try to protect as many people as possible (AP). The public could get its first close look at the Trump administration’s own projections Tuesday at the daily briefing. High numbers of potential deaths estimated under different models have focused President Donald Trump’s attention. He’s dropped talk of reopening the country by Easter and instead called on Americans to stay home for another month and avoid social contact. Such models are a standard tool of epidemiology, the branch of medicine that deals with how diseases spread and how to control them. But they’re really just fancy estimates, and results vary by what factors the modelers put in. Some models updated on a daily basis may seem disconcerting to average folks searching for certainty. White House coronavirus task force adviser Dr. Deborah Birx and the National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Anthony Fauci have been talking about the models at press briefings. Fauci on Sunday cited one estimate of 100,000 deaths. Birx has described how officials are working to refine their own model. Birx said that if Americans do things "perfectly," there could still be 100,000 to 200,000 deaths.

TRUMP'S DISTANCING ORDER LIKELY TO LAST THROUGH MAY: Debbie Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said that federal scientists reviewed a dozen different models for how this pandemic might play out before constructing their own. Using techniques learned from tracking HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, she explained, “we went back to the drawing board over the last week or two and worked from the ground up” (Washington Post). Simultaneously, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, led by professor Chris Murray, was doing something similar. “When we finished, the other group that was working in parallel, which we didn't know about, IHME and Chris Murray ended up at the same numbers,” Birx said in the Rose Garden on Sunday evening. President Trump said he was persuaded to extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April, retreating from his goal of seeing churches packed with people on Easter, after seeing a presentation about the government’s modeling from Birx and Tony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” said Trump. “Easter should be the peak number, and it should start coming down and hopefully very substantially from that point.”

FORD TO BUILD 50K VENTILATORS: Ford plans to make as many as 50,000 simple ventilators for coronavirus patients within 100 days and plans to continue producing 30,000 per month after that, the company announced Monday (CNN). The automaker said it will make the ventilators at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The factory will be staffed by 500 United Auto Workers union members who have volunteered to work on the project, Ford said. The ventilator is currently being made by Florida-based Airon Corp. and has been licensed by GE Healthcare. Ford (F) has been working with GE Healthcare to help it increase its ventilator output. The Airon Model A-E ventilator that Ford will produce operates on air pressure alone and requires no electricity.

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: Gov. Holcomb and state health leaders made it clear on Monday that the corornavirus surge will come during a grim April, possibly extending into May. Health officials also filled in the blanks on the number of ICU beds and respirators available. The transparency of the Holcomb administration during this pandemic crisis is laudable. - Brian A. Howey


REP. DeLANEY OP-ED FOR DR. MYERS: State Rep. Ed DeLaney wrote this op-ed on behalf of presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Woody Myers (Howey Politics Indiana): "No one can deny the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on Indiana’s economy. Every day there are new headlines about Hoosier employers laying off workers or shutting down completely because of the coronavirus. The number of Indiana unemployment claims is skyrocketing. At the same time, hospitals across Indiana are desperate for much needed medical supplies to prepare for an onslaught of patients as the virus spreads. States are competing with each other for scarce resources from a badly depleted global supply chain ill-suited for this level of demand. Some Indiana business owners are pivoting on their own to production of medical equipment to help fulfill our medical supply needs and save jobs. While their actions are greatly appreciated, imagine if we had a more coordinated, statewide approach to harness and expand manufacturing toward building a medical supply chain here in Indiana. Indiana’s presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor, Dr. Woody Myers, has proposed a plan that would do just that. Why should we pay attention? Because Woody is a medical doctor, with experience in emergency rooms. He was the Indiana State Health Commissioner under two separate Indiana Governors during the early days of another virus outbreak – HIV/AIDS. He knew, before most of us understood, just how bad this current pandemic was going to get."

