BIDEN TRANSITION WORKAROUNDS AS PANDEMIC EXPLODES: President Donald Trump’s refusal to cooperate with his successor is forcing President-elect Joe Biden to seek unusual workarounds to prepare for the exploding public health threat and evolving national security challenges he will inherit in just nine weeks (AP). Blocked from the official intelligence briefing traditionally afforded to incoming presidents, Biden gathered virtually on Tuesday with a collection of intelligence, defense and diplomatic experts. None of the experts is currently affiliated with the U.S. government, raising questions about whether Biden is being provided the most up-to-date information about dangers facing the nation. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received a more formal briefing on Tuesday as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, though still has relatively limited information about the specific threats Biden will inherit. And as the worst pandemic in a century bears down on the U.S. with renewed ferocity, the current administration is blocking Biden from collaborating with its response team. Biden’s representatives instead plan to meet directly with pharmaceutical companies this week to determine how best to distribute at least two promising vaccines to hundreds of millions of Americans, the biggest logistical challenge to face a new president in generations. The moves reflect how Biden is adjusting to a historically tense transition.

 

WH TASK FORCE ADVISORY PREDICTS 'UNRELENTING' PANDEMIC: The White House coronavirus task force has again ramped up its warnings to states in a weekly set of reports as the pandemic continues to aggressively worsen, raising alarms on the potential impact of rising cases on hospitals (CNN). "There is now aggressive, unrelenting, expanding broad community spread across the country, reaching most counties, without evidence of improvement but rather, further deterioration. Current mitigation efforts are inadequate and must be increased to flatten the curve to sustain the health system for both Covid and non-Covid emergencies," state reports dated November 15 obtained by CNN said. The language in the weekly reports, which offer the administration's most unvarnished picture of the pandemic, has become increasingly dire in recent weeks, matching the severity of the current situation as President Donald Trump remains silent on rising cases, focusing instead on positive vaccine developments in his only public event on the matter in a month last Friday.

 

PENCE HOMETOWN HOSPITAL 'AT BREAKING POINT': Bartholomew County health officials are warning that the local healthcare system is “almost at a breaking point” as COVID-19 hospitalizations soar and the viral outbreak worsens heading into Thanksgiving. COVID-19 hospitalizations at Columbus Regional Hospital continued to rise on Monday, with 47 people hospitalized, once again setting an all-time record since the pandemic took root in March (East, Columbus Republic). On Tuesday, there were 43 people hospitalized at CRH with COVID-19, compared to 12 on Nov. 1, the hospital said. Nine of the patients hospitalized on Tuesday were listed in critical condition, with the other 34 listed as stable, the hospital said. As of Tuesday, 27 CRH staff members were quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 or having symptoms consistent with the coronavirus, the hospital said. A total of 107 CRH employees have tested positive for COVID-19 over the course of the pandemic. “When we look at occupancy, we don’t just look at beds, we look at staff,” said CRH spokeswoman Kelsey DeClue. “So we may have more beds available than staff to care for them.” “Certainly when we get over 75%, 80%, we start worrying,” she added.

 

HOLCOMBS IN QUARANTINE: Gov. Eric Holcomb and his wife, Janet, are in quarantine after several members of the governor’s security team tested positive for COVID-19 (IBJ). Holcomb’s office said the governor and first lady are “considered close contacts” and will be tested later this week. The Indiana State Department of Health will perform the contact tracing for the Holcombs and for their security officers. The Governor’s Office did not provide any details about the condition of the security officers who tested positive. The state’s weekly briefing on the pandemic will be led Wednesday by Dr. Kris Box, the commissioner of the Indiana State Department of Health, and Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state’s chief medical officer. Holcomb plans to join by phone. Box tested positive for COVID-19 in October and has since recovered.

 

ST. JOSEPH COMMISSIONERS PASS MASK FINES: The St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners Tuesday approved fining businesses that do not enforce face mask orders among employees. Businesses could be subject to fines of between $50 and $250, which could accrue for each day the business remains out of compliance (South Bend Tribune). Individuals who don’t comply with the mask order would not be subject to fines. The health department also would not fine businesses for failure to enforce the mask order among patrons. The three person board approved the ordinance 2-1. Andrew Kostielney and Dave Thomas voted in favor. Deb Fleming voted against. The vote comes as coronavirus cases surge, various restrictions are being renewed at state and local levels, and local health officials have warned that area hospitals are being stressed by an influx of COVID-19 patients.

