Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Thursday he is limiting social gatherings, including events at churches, stadiums and offices, to less than 250 people in response to the coronavirus.
The announcement says this policy applies to “non-essential gatherings” of people who are in one room or single space at a time and includes professional, social and community gatherings. Schools are expected to follow the policy for non-essential, extra-curricular or co-curricular activities. More guidance is expected to be posted on the Indiana State Department of Health website by the end of the day.
“This is a time when we must do all we can to reduce the spread of COVID-19, protect our most vulnerable populations and reduce their potential to acquire or spread this virus,” Holcomb said in a statement. “While some actions are drastic, now, not later, is the time to act.”
Holcomb is also making it easier for schools to shut down temporarily by giving school corporations a 20-day waiver of the required 180 instructional days, and he has suggested that schools prepare for broad closures and the need for e-learning and remote classroom lessons.
The waived days can be used as needed and do not need to be used consecutively. The Department of Education will release more guidance for how schools can obtain the waivers as early as Friday.
Holcomb’s announcement also included guidelines for nursing facilities and child care centers. He is recommending that child care and adult day care facilities enforce social distancing policies and minimize large gatherings. Facilities should work with the Indiana Family and Social Services and the ISDH to determine whether temporary suspension of operations are necessary.
Holcomb says that nursing facilities and hospitals should restrict and screen visitors. Visitors should not be allowed in if they display signs of illness, have traveled internationally, have been in contact with someone with a respiratory illness in the past two weeks, live in a community with a known COVID-19 case or are less than 18 years old.
He is also suggesting that organizations that congregate meal services should consider suspending those services and arranging for home delivery.
Holcomb has recommended that Hoosiers ages 60 or older should limit their public exposure and have friends and family arrange to provide food and other essential items, when possible.
As for the 30,000 individuals who work for the state government, Holcomb is suspending all non-essential out-of-state and international travel for 45 days beginning today. State agencies are allowed to consider remote work options for staff for limited durations while ensuring that the “normal level of service” is available.
Holcomb sent a letter to employees outlining the policy and attached guidance from the State Personnel Department that details what someone should do in different scenarios. For example, if someone does not have symptoms but has been instructed to self-quarantine, they are expected to inform their manager and request to use leave time or work remotely, if possible. If they use leave, they would be allowed to use sick, vacation, personal or compensatory time or leave without pay.
The memo from the personnel department outlines eight different situations state government employees could find themselves in.
His advisory suggested that other businesses utilize remote work options for their employees.
The Indiana Department of Correction has suspended visitation at all of its facilities—a change from that policy only initially applying to some locations.
“I fully expect there will be additional actions warranted in the coming days,” Holcomb said in a statement. “Just as we have since the beginning of the year, we are working with partners at all levels to secure all necessary resources for any escalation of this virus.”