Presidential 2020

BIDEN BACKS VOTE BY MAIL: Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential candidate, joined the vote for mail push Sunday (AP). “We should be looking to all-mail ballots across the board,” Biden said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We should be beginning to plan that in each of our states.”

BIDEN LAUNCHES PODCAST: Former Vice President Joe Biden took his virtual presidential campaign to the next level Monday when he launched a podcast as the coronavirus forces him to get creative in reaching voters otherwise distracted by a global pandemic (NBC News). The podcast “Here’s the Deal” is intended to provide listeners “a voice of clarity during uncertain times” by delving into pressing subjects affecting Americans' day-to-day lives in conversations between Biden and “national top experts,” according to a description of the podcast shown to NBC News. “Hey, Team Biden. It’s Joe, and I’m sitting in Wilmington, Delaware,” Biden says at the top of the debut podcast. “It’s a scary time, people are confused, things are changing every day, every hour so I wanted to have this conversation with you now if we could.”

TRUMP SAYS CUOMO WOULD BE BETTER CANDIDATE THAN BIDEN: President Donald Trump said Monday that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose response to the Empire State's coronavirus outbreak has elevated his national profile, would be a stronger Democratic opponent for November's election than Joe Biden (Politico). Cuomo, of course, is not running for the White House. But Trump, who has shown a regular interest in pot-stirring when it comes to the Democratic primary, said the New York governor would pose a tougher matchup than the former vice president. “I wouldn’t mind running against Andrew. I’ve known Andrew for a long time. I wouldn’t mind that, but I’ll be honest, I think he’d be a better candidate than Sleepy Joe,” Trump said on Monday on “Fox and Friends.”

POLLS SHOWS ENTHUSIASM GAP FAVORING TRUMP: As the race for the White House transitions from a primary battle between former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to a likely general election showdown between Biden and President Trump, two new national polls show the former vice president holding the early edge over the GOP incumbent (Fox News). But in a potentially troubling sign for Biden, one of the two surveys points to a large enthusiasm gap that favors Trump. According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53 percent of Trump supporters say they’re “very enthusiastic” about supporting the president, but only 24 percent of those backing Biden say the same about supporting the former vice president. In another stat that speaks to a lingering divide in the party, 15 percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents who back Vermont Sen. Sanders even say they'd support Trump over Biden in the general election.“Since our last poll, Biden has won enough delegates to make him the presumptive Democratic nominee, but the horse race has not budged. This might be a bad sign for Biden since he has received extensive and largely positive news coverage over the last month,” said Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, whose firm conducts the Fox News poll with Republican Daron Shaw.


YOUNG, BRAUN DESCRIBE RESCUE PLAN: The U.S. Senate drafted and passed the country’s largest stimulus bill last week to fend off the looming economic recession as millions of Americans lose their jobs or shutter their businesses due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (Downard, CNHI). “There will be audits of these companies dealing with the Department of Treasury and the Federal Reserve,” Indiana Sen. Todd Young said in a virtual press conference. Young said that Senators learned about the importance of “following the money” from the last stimulus package and would appoint an inspector general specifically for that purpose. “There was bipartisan agreement that this was right and proper to have more scrutiny where these funds go to ensure that they are spent on purposes that collectively benefit our country as opposed to benefits of well-heeled executives,” Young said. Indiana Sen. Mike Braun highlighted some other lessons he said he hoped the federal government would learn, specifically when it came to the burdensome deficit and “borrowing from future generations.” “Hopefully we will not only learn about how to save towards that rainy day and for emergencies but will also get some fiscal discipline,” Braun said in a Monday virtual press conference.