 

WELLS COUNTY BOARD RULES AGAINST RESTAURANT OVER MASKS: In a unanimous decision the Wells County Board of Health voted to uphold the order that stated Yergy’s BBQ  violated the mask mandate (WANE-TV). On Monday, the wording was changed to show that the restaurant did not violate the capacity order and the mask order was upheld. The business can decide whether to appeal and lawyers for the business said they are considering that. An official with the Wells County Health Department says Yergy’s BBQ could have reopened within 24 hours of getting the violation, all they had to do was say that employees would wear masks. If the business would want to reopen, they would have to reapply with the health department and pass an inspection.

 

LEGISLATORS CLASH OVER MASKS: Democrats and Republicans clashed over COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday as they gathered for a ceremonial start to the 2021 legislative session (Erdody, IBJ). Organization Day—the day when lawmakers are sworn in and leaders of each chamber share their expectations for the session—is typically a day without any policy discussions or major votes. But on Tuesday, state Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, introduced a proposal that would have required all representatives to wear masks while in the House chamber or any room or hallway “where official House business is being conducted.” “We really ought to be leading by example,” Pierce said. The Legislative Continuity Committee, which was tasked with determining how lawmakers could convene safely next year, voted against mandating masks during a meeting last week. House Minority Leader Phil GiaQuinta said he then heard from members of his caucus who were concerned about their personal safety and the safety of others in the Statehouse if masks were only recommended, rather than required. Two Republicans — State Rep. Curt Nisly of Milford and state Rep. John Jacob of Indianapolis—were seen without masks on Tuesday.

 

HUSTON PROMISES FULL K-12 FUNDING: Indiana Speaker of the House Todd Huston said Tuesday that lawmakers will move quickly to provide full state funding for K-12 students who are educated virtually—a crucial step to prevent schools across the state from losing revenue this spring (McCoy, Chalkbeat). Legislative leaders also said they hoped to stave off cuts to education in the coming budget—or even try to boost funding. But in the midst of a recession brought on by the coronavirus, leaders say the budget will hinge on coming revenue forecasts. Lawmakers gathered at the Statehouse on Tuesday for the ceremonial beginning of the 2021 session. They discussed how the legislature would adapt to the pandemic, including how to respond when people test positive, whether to allow members to vote remotely, and whether to require masks. When the session reconvenes in January, lawmakers will face a host of pressing policy issues, and education will dominate that list.

 

BIDEN TELLS STAFF HE'S NOT INTERESTED IN TRUMP INVESTIGATIONS: President-elect Joe Biden has privately told advisers that he doesn't want his presidency to be consumed by investigations of his predecessor, according to five people familiar with the discussions, despite pressure from some Democrats who want inquiries into President Donald Trump, his policies and members of his administration (NBC News). Biden has raised concerns that investigations would further divide a country he is trying to unite and risk making every day of his presidency about Trump, said the sources, who spoke on background to offer details of private conversations. They said he has specifically told advisers that he is wary of federal tax investigations of Trump or of challenging any orders Trump may issue granting immunity to members of his staff before he leaves office. One adviser said Biden has made it clear that he "just wants to move on." Another Biden adviser said, "He's going to be more oriented toward fixing the problems and moving forward than prosecuting them." Any decisions by Biden's Justice Department regarding Trump, his staff, his associates, his business or his policies wouldn't affect investigations by state officials, including Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who has fought to obtain Trump's tax returns.

 

TRUMP DISSUADED FROM ATTACKING IRAN: President Trump asked senior advisers in an Oval Office meeting on Thursday whether he had options to take action against Iran’s main nuclear site in the coming weeks. The meeting occurred a day after international inspectors reported a significant increase in the country’s stockpile of nuclear material, four current and former U.S. officials said on Monday (MSN). Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned President Trump against a strike on Iran and described the potential risks of military escalation. A range of senior advisers dissuaded the president from moving ahead with a military strike. The advisers — including Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary; and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — warned that a strike against Iran’s facilities could easily escalate into a broader conflict in the last weeks of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

 

HPI DAILY ANALYSIS: In Thursday's weekly Howey Politics Indiana  edition, we'll explore past "crisis" sessions of the Indiana General Assembly as we head into the coming biennial budget session amidst an exploding pandemic. Look for it around 9 Thursday morning. - Brian A. Howey

 

Campaigns

 

MORALES ANNOUNCES FOR SECRETARY OF STATE: Diego Morales has launched his campaign for Indiana Secretary of State. This announcement comes following his previous run for U.S. Congress in 2018, which raised around $600,000 (Howey Politics Indiana). “Over the past several years, I’ve been exploring ways in which I can best serve the people of our great state,” said Morales. “What I’ve learned through my travels across all 92 counties in Indiana is that my fellow Hoosiers want someone who understands voting, elections and business. They need a leader who shares their conservative values and allows faith to be their guide.”

