THE LATEST: Traffic counts sink; Chicago cases soar; state leaders work apart; Indiana deaths reach 31; casino laying off 407

Get the latest news on the coronavirus and COVID-19 in this ongoing series of updates available outside IBJ’s paywall:

10:40 p.m., March 28

Traffic counts plummet under stay-home order

Traffic on the state’s highways has dropped dramatically since a stay-at-home order issued by the governor took effect Wednesday, with exemptions for essential businesses to remain open and for necessary trips for food and medicine.

State highway traffic counts showed that, as of Thursday, overall traffic was down 41% since the first week of March.

“That includes a 45% reduction in light vehicles on our state highways,” state highway Commissioner Joe McGuinness said Friday. “Those are the sedans, minivans and passenger vehicles.”

10:30 p.m., March 28

Chicago turning McCormick Place into hospital as cases grow

Chicago is quickly becoming a hot spot for COVID-19 cases. Illinois reported 3,491 positive cases Saturday with more than 2,600 of those in Chicago or Cook County.

Cases are growing so fast that Gov. J.B. Pritzker said McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago will serve as Illinois’ first “field hospital.” On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers’ commander, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, told reporters the corps is setting up beds to accommodate about 3,000 patients at the convention center, and will be ready by April 24.

10:25 p.m., March 28

State’s top two officials working apart

Indiana’s two top state officials have started working apart due to the pandemic. Gov. Eric Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch “mutually agreed to be in different locations to socially distance themselves,” Holcomb spokeswoman Rachel Hoffmeyer said Saturday.

Neither has been tested for the COVID-19 illness so far and both have been feeling healthy, Hoffmeyer told The Associated Press.

Holcomb and Crouch both attended a Statehouse news conference on Wednesday. Hoffmeyer didn’t immediately provide information about when the two officials were last together and whether Crouch remained in Indianapolis or had gone to her home in Evansville.

10:15 a.m., March 28

Coronavirus cases rise to 1,232 in state, 584 in Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Saturday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 1,232 after the emergence of 251 more cases.

The death toll in the state has risen to 31, up from 24 the previous day.

The department reported that 8,407 people have been tested so far, up from 6,936 people in the previous day’s report. The ISDH said the test number reflects only those tests reported to the department and the numbers should not be characterized as a comprehensive total.

Marion County reported 584 cases—up 100 cases from the previous day—with 10 deaths.

Other area counties with cases are Hamilton (64), Johnson (52), Hendricks (36), Boone (8), Hancock (19), Madison (12), Morgan (14) and Shelby (10).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in more than 70 of Indiana’s 92 counties so far.

As of Saturday morning, 104,860 cases had been reported in the United States, with 1,711 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. More than a third of deaths occurred in New York and Washington state.

The United States now has more cases than any other country.

More than 615,500 cases have been reported globally, with 28,717 deaths. More than 35,700 people have recovered.

7:40 p.m., March 27

Kroger on hiring spree in Indiana, Illinois

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. says it has hired 275 new employees in the last three days at its Indiana and Illinois stores, with hundreds more still to come as the grocery chain works to respond to a huge coronavirus-related surge in customer demand.

Job seekers can apply either online or at a local store. Both full-time and part-time positions are available.

Each store in Kroger’s Central Division needs up to 35 new employees, said company spokesman Eric Halvorson. Ordinarily, individual locations employ from 50 to 350 people, Halvorson said, depending on the size of the store.

Nationwide, the company has recently added more than 23,500 new employees, with plans to hire another 20,000 over the next several weeks.

Kroger is the nation’s largest grocer, with 2,758 food stores that operate under a variety of banners. In Indiana, Kroger operates 150 food stores, three convenience stores and two jewelry stores under the Kroger, Ruler Foods, Owen’s, Turkey Hill, Jay C Food Stores and Pay Less Super Markets banners.

Kroger is among numerous retailers that have been on a hiring spree recently. Walmart announced last week it would hire 150,000 people, including 2,000 in Indiana. Amazon announced March 16 that it would hire 100,000 people in the U.S. and raise pay by $2 per hour.

Birmingham, Alabama-based home delivery company Shipt, a subsidiary of Target Corp., announced Tuesday that it seeks to hire 1,500 Indianapolis-area shoppers.