DEMS NEXT RESCUE PLAN TO FOCUS ON INFRASTRUCTURE: With the ink barely dry on a massive, $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, House Democrats are already laying out their targets for the next round of emergency aid, including major investments in the nation's infrastructure systems (The Hill). Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), joined by several key committee chairmen, said Monday that the Democrats' fourth phase of coronavirus stimulus would be largely focused on helping the front-line medical workers, home-bound parents and patients afflicted by the deadly virus — people who may have fallen through the cracks, she said, in Congress's earlier responses to the fast-spreading pandemic. As an additional component, Democrats are also eyeing new funding for water, broadband, schools and other infrastructure systems that have proven insufficient, they said, in the face of the current coronavirus crisis. "There are infrastructure needs that our country has that directly relate to how we are proceeding with the coronavirus," Pelosi said on a conference call with reporters. "And we would like to see in what comes next something that has always been nonpartisan, bipartisan, and that is an infrastructure piece that takes us into the future."

YOUNG CALLS FOR FTC TO ADDRESS VIRUS SCAMS: U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) joined a group of senators urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect seniors from coronavirus-related scams (Howey Politics Indiana). The bipartisan group of Senators sent a letter to FTC Chairman Joseph Simons calling on the FTC to better inform seniors about coronavirus scams and assist victims in understanding their recourse options to ensure that seniors are protected from those attempting to financially exploit them during the pandemic. “At this time of heightened public fears, reports have highlighted that scams pertaining to the coronavirus are increasing, and that seniors—arguably the most vulnerable population to both the coronavirus and bad actors—have been targeted with calls telling them that the COVID-19 vaccination is ready when no such treatment currently exists,” the senators wrote.

General Assembly

REP. PORTER CALLS FOR MORE LOCAL HEALTH FUNDS: State Rep. Gregory W. Porter (D-Indianapolis) today urged Governor Holcomb to immediately allocate the $30 million in the excess State Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement (TMSA) reserves to every local health department in the state (Howey Politics Indiana). “This TMSA reserve exists for emergency purposes, and helping Hoosiers through the COVID-19 pandemic is most definitely an emergency,” said Porter. “The governor needs to immediately allocate this $30 million to our state’s local health departments that need the funding to help care for Hoosiers during this public health emergency."


GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB ORDER BLOCKS ABORTIONS - On Monday, Governor Eric Holcomb issued an executive order that, among other things, moved to block abortions (WTHR-TV). The issue is addressed under a section entitled "Conservation of Personal Protective Equipment." It states that facilities like abortion clinics are to "cancel or postpone elective and non-urgent surgical or invasive procedures." It then offers a definition: “An ‘elective and non-urgent’ procedure, for purposes of this executive order includes any surgery or invasive procedure which can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of the patient as determined by the patient’s treating physician, dentist or health care provider.” The press secretary for the governor's office confirmed to Eyewitness News that includes abortions. The governor's order goes into effect on April 1. An end date was not provided.

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB ISSUES VIRUS EXECUTIVE ORDERS - Gov. Eric Holcomb announced signing several new executive orders “addressing that sure-to-come surge” (Howey Politics Indiana). One order removes all regulatory barriers “to prepare for our surge capacity. It further expands and clarifies prohibition on elective surgical procedures in an effort to conserve our PPE. It also provides for the temporary authorization for medical doctors, students, residents, some again who have been retired. It gives authority to the state health commissioner to direct opening hospitals if needed.” Holcomb continued, “I’ve directed my general counsel to direct another executive order tomorrow for bars and restaurant to remain ‘to-go’ only with a date that aligns with our hunker down Hoosiers policy executive order.” Finally, Holcomb said, “I’m sending a letter to the president of the United States to request a majority disaster declaration for Indiana to initiate the release of federal funds that will help us see our way through COVID-19 impact on our state.”

GOVERNOR: IHA PRAISES PLAN - The Indiana Hospital Association reacted, saying in a statement, "We are grateful to the Holcomb Administration . . . and their teams for their tireless leadership. The regulatory relief granted by state and federal governments is allowing our member hospitals to react with great speed to meet the challenges of this pandemic."