 

Presidential 2020

 

MICHIGAN GOP BACKTRACKS AFTER BLOCKING VOTE CERTIFICATION: In an abrupt about-face, Michigan’s largest county on Tuesday night unanimously certified election results showing Democrat Joe Biden defeating President Donald Trump, hours after Republicans first blocked formal approval of voters’ intentions (AP). The initial move was quickly condemned by Democrats, election experts and spectators at the Wayne County Board of Canvassers online meeting as a dangerous attempt to block the results of a free and fair election. “We depend on democratic norms, including that the losers graciously accept defeat. That seems to be breaking down,” said Joshua Douglas, a law professor at the University of Kentucky. The state vote certification process is usually a routine task, and the ultimate resolution in Wayne County propels Biden toward formal victory in Michigan. Still, Tuesday’s chaotic developments are likely to sow more doubt among Trump’s supporters in the election results and could galvanize Republicans in other states to try to look for ways to slow down the final steps in making his loss official. Republicans are also trying to stop formal certification of the election results in other swing states, including Arizona, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

 

 

TRUMP 'SERIOUSLY' CONSIDERING 2024 RUN: President Trump is "seriously" considering a 2024 bid for president and has "100%" mentioned it in conversations with his top advisers in recent days, a Trump campaign senior adviser and a Trump ally told CBS News, which previously reported that while no decisions have been made, Trump advisers have been actively working to keep the president's options open as they begin to plan his political future. However, the president plans to exhaust his legal options before any decisions are made. Republican Senator Kevin Cramer called Mr. Trump last week to convey his support for the president's efforts to contest the election results, as first reported by Politico. An official close to Cramer said that Mr. Trump told the North Dakota lawmaker, "If this doesn't work out, I'll just run again in four years."

 

BOPP ABRUPTLY PULLS ELECTION LAWSUITS: Indiana attorney Jim Bopp has quite a reputation when it comes to reshaping America's election landscape (IndyStar). He brought the Citizens United case that dramatically loosened campaign finance restrictions and he provided the legal rationale that the U.S. Supreme Court used in siding with President George W. Bush during the Florida recount in 2000. So it seemed significant when Bopp jumped into the 2020 election fray last week to support President Donald Trump, who has refused to concede the election while claiming without evidence that it was stolen through widespread fraud. That is, until Bopp abruptly withdrew four lawsuits Monday challenging the 2020 presidential election results in several states.

 

BIDEN PLEDGES TO HALF ETHANOL EXEMPTIONS: Renewable Fuels Association President and CEO Geoff Cooper recently offered his congratulations to President-Elect Biden and says they look forward to working with his administration on issues important to the ethanol industry (Pfeiffer, Hoosier Ag Today). “Mr. Biden has made it clear, as he was campaigning, that should he be elected he would put a stop to the abuse at EPA of the small refinery exemption program on day one. So, we fully expect that that commitment would be upheld regardless of who is appointed as the next administrator of the EPA. You know, we’ve got a promise, we have a pledge, from Mr. Biden that he’s going to put a stop to these exemptions.”

 

General Assembly

 

DEMOCRATS MAKE LAST DITCH CALL FOR REDISTRICTING REFORM: Indiana Senate Democrats made their “last-ditch” call Tuesday for redistricting reform ahead of lawmakers redrawing legislative district lines in the 2021 session (Smith, Indiana Public Media). The minority caucus has unsuccessfully pushed for reforms for more than a decade. While redistricting reform advocates have long called for an independent commission to draw Indiana’s district maps, Senate Democrats acknowledge it’s too late for that. Instead, Minority Leader Sen. Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) said they want required standards by which the maps will be drawn. “It would prohibit the drawing of district lines to favor a political party or a person,” Taylor said.

