COVID-19 in Indiana: March 2020

Beginning on March 6, 2020 with the first reported death of an Indiana citizen from Covid-19, Indy Midtown Magazine has been posting regular updates about the state’s response to the public  health emergency. This post archives all March, 2020 updates. View updates from April, 2020 or May, 2020.

March 31 Update

Governor Eric Holcomb issued an executive order [PDF]  today that extends the requirements for bars, nightclubs and restaurants to stay closed to dine-in patrons until April 6 at 11:59 p.m. Carry-out remains permissible.

March 27 Update

The Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR) has created a comprehensive Coronavirus informational webpage to help guide Hoosiers through all the changes happening at DOR during this public health emergency.

March 26 Update

Governor Eric Holcomb issued a new executive order [PDF] to assist Hoosier families who are dealing with the economic, social, and health consequences of the public health emergency.

The executive order includes the following provisions:

  •  The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has suspended the one-week waiting period that is required before paying unemployment benefits to allow claimants to receive checks more quickly. The suspension is retroactive to March 8, 2020.
  • Hoosiers with chronic health issues will be able to receive a 90-day supply of their non-controlled prescription medication, such as insulin or cholesterol medications.
  • Medicaid recipients can use their benefits to cover costs of using alternate forms of transportation, such as ride-sharing services, for appointments to see their healthcare providers.
  • The Family and Social Services Administration now has additional funding flexibility to allow for additional home delivery of meals.

March 25 Update

At a special meeting of the Indiana Election Commission, members agreed to adopt Gov. Holcomb’s request to move the Indiana primary election from May 5, to Tuesday, June 2, 2020. The order [PDF] applies to all Indiana counties and election boards.

All dates corresponding to and calculated from the date of the May 5, 2020, primary election, including deadlines for performing a duty or filing a document are extended by twenty-eight (28) days. All registered and qualified Indiana voters are afforded the opportunity to vote no-excuse absentee by mail. The Indiana Election Division was instructed to create an online system for a voter to submit an absentee ballot application to a county election board.

The order establishes a series of deadlines for activities before, during, and after election to insure a safe and fair primary. It requires that the final, certified results of the election must be determined not later than 3:00 p.m. local prevailing time June 12, 2020.

March 23 update

Saying that the next two weeks are critical for efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Indiana, Governor Eric J. Holcomb issued an executive order that requires Hoosiers to remain in their homes from March 25 to April 7. Exceptions are made for permitted activities, such as taking care of others, obtaining necessary supplies, and for health and safety. A comprehensive list is available online.

The state, in conjunction with the city of Indianapolis and all hospital systems in Marion County, has activated a comprehensive emergency operations center to tracking the inventory of all hospital beds, supplies and personnel as the number of COVID-19 patients grows. Hospital systems involved include Eskenazi Health, IU Health, Franciscan Health, Community Health Network, and Ascension.

A Stay-At-Home Order FAQ may be found here.

The State of Indiana will open a call center to field industry questions about Governor Holcomb’s Executive Order 20-08, which provides for essential and non-essential business operations, infrastructure and government functions while the state observes a stay-at-home order from March 25-April 7.  The Critical Industries Hotline will open Tuesday, March 24 at 9 a.m. to help guide businesses and industries with the executive order. Call 877-820-0890 or by email covidresponse@iedc.in.gov, is for business and industry questions only.

The three other orders issued today include:

  • EO 20-09. [PDF] Continuity of State Operations. Provides for continuing operation of state government through 8 a.m. April 7 with restricted access to government buildings and services.
  • EO 20-10.[PDF] Enforcement Directive Regarding Prohibition of In-Person Dining. Directs that state and local boards of health and the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (ATC) take all available administrative and enforcement actions against establishments that continue to offer in-house dining services, in violation of the governor’s executive order of March 16.
  • EO 20-11. [PDF] Provisions for carryout consumption of alcohol. Relaxes the sale of carryout alcoholic beverages for dining establishments.