4:38 p.m., March 27

Southern Indiana casino to lay off 407 workers

Rising Star Casino Resort in Rising Sun alerted state officials on Friday that it is laying off 407 workers as part of its closure under state actions to try to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Indiana Gaming Commission ordered Rising Star and other Indiana casinos to close on March 16. Rising Star said it also closed its hotel, dining, golf and other amenities at that time.

As a result, the company said it will terminate its casino, restaurant and hotel employees on Tuesday. It will keep 36 “essential team employees who will continue working on operations until such time we may reopen,” the company said in a required layoff notice to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The company said that “should the Rising Star reopen in the near future, we anticipate we will have positions for which most of our current employees may apply.”

3:25 p.m., March 27

Carmel reopens golf courses, but no holes, carts, flagsticks allowed

Good news for golfers in Carmel: After closing all golf courses in the city a week ago because of the pandemic, Mayor Jim Brainard is allowing them to reopen. The bad news: There won’t be any holes on the greens.

Brainard issued a list of restrictions Friday that courses must follow before they allow players. Among them is filling holes on the greens so players can’t reach into them for their ball.

Other rules: Golf shops, clubhouses, driving ranges and restrooms must stay closed. And no riding or walking carts, flagsticks, bunker rakes or tee markers are allowed.

3:15 p.m., March 27

City Market tenants offered rent deferrals

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett on Friday said the city is offering a two-month rent deferral to tenants in the main hall of City Market.

“The City Market is home to more than two-dozen small businesses and, due to COVID-19 restrictions, market merchants are experiencing a significant loss in revenue,” the city said in a written statement. “Today’s announcement lightens the burden for these local entrepreneurs, while serving as a model for other landlords in the community.”

The merchants can defer up to two months of rent and pay the funds over the remainder of their lease, without fees or accrued interest, the city said.

1:52 p.m., March 27

State releases demographic breakdown on COVID-19 cases

People over the age of 50 account for more than half of the positive cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, while women outnumber men by 4 percentage points, the Indiana State Health Department said Friday.

The state released a short demographic breakdown, offering the first look at who is being affected by the coronavirus that is sweeping the world. In Indiana, 981 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and 24 people have died as of 11:59 p.m. Thursday

The information was released in advance of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s press conference on Friday afternoon with other state officials, including State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box. It’s unclear if a more detailed look will be provided at the press conference.

The only types of information provided were a breakdown of positive test cases in Indiana by gender and age group. So far, women account for 52% percent of positive cases, while men account for 48%, the health department said.

The age groups combined for men and women, and broken down into 10-year groups. The largest single age group testing positive was 50 to 59 (18%), followed by 60 to 69 (17.6%), 40 to 49 (15.6%), 30 to 39 (15%), 70 to 79 (12.5%), 20 to 29 (11.3%), 80 and older (8.3%) and 0 to 19 (1.8%).

The health department did not provide demographic information for those who have been hospitalized or died.

12:54 p.m., March 27

Indianapolis Public Library extends closures during pandemic

The Indianapolis Public Library, which closed facilities March 15, has extended those closures indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Friday, the library announced it would keep its facilities closed and postpone all its public programs “until further notice.” Previously, the library had said it had hoped to reopen on April 6, although it noted at that time that it would monitor conditions and extend the closure as needed.

The library said it is working to reschedule its Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture, which was to have taken place April 30 featuring award-winning illustrator and author Kadir Nelson.

A planned grand opening for the library’s new Martindale-Brightwood Branch and the groundbreaking for its new West Perry Branch have also been postponed.

The library is extending due dates for checked-out items until facilities reopen.

Reference services are still available at 317-275-4184, and library patrons can also access the library’s digital collection of e-books, videos and other electronic items.

12:18 p.m., March 27

Coronavirus cases rise to 981 in state, 484 in Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Friday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 981 after the emergence of 336 more cases.

The department reported that 6,936 people have been tested so far, up from 4,651 people in the previous day’s report. The ISDH said the test number reflects only those tests reported to the department and the numbers should not be characterized as a comprehensive total.

The death toll in the state has risen to 24, up from 17 the previous day.

Marion County reported 484 cases—up 191 cases from the previous day—with eight deaths.