 

TAYLOR PREDICTS COVID DISRUPTION:  Legislators finished the 2020 session just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking off. They’ll open the 2021 session on Tuesday with the virus’s spread at new heights (Berman, WIBC). Senate President Pro Tem Rod Bray (R-Martinsville) says it’s not practical to block senators from voting. Instead, he’s appearing to legislators to understand they’ve got critical bills to pass, and it’ll complicate that work if the House or Senate has to pause its work because members or staffers are sick, or quarantining because of contact with someone who is. Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) predicts an outbreak will force a recess at some point. He says it’s disappointing legislators can’t be relied on to follow the same precautions elementary school students have been observing faithfully.

 

BIG BUDGET SESSION AT HAND:  It might not seem that interesting on paper, but it is vital for the next two years: the 2021 Legislative Session is a big budget year for lawmakers (WANE-TV). “This session is going to be unlike any other session, the situation and where we meet is going to be different, but in a lot of ways it’s going to be the same because it’s a big budget year,” said Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne). The budget is a crucial task for lawmakers this upcoming year, but why should the average Hoosier care? In midst of the pandemic, Hoosiers across the state are unemployed which caused unemployment to peak in April to 565,822. Despite some going back to work, there are many still left without a job.

 

REP. SHACKLEFORD IN QUARANTINE:  An Indiana state representative is in quarantine after a sibling tested positive for COVID-19 (WTHR-TV). Rep. Robin Shackleford (D-Indianapolis) attended Organization Day at the Indiana Statehouse on Tuesday, but left to get tested for coronavirus shortly after a news conference. Shackleford said she had found out after Organization Day, the opening of the Indiana legislative session, and before the news conference, that her sister had tested positive for COVID-19. Shackleford had been on vacation last week with her sister, who is asymptomatic.

 

Congress

 

YOUNG LAUDS TRUMP ON VACCINES: Senate Republicans are giving accolades to the Trump Administration and America’s front line workers as two pharmaceutical companies have developed viable vaccines for COVID-19 (WIBC). The two vaccines are from Pfizer and Moderna after they say their vaccine candidates have both shown over 90-percent effectiveness in clinical trials. “They, of course, will be seeking FDA approval in the coming days,” said Indiana Sen. Todd Young (R). “And there’s some other drugs online that are notable as well. Eli Lilly, out of Indianapolis, Indiana, has a drug that is targeted towards those who are most at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.”

 

YOUNG, PETERS TO UPDATE GREAT LAKES MAPS: U.S. Sens. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) yesterday applauded Senate passage of their bipartisan legislation to update the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) maps in the Great Lakes (Howey Politics Indiana). The legislation would require the Great Lakes Region ESI maps to be updated for the first time in over two decades, joining maps for the East coast, West coast, and Gulf coast that have been updated more recently. It would additionally require periodic Great Lakes mapping updates. These new maps will provide more accurate assessments of coastal resources that are at risk of severe damage or a natural disaster, including endangered and threatened species, sensitive shoreline habitats, and widely used community resources such as beaches, parks and boat ramps. “The Great Lakes are one of America’s greatest natural resources. Hoosier families treasure our coastline along Lake Michigan and our close proximity to all the Great Lakes and it’s in all of our interests to robustly protect them,” said Senator Young. “I’m glad the Senate voted to pass our bipartisan bill to update the ESI maps, allowing us to better protect our natural resources and effectively respond to natural disasters.”

 

State

 

ISDH: TUESDAY COVID STATS - The Indiana Department of Health today announced that 5,541 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 through testing at state and private laboratories. That brings to 262,207 the number of Indiana residents now known to have had the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard. A total of 4,770 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of 84 from the previous day. Another 255 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record. Deaths are reported based on when data are received by the state and occurred over multiple days. To date, 1,969,088 unique individuals have been tested in Indiana, up from 1,952,202 on Monday. A total of 3,612,076 tests, including repeat tests for unique individuals, have been reported to the state Department of Health since Feb. 26.

 

SECRETARY OF STATE: NO COMMENT ON ELECTION FRAUD - Regardless of their party affiliation, not one of the officials reached in 46 states and the District of Columbia reported having found evidence of significant fraud or irregularities that would have marred or reshaped the presidential race (ABC News). Four states, Indiana, Montana, New York, and Texas, did not respond to request for comment.