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SAYS TRUMP ORDER MAY NOT IMPACT HIS DECISION - Gov. Eric Holcomb said President Donald Trump’s decision to extend social distancing guidelines until April 30 may or may not impact extending Indiana’s order (Vantryon, IndyStar). “We’ll adjust to the facts on the ground in Indiana,” he said. “We absolutely factor their guidance into the decisions we make. Our numbers will determine our executive orders in Indiana.” As for social distancing, Holcomb said, “For the most part, Hoosiers are taking it seriously...I’m pleading on a daily basis that this is not a game. This serious. You may feel like you’re Superman, but you’re not. You may never experience the sickness, but think about the folks you may adversely affect.”

GOVERNOR: HOLCOMB SAYS $1B OF RESERVES COULD BY SPENT BY JUNE 30 - Indiana’s finances are taking a major hit from the coronavirus crisis, and it just remains to be seen how big of a hit it will be (AP). Unemployment claims have skyrocketed with business and factory closings in the past couple weeks, along with less retail spending expected to mean a sizeable hit to sales tax revenue. Gov. Eric Holcomb says perhaps $1 billion will have to be spent from the state’s $2.3 billion in cash reserves to get through the budget year that ends June 30.

GOVERNOR: OMB'S JOHNSON DOESN'T SEE EDUCATION BUDGET CUT - Gov. Eric Holcomb's administration intends to maintain education funding at the level set in the 2020-21 state budget, notwithstanding the tax revenue cliff Indiana is about to fall off due to the effect of coronavirus on jobs and the economy (Carden, NWI Times). Cris Johnston, director of Indiana's Office of Management and Budget and a Crown Point native, last week said the administration wants to avoid reducing funding for schools, social services and public safety, even as sharp cuts in state spending may be needed elsewhere. "Kindergarten through 12th grade education funding is a priority for the state of Indiana as it represents over 50% of the general fund budget," Johnston said. "We plan to continue the existing appropriations and funding for schools as was adopted in the budget through the rest of this biennium."

COMMERCE: SCHELLINGER SAYS PANDEMIC REVEALING INDIANA'S BEST - While the coronavirus continues to hammer the Indiana economy, Indiana Secretary of Commerce Jim Schellinger says it is also bringing to light what makes Indiana great (Dick, Inside Indiana Business). “When we are at our worst, people are at their best and Hoosier businesses around the state, large and small, have all stepped up,” said Schellinger, who adds his office has been in touch in some fashion with more than 12,000 businesses statewide. Schellinger says the biggest business concern is uncertainty and managing short term challenges associated with the pandemic and a stay at home order instituted by Governor Eric Holcomb on March 23. Schellinger talked about the impact of the pandemic on the Indiana economy and economic development on this weekend’s edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick. “Businesses continue to have a longer window, a longer vision, and they know this too shall pass,” said Schellinger, who adds Indiana began 2020 well ahead of job creation and investment goals.

CORRECTIONS: ACLU SEEKS PRISONER RELEASE - The ACLU of Indiana wants the state to release some jail and prison inmates at risk from COVID-19. The Holcomb administration didn’t indicate it would do so (Smith, Indiana Public Media). The ACLU’s petition to the Indiana Supreme Court says prisons and jails are particularly vulnerable to virus outbreaks. And it’s urging the state to – at least temporarily – release jail and prison inmates who are in high-risk categories for death from COVID-19. The ACLU’s recommendation suggests that could apply to people awaiting trial who don’t pose a risk to the community and offenders whose sentences could be reduced or suspended. Department of Correction Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kristen Dauss would only say the agency is taking all precautions. “Our team will continue to look at what we’re doing and respond as appropriate,” Dauss says.