Other area counties with cases are Hamilton (52), Johnson (42), Hendricks (28), Boone (7), Hancock (13), Madison (7), Morgan (10) and Shelby (6).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in nearly 70 of Indiana’s 92 counties so far.

As of Friday morning, 85,996 cases had been reported in the United States, with 1,301 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. More than a third of deaths occurred in New York and Washington state.

The United States now has more cases than any other country.

More than 549,600 cases have been reported globally, with 24,863 deaths. More than 127,500 people have recovered.

8:45 p.m., March 27

State dips into reserves for spending as pandemic cuts into revenue

Gov. Eric Holcomb talks about the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic at a March 24 press conference. (IBJ photo/Eric Learned)
It’s the time of the year when the state of Indiana usually collects the most tax revenue, but state officials are warning that won’t be the case this year and are preparing to make spending cuts wherever possible.

Cris Johnston, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said on Thursday that April is typically the highest tax collection month of the year, bringing in $2.2 billion. But the impact the coronavirus pandemic is having on tax revenue coupled with the delay in the deadline for making income tax payments will create budget constraints and cash flow issues over the next few months.

MORE

10:42 p.m., March 26

Pharmacists say doctors hoarding unproven coronavirus medicine

The Indiana Pharmacists Association is among groups nationally that say pharmacists are reporting medication hoarding, inappropriate prescribing and limited prescriber availability of two drugs touted as possible treatments for COVID-19.

The association on Thursday said that it has asked Gov. Eric Holcomb to take emergency actions to prevent shortages of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin by prohibiting the prescription of the drugs for COVID-19 prevention.

The two drugs are only available through a prescription and cannot be purchased over the counter. Hydroxychloroquine, sold under the brand name Plaquenil, is approved to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis while chloroquine is an anti-malarial treatment.

MORE

8:29 p.m., March 26

U.S. has 1.5M expired N95 masks sitting in Indianapolis warehouse

Nearly 1.5 million N95 respirator masks are sitting in a U.S. government warehouse in Indiana and authorities have not shipped them because they are past their expiration date, despite Centers for Disease Control guidelines that have been issued for their safe use during the coronavirus outbreak, according to five people with knowledge of the stockpile.

Department of Homeland Security officials had a conference call Wednesday to figure out what to do with the masks, which are part of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s emergency supplies. DHS officials decided to offer the respirators to the Transportation Security Administration, whose workforce has been clamoring for protective equipment, according to three of the people who described the plans on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

CBP has no plans to offer the masks to hard-hit hospitals, or hand them over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, three of the people said.

MORE

7:35 p.m., March 26

IndyGo to cut schedule, eliminate fares due to coronavirus

IndyGo is temporarily eliminating fares, reducing its service schedule and taking other actions starting Sunday in response to the coronavirus.

To reduce interactions aboard buses, IndyGo is suspending all fares and will require riders to board through the vehicles’ rear entrances. Riders who need to use a wheelchair-accessible ramp will continue to board the buses via the front door.

IndyGo said it will begin running routes on a Saturday schedule six days a week, which means buses will be running less often than usual on weekdays. Sunday service will remain as scheduled.

MORE

6:50 p.m., March 26

Greenfield auto parts plant lays off 336 employees in temporary closure

An automotive parts plant that opened less than a year ago in Greenfield said Thursday it has shut down its operations and temporarily laid off 336 employees because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

BWI Group—also known as BeijingWest Industries Co.—said the layoffs are necessary because Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered all non-essential businesses closed and because the Ford plants it supplies have shut down their production lines.

The layoffs, which happened Tuesday, affected 172 permanent BWI employees at the plant at 989 Opportunity Parkway and 164 temporary workers from First Call and Morales Group staffing agencies.

MORE

3:18 p.m., March 26

State order doesn’t allow police to stop Hoosiers for being out of their homes

State and local police can’t stop drivers or pedestrians and ask why they are out and about, despite Gov. Eric Holcomb’s order that people who should stay at home unless their jobs are essential, said Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter.

He also said no one in Indiana needs to be carrying documents that identify them or their jobs as essential.

Carter spoke during a press conference at the Indiana Statehouse about concerns among some Hoosiers that police will stop them under the governor’s order.