 

INDOT: NORTH SPLIT CONSTRUCTION TO BEGIN - Work to revamp the North Split interstate interchange on the northeast side of downtown is expected to begin in three or four weeks, and drivers should expect long-term roadblocks (IBJ). Some road and ramps—including the stretch of Interstates 65 and 70 between East Washington Street and the North Split—will be closed for a year or more, the Indiana Department of Transportation announced Tuesday. The project will redesign and reconstruct the Interstate 65/Interstate 70 interchange, including reconfiguring traffic patterns and replacing aging pavement and bridges. The project will also add landscaping, bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, decorative lighting and other features to help integrate the highway with adjacent neighborhoods. Work is set to begin in December and last for 25 months. The project’s price tag is nearly $320 million. INDOT said it will close I-65 and I-70 between East Washington Street and the North Split beginning in mid-May, and this closure will last for the duration of the project. Through traffic will be routed to Interstate 465.

 

INDOT: NEW I-65 INTERCHANGE AT CROWN POINT - Residents can expect another construction-filled summer along 109th Avenue in 2021 (Freda, NWI Times). During a public hearing Tuesday evening, representatives with the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) presented plans for a new interchange at 109th Avenue and Interstate 65. "We have identified a need for improvement at this location, and what we are presenting tonight is a proposal. This is not a final decision," said Adam Parkhouse, communications director for INDOT Northwest. As presented, INDOT is proposing converting the existing diamond interchange into a "dogbone" interchange, which gets its name from its aerial view.  The dogbone interchange includes two, two-lane roundabouts in each direction, said project manager Phil Kuntz.

 

ATTORNEY GENERAL: HILL LAUDS GARY SANCTUARY CITY RULING - A Lake Superior Court decision this week properly affirms that Indiana municipalities violate state law when they shield illegal immigrants from the law-enforcement efforts of federal authorities, Attorney General Curtis Hill said Tuesday (Howey Politics Indiana). The court struck down a 2017 Gary ordinance that restricted the ability of local police to help investigate individuals’ citizenship or immigration status. Among other things, the ordinance prohibited local police from cooperating with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainers and removal orders. “Our nation’s immigration laws are designed to protect the public, including immigrants who have followed the proper processes to reside in our great country,” Attorney General Hill said. “Authorities at the local, state and federal levels must cooperate with each other to enforce these measures. Policies that purposely hinder such collaboration not only violate Indiana law but also jeopardize Hoosiers’ safety.”

 

ACA: HEALTH MARKETPLACE OPENS - The open enrollment period for 2021 health insurance coverage through marketplaces and other individual plans is here and runs through Dec. 15, 2020. The Indiana Department of Insurance offers tips to help guide you through the enrollment process (Howey Politics Indiana). Consumers in Indiana who currently have marketplace coverage, or will need it in 2021, should make time to shop for plans through Healthcare.gov. If you already have coverage through a marketplace plan, review your information to make sure it is accurate. You can update your application with any income and/or household changes. You might qualify for a different amount of financial assistance or find a different plan that costs less and/or better meets your needs.

 

CRIME: JUSTICE INSTITUTE RECEIVES $1.9M FOR VICTIMS - The Indiana Criminal Justice Institute was recently awarded $1.9 million by the U.S. Department of Justice to bolster the state’s Victim Compensation program. The funds will be used to make payments to eligible violent crime victims in Indiana (Howey Politics Indiana). “Assisting survivors and their families is an important function of CJI, whether it’s directly through the Victim Compensation program or indirectly,” said Devon McDonald, ICJI Executive Director. “We appreciate the Department of Justice’s continued investment in Indiana, as it helps to make those efforts possible.”

 

IU: NO FANS AT ASSEMBLY HALL - There will be no general public fans in attendance at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall when the men’s basketball teams tips off later this month (Indiana Public Media). The Hoosiers will open their seasons at home against Tennessee Tech on Nov. 25, the first of seven non-conference games announced Tuesday. The Hoosiers play at Florida State on Dec. 9, then return home to host North Alabama on Dec. 13. Indiana wraps up the non-conference schedule against Butler at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis Dec. 19. Following the attendance guidelines set forth by the Big Ten for football games, only family of athletes and staff will be admitted to Indiana’s home games. That policy will continue indefinitely.

 

PURDUE: NO FANS AT MACKEY - Purdue athletics director Mike Bobinski said Tuesday that he expects only immediate family members of the players and staff at Mackey Arena to start the men's and women's basketball seasons (WLFI-TV). "Our presumption at this point and time is that we are going to begin the basketball seasons in a very similar circumstance that we are with football right now," said Bobinski. "We will have no public sale of tickets. We will have only players immediate families from the two different teams and the coaching staff families."