HEALTH: AMISH COMMUNITIES COMPLY WITH ORDERS - The Daviess County Amish community is facing the same conundrums that all of us are. In this time of closings and social distancing in the face of the coronavirus, how do they operate, how do they live, how do they worship? “All around we are trying to be safer — for ourselves and in our businesses for our customers,” said Leroy Stoll with the Daviess County Amish Steering Committee (Grant, Washington Times-Herald). “We are doing what has been recommended and practicing social distancing.” Since Gov. Eric Holcomb issued his stay-home order, there have been many questions about what makes up an essential business. The interpretation in a community with so many small construction businesses and cabinet shops could well be a key to the economic well-being of the area. “A lot of our small businesses have gone ahead and closed,” said Stoll. “Some have contacted the state and been told they are considered an essential business and they have continued to work.”

EDUCATION: NOTRE DAME CANCELS IN-PERSON COMMENCEMENT - The University of Notre Dame has followed the lead of other universities and canceled in-person spring commencement ceremonies because of the coronavirus pandemic (South Bend Tribune). In a letter to students Monday, the Rev. John Jenkins, the university's president, announced that plans are underway to host an online ceremony on May 17. The live-streamed commencement ceremony will included a recorded address by the University’s commencement speaker, Patriarch Bartholomew, and a degree conferral by Jenkins. Diplomas will be mailed to students in June. “Although there remains a good deal of uncertainty about the trajectory and duration of the pandemic, it is becoming clear that it would not be prudent to host on May 16-17 the Notre Dame Commencement on our campus — a large gathering bringing together families from across the country and around the world, many with older and at-risk members,” Jenkins said. “Despite this disappointing turn of events … we will celebrate your commencement and bring you back together.”

NCAA: SPRING ATHLETES GET EXTRA YEAR - The NCAA will permit spring sport athletes who had their seasons shortened by the coronavirus outbreak to have an additional year of eligibility (CBS4). The NCAA Division I Council voted Monday to give college athletes who compete in spring sports such as baseball, softball and lacrosse a way to get back the season they lost, but did not guarantee financial aid. Winter sports were not included in the decision. Council members declined to extend eligibility for student-athletes in sports where all or much of their regular seasons were completed.

MEDIA: GANNETT ANNOUNCES NEWSROOM FURLOUGHS - New today: @Gannett announced unpaid newsroom furloughs of 1 week per month during April, May and June. We're told journalists earning more than $38K are subject to the plan. This is prompted by COVID-19.

MEDIA: WISH-TV FORMING STATEWIDE NETWORK - The owner of WISH-TV Channel 8 on Monday announced a multiyear agreement with a South Bend-based station that will bring WISH’s news programming to northern Indiana (IBJ). WHME-TV Channel 46 plans to broadcast 60 hours of live WISH news starting April 6, WISH owner Circle City Broadcasting announced. WHME is a religious television station that serves as the flagship station of World Harvest Television and is owned by Family Broadcasting Corp. Family Broadcasting was founded by Assembly of God minister Lester Sumrall. DuJuan McCoy, owner and CEO of Circle City Broadcasting, said the deal is a step in his plan to make WISH a statewide news network. “The beginning of my goal to bring the quality and legacy of WISH-TV news from the capital city of Indianapolis to all television markets in the state of Indiana, and to the estimated 1.2 million Hoosiers that currently receive their local news from non-Indiana television stations, including the Gary region and 15 counties in southern Indiana,” McCoy said.


WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP TELLS GOVERNORS TESTING NOT AN ISSUE - President Trump told governors on a conference call on Monday that he had not “heard about testing in weeks,” suggesting that a chronic lack of kits to screen people for the coronavirus was no longer a problem. But governors painted a different picture on the ground (New York Times). Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana, a Democrat, said that officials in his state were trying to do “contact tracing” — tracking down people who have come into contact with those who have tested positive — but that they were struggling because “we don’t have adequate tests,” according to an audio recording of the conversation obtained by The New York Times. “Literally we are one day away, if we don’t get test kits from the C.D.C., that we wouldn’t be able to do testing in Montana,” Mr. Bullock said. Mr. Trump added, “I haven’t heard about testing being a problem.”

