Beginning March 14, 2020, Indy Midtown Magazine has posted regular updates about local response to the public health emergency. This post archives all July 2020 updates. June updates. May updates. April updates. March updates.
The Marion County Public Health Department reports that as of July 30, the total cases of COVID-19 in Marion County is 14,432. The Indianapolis Department of Parks and Recreation is making changes in the times it serves meals at local parks, including the lone Midtown location at Broad Ripple Park.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, joined Mayor Joe Hogsett to announce a new Public Health Order [PDF] to provide guidelines for schools and how they may determine whether or not to offer in-person learning opportunities.
“In the last two months, we’re seeing a change in demographics of who is getting infected with COVID-19,” she said during a virtual press conference today. “At the beginning of the epidemic, the majority of cases occurred in people age 40 and over – nearly 70 percent 40 and over.” She said that since June 22, health officials are seeing a much younger group becoming positive with COVID-19. “The largest group is now 20-39 year olds – almost 45 percent of all our cases. Then nearly 30 percent of cases are 40-59 year olds and less than 20 percent occur in 60 and older.
The order, which takes effect August 6, makes the following recommendations:
- Middle and high schools with less than 400 students may resume in-person classes if 6-foot social distancing can be achieved in classrooms, otherwise must be operated online or in a hybrid model.
- Middle and high schools with greater than 400 students must be operated virtually or in a hybrid model.
- K-5 schools may resume in-person classes.
- Schools with K-5 and above in a single building that can maintain 6-foot distancing may resume in-person, otherwise grades 6 or higher must remain online or move to a hybrid model.
- Masks must be worn by students in grades 3 and above at all times, except when eating and drinking. Students ages 3 and older must wear masks when indoors or not socially-distanced.
- Schools conducting all in-person or hybrid classes must implement social distancing procedures, such as staggering passing periods, implementing permanent seating charts in classrooms, and organizing students in classroom cohorts.
- Athletic teams are asked to follow current IHSAA guidelines, with further guidance expected in the coming weeks.
In this week’s situation report from the Marion County Health Department, syndromic surveillance epidemiologist Brittany Yarnell notes that Marion County’s COVID-19 case counts continue to increase. She reports a 71% increase in the 7-day average in this past week, from 97 to 137 cases added on average daily. On Saturday, 07/25/2020, the state of Indiana reached a 7-day average of 834 newly confirmed cases per day. Marion County COVID-19 Situation Reports are at the MCHD website.
In coordination with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, (IMPD) the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) today announced changes to the Broad Ripple Avenue pedestrian corridor established in May and extended July 15 (see post below.) At IMPD’s discretion, one-way, eastbound vehicular traffic may be permitted each night from 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.. Pedestrians should expect to see motorized traffic on Broad Ripple Avenue during these hours at least on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Concrete barriers have been placed around existing seating areas permitted to restaurants operating in the public right-of-way along Broad Ripple Avenue as an additional safety measure. Motorists navigating Broad Ripple Avenue overnight are strongly encouraged to use caution and to watch for temporary barriers near the traffic lane.
Citing the gradual increase in positive COVID-19 test results since the July 4 holiday, Marion County Public Health Department (MCHD) Director Dr. Virginia Caine announced that she will issue a new Public Health Order. [PDF]
- Bars and nightclubs that were not permitted to be open in Stage 1-3 of the State’s reopening plan, must close at midnight tonight until at least Aug. 12. Bar seating in restaurants must also close.
- Restaurants limited to 50% indoor capacity and must close for in-person dining between midnight and 5 a.m.
- Places of worship and funeral homes may provide indoor services at 50% capacity; outdoor services are permitted with no capacity limit but social distancing is required.
- Gyms, fitness centers, yoga and dance studios, martial arts studios, etc. must restrict capacity to 25%.
- Shopping malls and other retail stores, including liquor stores and convenience stores, must restrict capacity to 75%.
- Beginning Monday, July 27, social gatherings, such as wedding receptions, club meetings, or parties are limited to 50 people.
- K-12 in-person classes may not resume until August 5.
As chief medical officer of the county, Dr. Caine said she had no choice but to take aggressive actions, “We need to get ahead of this to prevent needless hospitalization and deaths.” Dr. Caine shared details of the demographic shift of who is catching the virus. From March 30 through April 26, she said the bulk of positive cases was seen in citizens aged 60 and older. Currently, they are less than a fifth of the cases. “The group we’ve seen the greatest amount of increase in cases in during the past 30 days has been in the 20-39 age group. They are making up 45% of all our new cases,” she said, adding, “This has major implications when looking at the risks of transmission.”
Dr. Caine said one of the reasons behind the decision to close bars and nightclubs is that since the July 9 face mask mandate was issued along with on-g0ing social distancing requirements, MCHD has received 249 complaints. “Of the citations we’ve issued, 75% have gone to bars and taverns,” she said. “Because we’re seeing increases, we have to get ahead of our cases rapidly and look at where the risks of transmission are occurring and make recommendations.”