 

NOTRE DAME: EMPLOYEE CHARGED WITH MURDER IN DC - A University of Notre Dame employee is charged with murder in Washington, D.C., with prosecutors alleging she shot and killed her ex-boyfriend (South Bend Tribune). Nijinsky Dix, 37, has been charged in Superior Court of the District of Columbia, with first degree murder while armed. University spokesman Paul Browne confirmed Dix is employed at Notre Dame. On a university website, Dix is listed as the director of Notre Dame’s federally-funded TRiO programs, which provide tutoring and academic counseling at South Bend schools. “The University is aware of her arrest and will cooperate with law enforcement as appropriate,” Browne said in a statement to the Tribune.

 

Nation

 

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP FIRES DHS CYBERSECURITY CHIEF - President Donald Trump has fired Department of Homeland Security cybersecurity chief Chris Krebs, who led efforts to defend last week's election against foreign interference and rejected Trump's baseless claims of rampant voter fraud (Politico). Trump announced the firing in a tweet late Tuesday, saying it was "effective immediately." Krebs, the director of DHS' Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, had been expecting to be fired since just after Election Day, people familiar with his thinking told POLITICO. His agency's Rumor Control website debunked several conspiracy theories being promoted by Trump and his supporters, including claims of mass voting by dead people, and Krebs himself has dismissed such right-wing theories as "nonsense."

 

WHITE HOUSE: TRUMP/PENCE SCHEDULE - President Trump has nothing on his public schedule. Vice President Mike Pence is headed to Georgia Friday to rally with Republican incumbent U.S. Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

 

COVID: PFIZER VACCINE FINAL RESULTS 95% EFFECTIVE - An experimental Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech was 95% effective in final results from a pivotal study and is showing signs of being safe, key pieces of data as the companies prepare to ask health regulators to authorize use (Wall Street Journal). Pfizer plans to seek authorization for the vaccine within days, the companies said Wednesday, leaving the shot on track to go into distribution by the end of the year if health regulators permit. Out of 170 adult volunteers in the nearly 44,000-subject trial who developed Covid-19 with at least one symptom, 162 received a placebo, while eight got the vaccine, Pfizer and BioNTech said. The resulting 95% effectiveness rate puts the shot’s performance on par with shingles and measles vaccines.

 

COVID: HUNDREDS OF COMPANIES WHICH GOT AID HAVE FAILED - About 300 companies that received as much as half a billion dollars in pandemic-related government loans have filed for bankruptcy, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of government data and court filings (Wall Street Journal). Many of the companies, which employ a total of about 23,400 workers, say the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program weren’t enough to keep them going as the coronavirus and lack of additional stimulus payments weighed on their businesses. The total number of companies that failed despite getting PPP loans is likely far higher. The Journal only analyzed the big borrowers from the program, which accounted for about half of the overall loans though only about 13.5% of the total participants. And many small businesses simply liquidate when they run out of cash rather than file for bankruptcy.

 

NATO: STOLTENBERG WARNS V. AFGHAN WITHDRAWAL - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg issued a stark warning Tuesday that any premature withdrawal from Afghanistan could be dangerous, a day after CNN and other outlets reported that President Donald Trump is eyeing a troop drawdown against the advice of the nation's top military officials (CNN). "The price for leaving too soon or in an uncoordinated way could be very high. Afghanistan risks becoming once again a platform for international terrorists to plan and organise attacks on our homelands. And ISIS could rebuild in Afghanistan the terror caliphate it lost in Syria and Iraq," Stoltenberg said in a statement to CNN.

 

ILLINOIS: PRITZKER ANNOUNCES NEW RESTRICTIONS - Museums and casinos will be closed and retail spaces statewide will see capacity caps under new state restrictions Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to announce Tuesday as the state grapples with rising coronavirus case counts (Chicago Sun-Times). Large stores, such as Walmart or Target, will have a 25% capacity limit while typical grocery stores will have a 50% cap on their capacity. Though gyms will remain open, group fitness classes will be canceled, a source with knowledge of the plan said Tuesday. The restrictions, set to be announced during Pritzker’s afternoon COVID-19 briefing, are scheduled to take effect statewide Friday.