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP TO ROLL OUT REVISED FUEL STANDARDS - President Donald Trump is poised to roll back ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards and raise the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come, gutting one of the United States’ biggest efforts against climate change (AP). The Trump administration is expected to release a final rule Tuesday on mileage standards through 2026. The change — making good on the rollback after two years of Trump threatening and fighting states and a faction of automakers that opposed the move — waters down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gas and diesel vehicles. “When finalized, the rule will benefit our economy, will improve the U.S. fleet’s fuel economy, will make vehicles more affordable, and will save lives by increasing the safety of new vehicles,” Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said Monday, ahead of the expected release.

WHITE HOUSE: REP. MEADOWS RESIGNS TO BE CoS - Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., resigned from Congress on Monday afternoon and will begin as President Trump's new White House chief of staff Tuesday, a Meadows aide told Fox News. Trump tapped Meadows as chief of staff earlier this month. “I am pleased to announce that Congressman Mark Meadows will become White House Chief of Staff. I have long known and worked with Mark, and the relationship is a very good one,” Trump tweeted March 6.

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP SCHEDULE - President Trump will participate in a phone call with network service providers at 2:30 p.m. in the Oval Office. The coronavirus task force will hold a press conference at 5 p.m.

CDC: FACE MASKS FOR PUBLIC REEVALUATED - Should we all be wearing masks? That simple question is under review by officials in the U.S. government and has sparked a grass-roots pro-mask movement. But there’s still no consensus on whether widespread use of facial coverings would make a significant difference, and some infectious disease experts worry that masks could lull people into a false sense of security and make them less disciplined about social distancing (Washington Post). In recent days, more people have taken to covering their faces, although it remains a scattershot strategy driven by personal choice. The government does not recommend it. That may change. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are considering altering the official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing matter of internal discussion and nothing has been finalized.

MEDIA: ESPN TO AIR CLASSIC NFL MNF GAMES -  Sports has been on hiatus for the past few weeks, so ESPN is offering up a much-needed distraction by spending the next five weeks airing some recent Monday Night Football classics (WTHR-TV). It starts Monday night with the 2018 Kansas City Chiefs vs. Los Angeles Rams 54-51 track meet that was the highest-scoring game in Monday Night Football History. Next Monday, April 6, ESPN will re-air the 2006 game between the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints. It marked the re-opening of the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. April 13 will be Brett Favre's first game against his old team, the Green Bay Packers, in 2009. April 20 will feature the Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots from 2005 — the first time Peyton Manning won in Foxborough against Tom Brady. It wraps up in April 27 with an improbable come-from-behind win by Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys against the Buffalo Bills in 2007. Each game kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.


EVANSVILLE: COUNCIL CUTS $2.8M - During a public meeting the likes of which nobody had ever seen, the Evansville City Council voted 9-0 to cut $2.8 million from this year's city budget due to revenues lost from the coronavirus pandemic (Martin, Evansville Courier & Press). Only three councilors were physically present for the vote: President Alex Burton, Finance Chair Ron Beane and Justin Elpers. The other six participated by phone. Gov. Eric Holcomb's order limiting in-person gatherings to 10 people made the unprecedented arrangement necessary. In addition to the three councilors, others in the room at Old National Events Plaza were City Council Attorney Josh Claybourn, City Attorney Marco Delucio, City Clerk Laura Windhorst, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, City Controller Russ Lloyd Jr., an ONEP technical support staff member and a Courier & Press reporter. When Department of Metropolitan Development Director Kelley Coures spoke, Lloyd left the room, keeping the number at 10. Winnecke told the City Council the cuts were necessary because of the prolonged closure of Tropicana Evansville. City revenues from the casino total just over $1 million per month. City officials currently assume two months of lost revenues.

