By BRIAN HOWEY, in Indianapolis

1. The Pandemic General Assembly 

Here are your final power lunch talking points for the week: The Indiana General Assembly reconvenes for Organization Day next Tuesday, the first time since Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state lockdown in mid-March, in preparation of its long biennial budget session which runs from January through late April. It will occur during this ferocious pandemic (5,708 new infections on Friday; 50 more deaths), which has claimed more than 4,500 Hoosier lives. The Legislative Continuity Committee met Thursday afternoon and determined that the 100-member House will meet in Government Center South, where an additional three rooms will be used for committee hearings. So will the House chambers. The Senate will meet in its Statehouse chamber, with 30 senators on the floor and 20 senators seated in the gallery. There will be no legislation passed on Tuesday, and during the session, no resolutions presented.

The headline from the committee was this: Face masks are not mandatory, as is the case in the U.S. Senate. Majority Floor Leader Matt Lehman said members will be strongly encouraged to wear masks. “I hope we can do this without that mandate,” Lehman said. Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has become the chief proponent of masks, told the IBJ  in September, “They rule their own roost.” 

Many of us have gazed back in history at the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic to gain perspective. When historians do the same during the 2020-21 COVID-19 pandemic, they will discover one of the glaring contributing factors will be how the most simple and effective precaution - the wearing of a face mask to stop of spread of aerosol microbes to your neighbors - became a political wedge issue and contributed to the current deadly spike we are currently enduring. Now we watch the Indiana General Assembly pass on this simple act and are left to wonder, why is this lesson so hard to learn? Here's a prediction: A COVID spike amongst legislators, staff, lobbyists, the press and public will be inevitable at the very moment the public is depending on them to deal with the pandemic fallout, and masking rules will be revisited. I'm taking money bets on this.

2. Trump checking out

As the pandemic engulfs American society once again with 153,000 new infections reported Thursday (and that's just a fraction of those who have it as many are asymptomatic), President Trump has been missing in action. There was a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting on Monday, but Trump hasn't attended one in weeks. He's scheduled to get a briefing on "Operation Warp Speed" this afternoon, but the Associated Press reports: "Aides say the president has shown little interest in the growing crisis even as new confirmed cases are skyrocketing and hospital intensive care units in parts of the country are nearing capacity. Public health experts worry that Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to coordinate with President-elect Joe Biden's team during the final two months of his presidency will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year." Instead, Trump is planning a video-streaming service to take on Fox News.

3. Biden not gett
ing intel briefings

Not only is President Trump uninterested in receiving his daily intel briefings, his unwillingness to concede is blocking President-elect Biden from receiving this intelligence. U.S. Sen. Todd Young: “Vice President Biden should receive the daily intelligence briefing while the final legal votes are being counted and the legal process is moving forward.“

4. Shutting down again

Meanwhile, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett imposed new business and social gathering restrictions, including the switch to all-virtual schools by Nov. 30, and indoor bar capacity capped at 25%. “I take no joy in making these changes,” Hogsett said. “It’s heartbreaking. I urge residents to scale back Thanksgiving plans.” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a stay-at-home advisory on Thursday: “While this is tough — this whole year has been tough — you must cancel the normal Thanksgiving plans. If we continue on the path we’re on and you, me and others don’t step up and do more ... we could see at least a thousand more Chicagoans die” by the end of this year.

5. Lilly's anti-body treatment at Clark Memorial

The Pfizer vaccine is on the way, as are a dozen or so of others. The News & Tribune's  April Rickert reports that Clark Memorial Health in Clark County has become the first hospital in the U.S. to begin using bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody treatment developed by Eli Lilly that was approved this week through emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Have a great weekend, folks. It's The Atomic!