Carter said he has received nine reports of such stops occurring but has not substantiated them. He said he is relaying to state and local police that they should not be making those stops.

“If someone feels they have been targeted, they need to report that,” he said.

1:25 p.m., March 26

Indy 500 postponed to Aug. 23

The Indianapolis 500 will move to Aug. 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar announced Thursday, marking the first time the historic race has ever run in a month other than May.

The 104th running of the race will still air live on NBC, with a time for the race announced letter.

The GMR Grand Prix—typically run as part of May’s Indy 500 festivities—will move to July 4 on the IMS road course. It will run the day before the Brickyard 400, a NASCAR race that is running on the weekend of Independence Day for the first time this year.

The Indianapolis 500 was originally scheduled for May 24, in its traditional spot on the calendar during Memorial Day weekend. The Grand Prix was scheduled to be run on May 9.

MORE

11:59 a.m., March 26

Indiana officials not detailing state’s ICU capacity

Indiana health officials declined Wednesday to provide details on hospital capacity around the state as the number of confirmed coronavirus-related illnesses continued to grow.

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, cited confidentiality arrangements with hospitals for not releasing details about intensive care unit capacity and equipment availability around the state. She said she’s seeing “positive movements” in availability of ICU beds and ventilators.

“Because everybody is stepping up to the plate and trying to pretty much double their ICU capacity, I’m seeing those numbers increase as we go along,” Box said.

Box said the state health department received several truckloads of medical worker protection items such as masks, face shields and gowns this week and was distributing it to hospitals and county health officials.

When asked whether the state had a two-week supply of such items available, Box replied: “We are better off than that, I can guarantee you. I’ve got many hospitals and local health departments that haven’t even yet asked for their allotment.”

11:47 a.m., March 26

Carmel closes Monon Greenway section for overcrowding

Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard on Thursday ordered the closure of a section of the Monon Greenway and Midtown Plaza, citing overcrowding.

Congestion in the section was hindering “compliance with social distancing restrictions in place during COVID-19 quarantine,” the city said.

The portion of the trail between Gradle Drive to the south and Main Street to the north will be closed until further notice, Carmel said. Seating and equipment is being removed from Midtown Plaza to further deter people from gathering there.

“I ask for trail users to please practice social distancing on the remaining 230 miles of trails and paths we have in Carmel so that those can remain open,” Brainard said in written remarks. “It is so important to our mental health to get out and enjoy the fresh air, but we must do so responsibly.”

The city said the closure will be enforced by Carmel Police.

11:43 a.m., March 26

Wipe maker hiring 100-plus at local plants

A maker of wet wipes plans to hire more than 100 workers at its manufacturing and distribution facilities in Plainsfield and Mooresville to keep up with demand during the pandemic.

Orangeburg, New York-based Nice-Pak said increased demand for cleaning and hygiene products is spurring the need for more production.

The company said it had openings for both temporary and full-time employees, including machine operators, forklift drivers and maintenance and clerical workers, across all shifts.

Nice-Pak makes antibacterial wipes, baby wipes, toilet wipes, feminine hygiene wipes and lens wipes, among other products.

10 a.m., March 26

Coronavirus cases rise to 645 in state, 293 in Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Thursday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 645 after the emergence of 168 more cases.

The department reported that 4,651 people have been tested so far, up from 3,365 people in the previous day’s report. The ISDH said the test number reflects only those tests reported to the department and the numbers should not be characterized as a comprehensive total.

The death toll in the state has risen to 17, up from 14 the previous day.

Marion County reported 293 cases—up 67 cases from the previous day—with six deaths.

Other area counties with cases are Hamilton (40), Johnson (36), Hendricks (21), Boone (7), Hancock (9), Madison (4), Morgan (7) and Shelby (2).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in at least 60 Indiana counties so far.

As of Thursday morning, 69,197 cases had been reported in the United States, with 1,046 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. More than a third of deaths occurred in New York and Washington state.

More than 487,640 cases have been reported globally, with 22,030 deaths. More than 117,700 people have recovered.

11:58 p.m., March 25

Indiana manufacturer lays off 392 at two plants

Kokomo-based Haynes International has laid off 392 workers at its manufacturing plants in that city, according to a notice to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development.

