Coronavirus: Indiana Lags In Testing, State Workforce Office Tries To Help Self-Employed

Apr 8, 2020

In front of Indiana University Health's Methodist Hospital signs direct emergency room patients if they are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 30 additional deaths Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 203. The state announced nearly 6,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 30,000 Hoosiers tested.

State Health Commissioner Kris Box also ordered new reporting requirements for COVID-19 to improve data collection. 

Laboratories now must report all test results to the state within 24 hours – previously that had only applied to positive results for the virus. Additionally, all long-term care facilities, jails, prisons or other housing facilities will now have to report positive cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus to the state health department within 24 hours. 

Indiana Lags In COVID-19 Testing; State Officials Offer Few Clues As To Why

Indiana lags behind neighboring states in testing for COVID-19 and state officials didn’t offer many clues Wednesday as to why.

Data from the State Department of Health shows Indiana is testing fewer people for COVID-19 per 100,000 residents than all its neighboring states and the U.S. as a whole.

Box says the state has struggled with resources to do enough tests, though it’s increasing its capacity.

“So, we’re really trying to remove any restrictions for people as far as testing anybody who’s symptomatic,” Box says.

Current maximum testing capacity in Indiana – between the state and private labs – is about 3,700 tests per day. The state hopes to increase that to more than 6,000 per day as more private labs come online.

DWD Gives Update On Federal CARES Act Unemployment Insurance Benefits Changes

The Department of Workforce Development gave updates Wednesday on Facebook Live about how the federal CARES Act has changed unemployment insurance benefits for Hoosiers.

DWD Chief of Staff Josh Richardson says the agency’s IT staff still need more time to build an electronic system to open up benefits for self-employed people and workers with limited work history.

“Congress passed it, [but] we have nothing in place to do that currently,” Richardson says. “So we’re building that as we go but we are committed to doing that as soon as possible and I do think that there is reason for many people who are denied state benefits to believe that that program will provide them some relief.” 

Faith Communities Prepare For April Celebrations

Faith leaders in Bloomington are reconsidering how to celebrate major religious holidays without in-person gatherings as federal and state social distancing guidelines stretch further into the future.

Holcomb’s “Stay-At-Home” order categorizes religious entities as “essential operations,” provided that congregations abide by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines, which advise against gatherings of any size in communities with local spread of the new coronavirus.

That includes Bloomington, where there are 60 confirmed cases in Monroe County residents as of April 8.

READ MORE: Can I Go For A Walk? Here's What The Expanded 'Stay-At-Home' Order Really Does

LEE MAS: ¿Puedo Salir A Caminar? Esto Es Lo Que Significa Una Orden De Permanecer En Casa

April 8 also marks the beginning of this year’s Passover celebration, which goes through April 16. Bloomington’s Beth Shalom Congregation would normally host a Seder dinner on the second night of Passover, but because of concerns about the new coronavirus, the congregation is moving its celebration online.

Beth Shalom President Lesley Levin says some congregants who would usually host their own Seders are planning on delivering food to the people who would otherwise have joined them around the table.

Levin says, despite the inconvenience, she thinks it’s brought deeper meaning to the holiday.

“When you do something for decades the same way, sometimes it becomes very rote,” she says. “What has happened here is that we’ve had to become more creative.”

Young, FCC Commissioner Discuss Expanded Telehealth

U.S. Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Federal Communications Commission Commissioner Brendan Carr say telehealth services can soon be expanded with money from the third phase of federal COVID-19 relief.

Health care providers can apply for funding from a $200 million program within the recently-passed federal CARES Act. That money can be used to provide devices and internet connection to patients who need it to engage in telehealth.

And Carr says it’s not just for coronavirus patients.

“You can treat everything from heart disease to diabetes," Carr says. "You can get mental health counseling.”

Notre Dame Donating 3D Printed Face Shields

The University of Notre Dame has repurposed 3D printers from labs across campus to make clear plastic face shield kits for health care workers.

More than 40 3D printers are working at Notre Dame to turn out about 250 face shield kits a day. 

Matthew Leevy is the director of the Innovation Lab at Notre Dame’s Idea Center.

“So we 3D print the part onto which the plastic sheet goes as well as a bottom piece that also clips on to sort of maintain the bend of the, we’ll call it sheet plastic that goes over the front of it,” Leevy says.

The face shield kits are shipping out to local health care workers and the lab is accepting requests from across the country.

Tippecanoe County Officials, Hospitals Plan For COVID-19 Surge

Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler says the county’s COVID-19 case surge is expected to hit on or shortly after April 16, in line with statewide expectations — and the health department is urging county residents to abide by Gov. Eric Holcomb’s “Stay-At-Home” order.

Adler says while testing capabilities have continued to expand, they remain limited — and that could create an inaccurate picture of the true case count.

“One of the issues due to the lack of testing has been a suspicion that there are more cases locally than we know about,” Adler says. “We think that will improve as testing becomes more readily available.”

As of Wednesday, the county had 38 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and one death; Adler says 10 individuals have been hospitalized, and two are currently on ventilators. Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski confirmed that one city employee had been diagnosed with COVID-19, though he did not provide the employee’s department or position. 

Two Indiana University Dorms Offered To Health Care Workers

Two Indiana University student dorms are being offered to health care workers to rest and isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.

IU spokesperson Chuck Carney said in an email that 60 rooms will soon be available at Briscoe Quadrangle in Bloomington and up to 300 rooms available at University Tower Residence Hall in Indianapolis.

He said IU Health is coordinating the availability, but rooms at IUPUI’s University Tower are also being offered to Eskenazi Health, the VA hospital, and the Marion County Health Department.

How Nursing Homes, Senior Living Centers Battle COVID-19

Seniors are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. The country’s first big outbreak was at a nursing home in Washington state, and more recently nursing homes and senior living facilities in places like Indiana, Illinois and Iowa have experienced dozens of cases – and deaths. Now, these places are facing a lot of pressure to keep residents safe – and occupied. 

When COVID-19 cases were first reported in Iowa last month, Oaknoll Retirement Residence in Iowa City immediately made changes to protect its 380 residents.

"So we limited our access to the building to three different entrances. And we've been staffing those entrances for about 12, 16 hours a day," says Oaknoll administrator Kim Bergen-Jackson.

But she still worries constantly about a COVID-19 outbreak.

"You’re terrified. Essentially, you're holding your breath waiting until – if it comes to your place, you know, you're doing everything you can to fight something that you can't see," she says.

Eli Lilly Caps Insulin At $35 In Response To COVID-19 Crisis

Eli Lilly announced a new program Tuesday that caps the out-of-pocket costs for most insulin users at $35 a month. The Indianapolis-based company says it’s designed to help diabetes patients during the novel coronavirus crisis. 

The Lilly Insulin Value Program covers most insulins made by the drug maker and is available to those with or without insurance.

Lilly Diabetes president Mike Mason said the company wants to help those in need during the pandemic.

“Too many people in the U.S. have lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 crisis, and we want to make sure no one goes without their Lilly insulin,” Mason said in a statement. “We’ve been providing affordability solutions for a long time, but more is needed to help people during this unprecedented time.”

Farmer Sentiment Barometer Records Largest Monthly Drop With Coronavirus Concerns

A survey of farmer sentiment saw its largest drop in March since the monthly survey began in 2015. Most respondents pointed to financial impacts from the novel coronavirus.

The national Ag Economy Barometer saw sharp declines in current and future expectations tracking with other industries feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Barometer co-author Jim Mintert says while the survey was taken early in March, when the virus was still picking up momentum in the U.S., about 75 percent of farmers say the virus would hurt their profitability.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.