 

SPORTS: EPSTEIN LEAVING CUBS - The Chicago Cubs announced that Theo Epstein will step down as the team's president of baseball operations and is set to be replaced by general manager Jed Hoyer (Yardbarker). Epstein joined the Cubs in 2011 after helping the Red Sox win two World Series as the youngest general manager in MLB history, taking the job at only 28. He then worked his championship magic in Chicago, with the Cubs winning the World Series in 2016, ending the franchise's 108-year championship drought. "For the rest of my life, I will cherish having been part of the great Chicago Cubs organization during this historic period," Epstein said in a statement.

 

Local

 

LAFAYETTE: BAD HEROIN BATCH KILLS 3 — The Lafayette Police Department responded to an increased number of suspected drug overdoses from Friday, November 13 to Sunday, November 15. Three deaths resulted from the suspected overdoses. Pending autopsies and toxicology reports will determine the cause of death in these cases (WLFI-TV). Investigators believe some of the drug overdoses were due to a “bad batch” of heroin. This means the heroin was cut with a dangerous chemical, such as fentanyl, which increases the volume and enhances the effect of the drug.

 

FISHERS: CITY FACES $42M IN SR37 COST OVERRUNS - Millions of dollars in estimated cost overruns have been reduced for the State Road 37 project in Fishers, but the city and county still face a bill up to $42 million higher than originally budgeted (IndyStar). Mayor Scott Fadness told city councilors at a workshop Monday the city would cover its half of the cost with a $6 million bond issue in the spring and another for up to $15 million next fall. Fishers is responsible for half the cost and Hamilton County for the other half. The county has not announced their plan to cover the cost increase.

 

FISHERS: HSE SCHOOLS SHIFT TO REMOTE LEARNING — The Hamilton Southeastern school board has approved a move to send students in Pre-K through sixth grade to virtual instruction beginning Thursday, Nov. 19 (WTHR-TV). They will stay virtual through Dec. 4. In a release, administrators said the decision was made because the district continues to have problems finding substitute teachers to fill in for quarantined faculty. “We understand how difficult this is for students, staff and families. Please know that we remain committed to serving the school community through this pandemic,” the release said.

 

KOKOMO: SCHOOLS SHIFTING TO VIRTUAL - Kokomo Schools is canceling in-person learning as of Monday, Nov. 23 until Friday, Dec. 4, excluding the Thanksgiving holiday on Nov. 26-27, due to staffing shortages related to COVID-19, according to a letter sent to staff, students and families by Superintendent Jeff Hauswald (Kokomo Tribune). “Kokomo School Corporation officials, like many of you, are disappointed anytime transitions to ‘eLearning’ are deemed necessary,” Hauswald wrote. “We have worked diligently to keep our schools open, as we realize that in-person instruction has no equal substitute for many of our students.

 

MERRILLVILLE: CITY HALL RESTRICTED DUE TO COVID — The town’s non-emergency offices will be closed to the public Wednesday through Dec. 4 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Reilly, NWI Times). Merrillville administration made the decision after some employees tested positive for coronavirus or were in contact with people who tested positive for COVID-19. "We have had some reported cases in various departments and need to take precautions to keep employees and Town Hall visitors safe during these difficult times," Town Council President Rick Bella said in an email. Merrillville personnel will work remotely while the closure is in place.

 

ALLEN COUNTY: NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS ANNOUNCED - Citizens Square will be closed to the public for eight weeks beginning Monday, and Allen County is implementing "hard caps" on gatherings and ordering bars and restaurants to close at midnight as new COVID-19 cases soar, local health and government officials said Tuesday (Rodriguez, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette). The actions are needed because county cases, as well as Indiana's, now are rising at "exponential" levels, Dr. Matthew Sutter, county health commissioner, said during a news conference at Citizens Square. That means new cases are doubling every seven days, putting the county as of today in the red zone, the most serious level, he said, prompting worries hospitals will be overwhelmed. At the beginning of October, the county's daily case count was in the 40s, Sutter said. Now, he said, it's been "over 400." At that rate, daily cases could reach more 4,000 in four weeks, Sutter said. "We need to bend the curve," he said.

 

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY: 'DRASTIC' COVID SPIKE AT JAIL - Dozens of inmates and staff at the St. Joseph County Jail have tested positive for the coronavirus since last week, in what Sheriff Bill Redman described as a “drastic spike” (South Bend Tribune). Redman said 35 inmates tested positive on Friday alone. The 35 cases represented about 7% of the jail’s total population of 503 inmates as of Tuesday. Another 75 inmates were quarantined or "medically isolated" but had not received positive test results Tuesday, according to Troy Warner, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. In addition, 12 staffers, including four nurses from the jail’s medical unit, have tested positive, and at least eight more staff members were quarantining as of Tuesday after possible exposure to people who were infected.