The layoffs, which began Sunday, were the “result of the unforeseen business circumstances that have arisen from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, along with the sudden and unexpected resulting decline in customer orders in certain operations,” the company said.

IBJ reported earlier this month that one setback Haynes faced was Boeing’s decision in January to halt production of the 737 Max, for which Haynes supplies parts. That and other lost business opportunities have contributed to a 46% drop in Haynes’ stock price this year.

Haynes employs 765 workers at two plants in Kokomo that make high-performance alloys. The company announced a two-week shutdown of most of its operations March 19.

“We currently anticipate these layoffs will be temporary; however, the nature of the situation is very fluid and we will continue to monitor developments using our best business judgment,” the company said.

3:55 p.m., March 25

Holcomb says state prepared to tap into surplus dollars if necessary

Gov. Eric Holcomb says he’s not ready to tap into the state’s surplus fund yet, but he’s preparing for that to happen.

The state finished fiscal year 2019 with $2.27 billion in reserves.

“We haven’t spent that yet,” Holcomb said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon to provide updates on the pandemic. “But that day’s coming.”

Holcomb said it will depend on how much funding the state receives in federal government aid.

“We’ll evaluate what they’re able to cover and then what shortcomings are left over,” Holcomb said.

He said the pandemic is an example of why state officials have been “fiscally prudent” for years.

“We weren’t trying to amass a surplus for a bumper sticker slogan,” Holcomb said. “It was for this day.”

Also, at Wednesday’s press conference, Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box said the state has received “four or five truckloads in the last two days” of gowns, masks, gloves and face shields from the federal government that will soon be distributed to hospitals. She said the state still had plenty of supplies on hand.

When asked whether the state had a two-week supply of such items available, Box replied: “We are better off than that, I can guarantee you. I’ve got many hospitals and local health departments that haven’t even yet asked for their allotment.”

Box cited confidentiality arrangements with hospitals for not releasing details about intensive care unit capacity and equipment availability around the state. She said she’s seeing “positive movements” in availability of ICU beds and ventilators.

“Because everybody is stepping up to the plate and trying to pretty much double their ICU capacity, I’m seeing those numbers increase as we go along,” Box said.

11:25 a.m., March 25

Local furniture maker lays off 75

A flood of hospitality-related businesses have notified the state of layoffs during the coronavirus pandemic, but area businesses in other industries are beginning to feel the pain.

Whitestown-based commercial furniture manufacturer and installer Facility Concepts Inc. notified the Indiana Department of Workforce Development this week that the firm laid off 75 employees on Monday.

In a letter dated Tuesday, President and CEO Kenneth Weaver said the decision was the “result of a downturn and canceled orders due to COVID-19.”

He said the layoff will “affect the entire facility and is expected to be temporary.”

10:55 a.m., March 25

Subaru extends production shutdown by one week

Subaru of Indiana Automotive is extending the production shutdown at its Lafayette plant through April 6 to align with the state’s stay-at-home order, the company announced Wednesday.

Subaru suspended production Monday with original plans for the shutdown to last one week, through March 27.

The company said it decided to extend the shutdown by a week “to respect Gov. Holcomb’s stay-at-home order, further ensure the health and safety of associates, and adjust volume for deteriorating market conditions as a result of COVID-19.”

All employees will receive full pay during the production shutdown, the company said.

More than 6,000 people work at the facility, which produces about 410,000 vehicles each year.

10:16 a.m., March 25

Grocers installing plexiglass partitions at all checklanes

Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. says it will install plexiglass partitions at cash registers to help protect its employees and customers from the coronavirus and “further promote physical distancing.”

Walmart, Market District and GetGo convenience stores are taking similar measures.

Kroger said it will install the partitions “at every checklane, pharmacy counter and Starbucks register in our stores,” with installation beginning this week at many of its stores.

Kroger also said it’s installing “educational floor decals to promote physical distancing at checklanes and other counters.”

Additionally, the company said it’s asking “government officials at all levels for help securing a priority place for all grocery workers—after health care workers—to have access to protective masks and gloves” that they can wear on the job.

Kroger is the nation’s largest grocer, with 2,758 food stores that operate under a variety of banners. In Indiana, Kroger operates 150 food stores, three convenience stores and two jewelry stores under the Kroger, Ruler Foods, Owen’s, Turkey Hill, Jay C Food Stores and Pay Less Super Markets banners.