March 20 update

Governor Eric Holcomb today issued an executive order [PDF] to suspend Indiana’s election statute and move the date of this year’s Indiana primary election from May 5 to June 2. The move was supported by the state’s chief election officer, Secretary of State Connie Lawson, as well as Republican Party Chair Kyle Hupfer, and Democratic Party Chair John Zody.

All dates corresponding with the primary election will be moved by 28 days to reflect the new date of the primary. For example, military and overseas ballots are required to be mailed 45 days prior to the primary election, so they’ll move 45 days prior to June 2.

The following recommendations were made to the Indiana Election Commission:

  • Suspend absentee by-mail rules to allow all Hoosiers the option to vote by mail in the upcoming primary election.
  • Allow county clerks to continually mail ballots from now through 12 days out from the new primary election date.
  • Confirm ballots with a May 5, 2020 date will be valid.
  • Enable medical professionals to be eligible members of traveling boards to vote nursing home and hospital patients.
  • Give family members the ability to deliver absentee ballots. Currently only a member of a voter’s household may take possession of their ballot.

Indiana Election Commission Chairman Paul Okeson has called a meeting of the Indiana Election Commission on Wednesday, March 25 to discuss the recommendations.

Mayor Joe Hogsett supported the change and promised in a statement to make the June 2 primary election as accessible as possible. “In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, the City of Indianapolis will be taking unprecedented steps to enable and encourage voting by mail, including mailing every registered voter an absentee ballot application with instructions on how they can request to vote by mail.”

On March 20, Attorney General Hill noted that an executive order by Governor Holcomb [PDF] puts a stop to eviction or foreclosure proceedings during the ongoing public health emergency. Hill encouraged Hoosiers who are unlawfully subjected to eviction or foreclosure proceedings now to file a complaint with the Office’s Consumer Protection Division.

In 2018, Indiana Legal Services, Inc. published Renting in Indiana: A handbook for tenants & landlords. The 2019 update is available for download here.

“The coronavirus pandemic has left thousands of Hoosiers temporarily unemployed and facing financial distress,” Attorney General Hill said in a statement. “It’s important for Hoosier renters and homeowners to be aware of their rights during these difficult times. If you are unlawfully subjected to eviction or foreclosure proceedings during this public health emergency, contact my office. We may be able to help you.”

FSSA Benefits

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration has closed its Division of Family Resources (DFR) offices to the public until further notice. Online and telephone services will continue to operate as normal. In a statement, FSSA Secretary Jennifer Sullivan, M.D., M.P.H., said, “Our clients should know, first and foremost, that their benefits are safe. SNAP and TANF benefits will continue without interruption as long as the public health emergency exists.”  The FSSA benefits portal remains available for clients needing to submit applications or changes to their case. DFR staff will be available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. local time by phone: 800-403-0864. All scheduled appointments will take place via telephone. Clients may also continue to mail documents to DFR at P.O. Box 1810, Marion, IN 46952.

FSSA also closed its Bureau of Developmental Disability Services (DDRS) and Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) offices. DDRS services will continue for any new or current clients. BDDS and VR service delivery will continue. All scheduled appointments will take place by phone or other virtual options. Marion County clients may also continue to call and send documents:
BDDS office, 2620 Kessler Blvd. E. Dr., Suite 105, Indianapolis, IN 46220-2890, 317-205-0101, toll Free: 877-218-3530 (V/VRS/711), Toll Free Fax: 855-525-9373
VRS office for Midtown zip codes, 46205, 46208 & 46220, 2620 Kessler Blvd. East Dr., Suite 105, Indianapolis, IN 46220-2890, Phone: 317-205-0100, Toll Free: 877-715-5296 (V/VRS/711), Toll Free Fax: 855-442-0002

March 19 Update

To expand protection and support of Hoosiers dealing with the COVID-19 public health emergency, Governor Eric Holcomb took a series of steps on March 19 that:

  • Extend the current state of emergency an additional 30 days when it expires on April 5.
  • Keep all K-12 public schools will closed until May 1. Non-public schools are also ordered closed. This date may be revised to extend through the end of the 2019-2020 school year if circumstances warrant.
  • Waive penalties for 60 days for property tax paid after May 11.
  • Prohibit providers of essential utility services such as gas and electric, broadband, telecom, water and wastewater services from discontinuing service to any customer during the public health emergency.
  • Halt residential eviction proceedings or foreclosure actions from being initiated during the public health emergency. This does not relieve the individual of obligations to pay rent or mortgage payments.
  • Eliminate requirements for participants in the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program to make premium payments.
  • Waive job search requirements for those applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
  • Extend deadlines for housing assistance recipients and required documentation to show eligibility for housing programs.

Additionally:

Indiana Medicaid will allow interactions between patients and doctors and other health care providers, as well as other Medicaid service deliveries, to occur either over the phone or through the use of telemedicine technologies whenever possible. Effective immediately, most health services – including covered mental health services and Medicaid home- and community-based services – will be reimbursed as if they took place in person. This policy will remain in place – and telemedicine/telephone interactions will be encouraged – for as long as Indiana remains under the governor’s public health emergency declaration. Updates

The Indiana Department of Revenue (DOR) is extending certain filing and payment deadlines to align with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and support Hoosiers during the COVID-19 health crisis. Individual tax returns and payments, along with estimated payments originally due by April 15, 2020, are now due on or before July 15, 2020. Returns included are the IT-40, IT-40PNR, IT-40RNR, IT-40ES, ES-40 and SC-40.

Corporate tax returns and payments, along with estimated payments originally due by April 15 or April 20 are now due on or before July 15, 2020. Those originally due on May 15, 2020, are now due on August 17, 2020. Returns included are the IT-20, IT-41, IT-65, IT-20S, FIT-20, URT-1, IT-6, FT-QP and URT-Q. All other tax return filings and payment due dates remain unchanged.

DOR team members are continuing to provide customer service by phone and email, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., local time. Customers have the following service options:
Call DOR’s individual customer service line at 317-232-2240, or email DOR using the online form.

The Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) Military Family Relief Fund (MFRF) is adjusting eligibility criteria to provide undisrupted assistance to veterans and their families during the COVID-19 national public health emergency. Changes include removing the requirement that the veteran’s hardship must have occurred as a result of their military service; removal of the required periods of war or conflict; modification of the $2,500 lifetime limit to allow the IDVA director to approve MFRF requests in excess of $2,500 and removal of veteran’s ability to only utilize the fund to the total of $2,500. This allows veterans who have previously used the fund to apply for the MFRF COVID-19 relief.

New eligibility requirements obligate the veteran to provide written documentation proving that their position and/or job has been affected by COVID-19. Proof of hardship as a result of COVID-19, that details a period in which the veteran will lose income as a result of COVID-19.
Application and details. Questions? Call (317) 232-3910.

March 18 Update

On March 18, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development authorized the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) to implement an immediate foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages for the next 60 days. The move halts all new foreclosure actions, suspends all foreclosure actions currently in process, and ceases all evictions of persons from FHA-insured single-family properties.

Also on March 18, David A. Ricks, chairman and chief executive officer of Eli Lilly and Company announced that its scientists are partnering with the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH), with support from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to accelerate testing in Indiana for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

According to the statement, Eli Lilly will not accept money from government agencies, hospitals, insurance companies or patients for conducting or analyzing tests. “This is one contribution we can make to help slow the spread of coronavirus in our community, and this testing will be entirely free,” Ricks said.

In response, Governor Eric Holcomb issued a statement that said, in part, “This partnership between the Indiana State Department of Health and Eli Lilly and Company will be transformational in our efforts to accelerate testing for COVID-19, We are grateful for Lilly’s dedication to the health and safety of Hoosiers as we continue to put all of our focus into slowing the spread.”