Mayor Joe Hogsett added, “This isn’t what we wanted but public health is our number one priority. That’s why we implemented the mask order one month ago. These policies and best practices only work when we all participate – especially younger adults in a social setting.”
“If you want our bars and clubs to return, do better for our city,” he said. “If you are young and healthy, keep in mind that many of your neighbors aren’t. Please do better and mask up for their sake.”
In an exclusive article, The Center for Public Integrity reports that federal officials have identified Indianapolis as one of eleven major cities in the country that need to take “aggressive” steps to reduce COVID-19 outbreaks. According to the article, Dr. Deborah Birx, a leader of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, issued the warning to state and local leaders in a private phone call today. Besides Indianapolis, cities mentioned include: Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. “When you first see that increase in test positivity, that is when to start the mitigation efforts,” Dr. Birx said in a recording obtained by Public Integrity. “I know it may look small and you may say, ‘That only went from 5 to 5-and-a-half [percent], and we’re gonna wait and see what happens.’ If you wait another three or four or even five days, you’ll start to see a dramatic increase in cases.”
The Marion County Health Department reports a 50% increase in the 7-day average in this past week, from 64 to 97 cases added on average daily. As of today, Marion County has 12,991 total cases. The Polis Center’s Coronavirus Data Hub has published a map of the county’s COVID-19 cases by zip code. Midtown’s neighborhoods are in the medium-to-low ranges. The State of Indiana has a COVID-19 map that tracks case counts by zip codes and can apply demographic filters.
According to an article published today by the Center for Public Integrity, the White House Coronavirus Task Force prepared a document dated July 14 that was not publicized. It outlines measures states can take to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Based on last week’s numbers, the document placed Indiana in the yellow zone for cases, i.e. between 10 to 100 new cases per 100,000 population. The state’s test positivity rate of between 5% to 10% also places it in the yellow zone. According to ISDH statistics, the state is hovering at 9.1% positivity. The Regenstrief Institute’s COVID-19 Dashboard puts positive test results in Marion County at 17.74%.
According to the Task Force document, “Strong action now can prevent a large resurgence in cases. The cancellation of the state fair and requirement in Marion County for wearing masks are good decisions.”
Recommendations include protecting nursing home residents and staff, intensifying contact tracing efforts, and mandating cloth face coverings. Further, “In all counties with 7-day average test positivity greater than 10%, close bars, require strict social distancing within restaurants, close and limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people.”
The Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) today announced the continued full closure of segments of Broad Ripple Avenue, Massachusetts Avenue (Mass Ave), and Georgia Street through Labor Day weekend. The street segments were closed in May under an executive order by DPW director Dan Parker to provide socially-distanced space in dense commercial areas. Each segment was originally slated to reopen at the end of this coming weekend.
In a statement, Parker said, “As we continue to evaluate public health data and monitor pedestrian counts, we believe the volume of visitors to Broad Ripple Avenue, Georgia Street, and Mass Ave continue to warrant additional space to safely distance within these street segments.”
An extension to the emergency executive order continuing the closure of all three segments will be signed by the end of the week. Indy DPW will continue to evaluate public health data and monitor traffic patterns and pedestrian counts over the next few weeks.
Information on recent street closures as well as measures allowing restaurants to re-open with outdoor seating can be found online.
The Broad Ripple Village Association (BRVA) has posted pedestrian and bicycle use stats as well as details about improvements to improve safety, prevent illegal traffic flow, and create more permanent barriers for the duration of the closure period.
Mapleton Fall Creek Community Development Corporation (MFCDC) is conducting an online COVID-19 Community Impact & Needs Assessment. According to MFCDC executive director Elan Daniel, “We want to hear from you to get a better understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the six Mid-North neighborhoods that we serve. Share with us information about community needs and give us suggestions on how we can help in the recovery. Do you know of existing resources available? Please share that information with us too.”
According to Brittany Yarnell, a syndromic surveillance epidemiologist with the Marion County Public Health Department, Indiana has joined most of the country in rapidly increasing the number of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. “In the past 2.5 weeks, the 7-day average in newly confirmed cases per day in Indiana has risen from its low of 351 to 519 July 12,” she wrote in today’s situation report. Yarnell reported that the 7-day average percent of SARS-COV-2 laboratory tests that are positive has increased from mid-June low 4.3% to 8.8% for the USA2, from 3.4% to 7.1% for Indiana, and from 4.1% to 7.1% for Marion County3.
Additionally, Yarnell writes that statistics indicate Black and Latino individuals in the United States have been 2.5 to 3 times more likely to become a confirmed COVID-19 case than White non-Hispanic individuals. “Some of this difference may be due to employment, with a larger portion of Latinos and Blacks having jobs that have been deemed essential, and may involve more exposure to other people, rather than jobs that may be performed via telecommuting4” she wrote. View Marion County COVID-19 cases by zip code.