 

HOWARD COUNTY: 1ST COVID CASE AT JAIL - COVID-19 has hit the Howard County jail, and officials say they are currently awaiting a recent round of complete inmate testing results to see just how far the virus has spread (Kokomo Tribune). The first positive case — a male inmate — was identified last week, and Lt. Justin Christmas said there has been “more than one case” diagnosed since that time, though he noted he wasn’t sure of the exact number. The positive cases — believed at this time to only be inmates — mark the first time since COVID-19 reached the area in March that the virus has entered the HCJ, a credit to the staff’s cleaning practices and other precautions, Christmas said.

 

ELKHART COUNTY: COMMISSIONERS MULL NEW COVID RESTRICTIONS - The Elkhart County Board of Commissioners is considering further restrictions and guidance regarding the COVID-19 pandemic (Fouts, Elkhart Truth). Monday’s discussion followed an indication given Friday that a new public order from the Elkhart County Health Department was in the works that would address businesses, bars, schools and gatherings. Commissioner Suzie Weirick said later Monday that an updated resolution from the board would likely reflect the latest guidelines from the state and the county health department, such as which types of face masks are appropriate to use. But she would also like to see more concrete measures put in place, such as restricting access to county buildings. Seven more Elkhart County residents were reported dead from COVID-19 on Tuesday, taking the virus' death tally for November to 42, surpassing October's 36, which had been the worst so far.

 

FLOYD COUNTY: COVID RESTRICTIONS IMPOSED - Bars in Floyd County must close by 10 p.m. and restaurants have to reduce capacity to 75% based on an order issued Tuesday by the county’s health officer (Suddeath, News & Tribune). Bar spaces within restaurants must also close by 10 p.m. based on the order issued by Floyd County Health Officer Dr. Tom Harris. “The intent of this order is to continue to provide a safe environment for all people in Floyd County, and avoid the spread of COVID-19,” Harris said in a news release. “This will protect public health in Floyd County.” The order will remain in effect until at least Dec. 21.

 

VANDERBURGH COUNTY: HEALTH DEPT SENDING CEASE/DESIST LETTERS - The Vanderburgh County Health Department says it’s sending “cease and desist letters” to businesses that are disregarding the state’s COVID guidelines (WFIE-TV). The health department says, in some cases, they may shut down the business for a short period of time to educate the staff and owners on how to make those corrections. Health officials say they shut down the Hornet’s Nest for a short period last week. Hornet’s Nest owner, Derek Ungenthiem, tells 14 News they shut down for one day this past Friday and re-opened Saturday after complying with the health department requests. Ungenthiem says the health department told him they emailed him the “cease and desist letter” but he never got it.

 

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY: SHERIFF K9 WAS KILLED BY CAR -  A necropsy performed on K9 Diesel indicates the Bartholomew County Sheriff canine died from injuries suffered when being struck by a vehicle, deputies said Tuesday (Columbus Republic). The Purdue University Animal Disease and Diagnostic Lab conducted the exam, similar to an autopsy on a human, to determine the dog’s cause of death. Diesel was killed Saturday afternoon while chasing a suspect wanted in a domestic violence investigation near County Road 600S and County Road 250W. The dog chased the suspect, identified as Michael Stephens, 36, Columbus, into some woods near I-65 and is believed to have tried to follow Stephens across the interstate, deputies said.

 

VIGO COUNTY: TREASURERS ELECTION CHALLENGE - A change of venue has been granted for a petition challenging the election of a new Vigo County treasurer. Meanwhile, an evidentiary hearing is set for Thursday afternoon in the auditor's race election challenge (Terre Haute Tribune-Star). Today, Judge Michael Rader reviewed and granted the motion filed by Josie Swalls-Thompson, the top vote-getter for treasurer in the Nov. 3 election. Current Treasurer Nancy Allsup is contesting the election of Swalls-Thompson. Allsup claims Swalls-Thompson is a resident of Florida, not Vigo County. The Allsup petition challenging Swalls-Thompson's residency includes a copy of property tax information with a homestead exemption for a home owned by Swalls-Thompson in Fort Myers, Florida.