Lilly will use its research laboratories to analyze samples taken in Indiana healthcare facilities, including nursing homes and emergency rooms, in an effort to increase the state’s ability to conduct testing for COVID-19. As Lilly’s testing capacity expands, Lilly and ISDH will work together to increase testing.

March 17 Update

On March 17, Governor Holcomb announced additional efforts to stem the spread of  COVID-19 in the state by issuing an executive order. [PDF] The state’s Emergency Operations Center has been raised to a Level 1 status and will work in conjunction with the incident command center at the Indiana State Department of Health for planning, coordination, predictive analysis and other functions. The National Guard has also been activated to assist with managing the health crisis.

On March 17, ISDH announced the second Indiana death from COVID-19. The patient is a Johnson County adult over age 60 who had been hospitalized.  Out of respect for privacy laws, no further information will be released about the patients or the cases.

March 16 Update

In a March 16 statement, State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG said, “I cannot stress this enough – if you are ill, stay home. If you need to seek medical care, call ahead so that your healthcare provider can take steps to protect others from exposure to COVID-19. We all have a role to play to protect Hoosiers from this illness, and the time to act is now.”

Governor Holcomb issued a series of directives on March 16 to comply with the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines to limit in-person events of more than 50 people.

In solidarity with the Governor’s order, Mayor Joe Hogsett and Dr. Virginia Caine of the Marion County Public Health Department issued a series of orders for Marion County and announced a new online repository of local COVID-19 Community Resources.

Mayor Hogsett’s first executive order of the year [PDF] declared a local disaster emergency and outlined a series of steps to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The Marion County Public Health Department’s Order [PDF] states that the following establishments will be temporarily closed to the public as soon as possible but no later than 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17:

  • Bars and nightclubs that do not serve food;
  • Movie theaters and entertainment venues;
  • Gyms and fitness facilities.

The following restrictions will also apply, and should be implemented as soon as possible but no later than 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17:

  • All restaurants will be prohibited from serving food to dine-in customers but may continue to prepare and offer food via carry-out, delivery, or drive-thru. Additionally, food pantries/food banks may continue to work with restaurants and kitchens as necessary for distribution of overflow food items.
  • Gatherings of more than 50 people must be cancelled or postponed, in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. This does not apply to schools, universities, or businesses.
  • Houses of worship are urged to limit large gatherings on their premises and to explore and implement ways to practice their respective faiths while observing social-distancing practices.
  • Residents should adhere to the watch-level local travel advisory, minimizing travel except to and from work, in emergency situations, or to purchase groceries and pick-up prescriptions or food.

The following establishments will continue to operate as usual:

  • Grocery stores;
  • Cafeterias within hospitals, nursing homes, and similar healthcare facilities.

The above restrictions took effect at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, March 17 and will remain in place for at least the next seven days. Mayor Hogsett sought the City-County Council’s approval of Proposal 122 [PDF] at its March 16 meeting to extend the order through at least April 5, 2020.

March 6 Update

On March 6, the Indiana State Department of Health  confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in Indiana: a Marion County resident with a recent history of travel to a Boston event linked to several cases in other states.

In response, Governor Eric J. Holcomb signed an executive order [PDF] declaring a public health emergency. In a statement Governor Holcomb reported, “The Hoosier who has been diagnosed has taken responsible steps to stay isolated.”

The statement noted that the declaration is intended to increase coordination across all levels of government in the state’s response to coronavirus and to position Indiana to receive federal dollars to respond to the outbreak.

Both state and local officials acknowledged that ISDH is working closely with the Marion County Public Health Department, Community Hospital North and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett released a statement praising interagency cooperation. “This morning’s swift response from our state and local health experts was the result of preparation and collaboration,” he said. “Indianapolis remains committed to assisting our federal, state, and Marion County partners as we monitor this situation.”

Sign up for ISDH email updates: https://www.in.gov/isdh/28470.htm