Indianapolis Public Schools will reopen Aug. 3 for the start of the 2020-21 school year. As part of its commitment to the safety of students and staff, the district reviewed guidance from the Indiana Department of Education, the Marion County Public Health Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with state and city leadership, as it relates to minimizing the spread of COVID-19.
As a result, both in-person and full-time remote learning options will be offered for the new school year. Families who choose the remote learning option will be required to fill out and submit the district’s Full-Time Remote Learning Registration Form, which is available on the district website. Deadline to complete the form is July 17.
Those opting to participate in full-time in-person learning will have to wear a face mask and practice social distancing. IPS’s Operational Guidelines [PDF]. Complete standards for both options are available at the IPS website.
IndyParks is gradually reopening spray pads and playgrounds to the public and reminding visitors that they must comply with the Marion County Health Department’s mandatory mask order that takes effect today. [PDF] The Public Health Order requires individuals to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces and in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not possible. Day campers and pool visitors must follow the guidelines except while swimming, diving, or entering/using a water slide.
While visiting park facilities, greenspaces, and trails, all residents must maintain social distance and follow CDC recommended guidelines, including frequent handwashing and staying home if individuals feel sick. The mandate does not apply to children ages 2 and younger or to individuals who are engaged in a form of indoor/outdoor exercise that is incompatible with wearing a face covering. View the public order, guidelines, and exceptions at the City’s COVID info web page.
Beginning July 11, the following Midtown spray grounds will be open daily from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (except where noted):
- Andrew Ramsey Park, 310 W. 42nd Street
- Arsenal Park, 1400 E. 38th Street (10 a.m. – 8 p.m.)
- Bertha Ross Park, 3700 N. Clifton Street
- Dan Wakefield Park, 6051 N. Broadway Street
- Tarkington Park, 45 W. 40th Street (10 a.m. – 8 p.m
Beginning July 13, residents struggling to pay rent due to the COVID-19 pandemic might qualify for help from the City of Indianapolis Rental Assistance Program. If you’ve lost your job because of COVID-19, or are underemployed, and are not receiving any other public assistance, you may get up to three months (90 days) rent paid, including back rent to April 1. But check with your landlord first. They must agree to participate.
The program is funded by $15 million of the nearly $80 million CARES Act funding approved by the City-County Council on June 8 plus additional support from Lilly Endowment Inc. Residents may apply online.
Several community organizations will be available to assist residents with language and technology barriers. In Midtown that includes Indy Public Library branches on College Ave. and at Glendale. Phone or email assistance is available from the Kheprw Institute (317) 329-4803 ext. 777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This program has been developed in partnership with the Indianapolis Community Response Network of which the MLK Center is a member. If you’re currently receiving services and need assistance completing the application, contact your case manager there.
Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Department (MCHD) Director Dr. Virginia Caine announced a new public health order [PDF] today that will require Marion County residents to wear face coverings when out in public – both indoors and outdoors. “Though many metrics have stabilized in our city, this pandemic has not gone away,” Hogsett said during today’s virtual press conference. “Wearing a face covering when leave your home, we’re doing our part to defeat COVID-19 and assure the fastest return to normalcy that we can have given this global pandemic.”
Dr. Caine reiterated, “The pandemic is far from over. This will require more from us if we are to overcome it.” She said MCHD will mandate that masks be worn in all indoor public spaces and in any outdoor spaces where one is unable to social distance. “It takes all of us to keep us safe,” she added.
The order, which takes effect July 9, excludes children under the age of two and people with health conditions that preclude them from wearing a mask.
Dr. Caine cited what she termed, “an interesting trend” – a shift in the age distribution of COVID-19 cases. In March, MCHD reported that 65% of cases affected those under the age of 60. As of today, the percentage has increased to 86%. “At least 50% of cases are those under the age of 40,” Dr. Caine said. “We’re seeing a younger population contracting COVID-19.”
In its June 29 situation report [PDF], MCHD provided data that indicates African-American or Blacks account for 22% of COVID-19 cases and 35% of deaths in the county. Asked about strategies to address this outsided impact on the minority community, Dr. Caine said that on-going outreach efforts include providing free masks. “We handed out 1.200 masks to seniors last weekend, 90 % of whom were African-American,” she said, adding that outreach efforts also include the city’s homeless, and Latinx communities. “We continue to have activities trying to reach different racial and ethnic populations,” Dr. Caine said.
In consideration of the order, the Indianapolis Department of Public Works (DPW) announced the extension of an executive order from Director Dan Parker that will allow the pedestrian corridors on Broad Ripple Avenue, Georgia Street, and Massachusetts Avenue to remain closed to vehicle traffic through July 19.
The three street segments were officially closed on May 22 by an executive order issued by Director Parker to provide pedestrians the ability to practice social distancing while traveling within the surrounding commercial districts. Removal of the barriers is scheduled to begin July 20.