INDIANAPOLIS: EMERGENCY LOAN FUND PROPOSED - The city is setting up an emergency loan fund to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus lockdown (Berman, WIBC). The relief bill approved by Congress on Friday includes help for small businesses, and they’re also eligible for disaster loans from the Small Business Administration. But Mayor Joe Hogsett says that assistance will take four-to-six weeks to arrive, and some businesses don’t have the resources to pay their bills until then. The city and the Indy Chamber have created a “rapid response” loan fund to tide them over . The fund will issue loans of up to$25,000 to businesses struggling to survive the coronavirus lockdown. The city and Anthem have chipped in $2.5 million so far. The goal is to raise four times that from private and charitable donations.If the fund grows big enough, it’ll make loans available not just within Indianapolis, but in the surrounding metro area.

FORT WAYNE: LUTHERAN HOSPITAL NURSE TESTS POSITIVE - A nurse at Lutheran Hospital is among Allen County's 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases (Leblanc, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). Stacy Rodriguez tested positive last week, according to messages she posted to social media. Amanda Browning, a nursing student and friend of Rodriguez's, confirmed the diagnosis Monday, and hospital officials said an employee is being treated but did not name the patient. Rodriguez, who is in her 30s, had been working in the hospital but is now being treated there, Browning said. “We are following established (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) exposure procedures for potentially exposed staff and patients,” Lutheran spokeswoman Kara Stevenson said. “In consultation with local and state health officials, we are actively communicating with the affected employee and other employees or physicians who were in contact with the individual.”

BEVERLY SHORES: TOWN URGES HOLCOMB TO ACT AGAINST LAKE EROSION - Leaders of several communities along Indiana’s Lake Michigan shoreline are calling on Gov. Eric Holcomb to declare a state of emergency and help with funding to fight erosion as near-record high water levels continue sweeping away beaches important to tourism (AP). Beverly Shores, a town of 613, has already drained its reserves, spending nearly $365,000 on sandbags that have since washed away. Beverly Shores Town Council President Geof Benson said efforts to fix the road and other problems will cost millions more. “Erosion is not new, but with the severity and speed of it, this is different,” Benson, who has lived there for 31 years, told The Indianapolis Star. “One more storm, and that road could be at the bottom of the lake.” In Ogden Dunes, which is just west of Burns Waterway Harbor, vast amounts of sand have disappeared from the beach, said Rodger Howell, chairman of the town’s Beach Nourishment and Preservation Committee.

MICHIGAN CITY: HIRING FREEZE AFTER CASINO FUNDING DRIES UP — Mayor Duane Parry issued an executive order Friday mandating a hiring freeze and other cost-saving measures to combat the financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (Michigan City News-Dispatch). “Unfortunately, these are historic times, and our city is facing a challenge unlike none we have experienced in this modern era due to the coronavirus pandemic,” the executive order states. It goes on to mention that the Blue Chip Casino, Hotel & Spa closed to the public on March 16, and has yet to set a date when it will reopen.

GOSHEN: COUNCILMAN TESTS POSITIVE FOR VIRUS - Goshen City Councilman Jim McKee has tested positive for COVID-19 (Elkhart Truth). Mayor Jeremy Stutsman was informed Thursday afternoon, and the mayor and staff then contacted every council and board member, as well as staff who would have recently attended public meetings with McKee and may have been at risk of exposure. The city said it followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines and contacted all those who have been within the “CDC contact zone” from the council member. Those individuals who were within the contact zone were advised that they should be diligent about keeping track of their symptoms and stay home through March 31.

COLUMBUS: FIREFIGHTER TESTS POSITIVE - A city of Columbus firefighter has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus (Columbus Republic). The Columbus Fire Department learned that a firefighter has tested positive for coronavirus after the firefighter identified possible symptoms and, as a precaution, self-quarantined while seeking medical testing, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman. On March 24, the Columbus Fire Department was notified by the firefighter, who was off duty and away from the fire station when symptoms began. The firefighter was quickly tested and today the department learned that the firefighter’s test result was positive. The firefighter, who resided outside of Bartholomew County, has experienced mild symptoms and will return to duty after receiving medical clearance. No additional reports of symptoms have been identified by any firefighters assigned to the station, Wilson said. “We are monitoring this incident and following the Bartholomew County Public Health guidelines and following their recommendations,” said Columbus Fire Chief Andy Lay.

BURNS HARBOR: MITTAL EMPLOYEE TESTS POSITIVE - The coronavirus pandemic has now spread to some of the Calumet Region's largest factories, including steel mills and automotive plants (Pete, NWI Times). A worker at ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor and a contractor at ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor tested positive for COVID-19, as did a worker at the Gary Works steel mill last week. "Following current healthcare guidance, those in closest contact to the affected employees are in the process of being notified," ArcelorMittal spokesman William Steers said. "Should it be necessary, those employees will follow ArcelorMittal’s policy of a 14-day, at-home quarantine for while monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.  We wish the employees a full and speedy recovery."

VALPARAISO: MAYOR MURPHY EXPECTS GOV TO EXTEND STAY AT HOME ORDER -  Mayor Matt Murphy said he anticipates the governor will be extending his order that all Hoosiers remain at home — with the exception of addressing essentials — beyond April 7 to minimize the spread of the coronavirus (Kasarda, NWI Times). Murphy told local business leaders during a teleconference call Monday morning that he has not heard anything official from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, but anticipates the stay-at-home order will be lengthened in the wake of President Donald Trump's announcement Sunday that the nationwide social distancing guidelines are extended until April 30.

VALPARAISO: PD INITIATES CONTACT WITH RESIDENTS - The Valparaiso Police Department has activated its Contact, Assistance, and Referral program for seniors in response to the COVID-19 pandemic (Kasarda, NWI Times). Residents are encouraged to register themselves or anyone else in need for the CARE program. Checks on residents will take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday, police said. "Officers will attempt to answer any questions on these calls and perform services when available to address needs," the department said.

BLOOMINGTON: IUPD BUSTS PARTIES FOR VIOLATING ORDER - Indiana University police busted multiple off-campus parties this weekend because students were not following proper social distancing guidelines (Indiana Public Media). Deputy Chief Shannon Bunger says IUPD shut down three separate parties Saturday: one at a fraternity house off North Jordan Avenue and two on the west side of campus – one around the 600 block of East Ninth Street and one around the 600 block of North Dunn Street. Bunger says seven or eight people attended the party on Dunn, 10 to 15 went to the one on Ninth and about 20 people were at the one on North Jordan. He says there were no parties this weekend of more than 100 people. “The houses were very cooperative,” Bunger says. “They said they totally understood and anybody that didn't live at that residence was asked to leave. And they did. There were no issues.”

ELKHART COUNTY: $720K SETTLEMENT FOR INMATE DEATH - Elkhart County officials have reached a $720,000 settlement with the family of a woman who died from a bacterial infection after being refused medical attention by workers at Elkhart County’s work-release facility in 2018 (South Bend Tribune). Laminika Dockery, 36, checked into the work-release facility in Goshen on July 25, 2018 and soon began saying she had stomach pain. She continued to ask for help from various center employees over the next several days. However, staff members believed Dockery was suffering from symptoms of drug withdrawal after she tested positive for drug use when she entered the facility. The corrections staff did not call for an ambulance until July 31, after Dockery became “slow to respond and very weak,” according to a press release from the Elkhart County Prosecutor’s Office. She became unresponsive in the ambulance and died at Goshen Health Hospital. An autopsy later revealed Dockery died of a bacterial infection that had been untreated.

CLARK COUNTY: RELIEF FUND ESTABLISHED - Officials in southern Indiana have announced an emergency loan fund to help local businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the previously-announced 1si Cares Initiative, the fund will make loans of up to $10,000 available to businesses in Clark and Floyd counties (Inside Indiana Business). The effort is a collaboration among One Southern Indiana, the Community Foundation of Southern Indiana, and the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County, which is administering the fund.