10:05 a.m., March 25

Coronavirus cases rise to 477 in state, 226 in Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Wednesday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 477 after the emergence of 112 more cases.

The department reported that 3,365 people have been tested so far, up from 2,931 people in the previous day’s report. The ISDH said the test number reflects only those tests reported to the department and the numbers should not be characterized as a comprehensive total.

The death toll in the state has risen to 14, up from 12 the previous day.

Marion County reported 226 cases—up 65 cases from the previous day—with six deaths.

Other area counties with cases are Hamilton (30), Johnson (24), Hendricks (15), Boone (4), Hancock (8), Madison (4), Morgan (5) and Shelby (2).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in at least 55 Indiana counties so far.

As of Wednesday morning, 55,238 cases had been reported in the United States with 802 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. More than a third of deaths occurred in New York and Washington state.

More than 436,150 cases have been reported globally with 19,648 deaths. More than 111,800 people have recovered.

11:45 p.m., March 24

Retail delivery service Shipt hiring 1,500 shoppers in Indy area

Home-delivery company Shipt said Tuesday that it is seeking to hire 1,500 “shoppers” in the Indianapolis area to met increased demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Birmingham, Alabama-based Shipt, a subsidiary of retailer Target Corp., offers delivery service for Target, CVS, Meijer, Office Depot and Office Max, Petco and Sur la table.

Shipt’s shoppers retrieve items from retail shelves based on customer orders and deliver them the customers on a same-day basis.

The company said was immediately recruiting for new hires. Shoppers must be at least 18 years old and have reliable transportation. More information is available at www.shipt.com.

Shipt is among several companies tied to the grocery industry that are hiring while people huddle at home during the pandemic.

On a national basis, Walmart Inc. said it plans to hire 150,000 temporary workers and Kroger said it wants to hire 10,000.

11:30 p.m., March 24

Top state officials urge citizens to take stay-at-home order seriously

Top Indiana officials warned Tuesday that the state’s jump in coronavirus illnesses is likely just the beginning and that obeying a new stay-at-home order is necessary.

The order from Gov. Eric Holcomb takes effect Wednesday. Indiana saw its number of confirmed COVID-19 cases grow to 365 on Tuesday—more than 12 times what state health officials reported a week earlier. Indiana’s coronavirus-related deaths have gone from two to 12 during that time.

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said the state’s hospitals had not yet experienced a surge of patients but that they were seeking additional sources of protective equipment for health care workers along with monitoring intensive care unit bed and ventilator capacity at major hospitals for the coming weeks.

“We’re still in the very early parts of this outbreak,” Box said. “We will continue to see more cases.”

Holcomb urged all residents to take seriously the stay-at-home order that runs at least through April 6.

Holcomb said bluntly that any non-essential businesses “shouldn’t be” open in Indiana.

“We’re trying to be as clear and blunt and serious about this as we can,” he said. “… We’re asking for citizens’ buy-in over the next two weeks.”

4:06 p.m., March 24

State to use Lilly grant for center for homeless with COVID-19

The Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded $5 million to the state of Indiana that will be used to establish a center in Indianapolis where homeless individuals who test positive for COVID-19 can be quarantined.

State officials announced the grant during a press conference Tuesday afternoon, but few details were immediately available.

The homelessness population is considered vulnerable to the coronavirus because individuals are in close proximity to one another in shelters and are more likely to have existing health conditions.

“A general spread of COVID-19 in this population quickly becomes a public health emergency and an additional burden on our health care system,” said Indiana Family and Social Services Administration Secretary Jennifer Sullivan.

Sullivan said during Tuesday’s press conference that organizers have secured a location to quarantine those experiencing homelessness. Hospitals, select clinics and the Marion County Public Health Department will be able to refer individuals to the facility.

The exact location of the center is not being disclosed.

Eskenazi Health employees will staff the center and the Indiana National Guard will provide security for it.

11:55 a.m., March 24

State hotline for biz questions resumes operations after temporary shutdown

The state hotline the Holcomb administration set up to provide answers to businesses about the governor’s stay-at-home order has been so swamped with calls that it went down temporarily before on Tuesday morning.

State officials said at about 11:30 a.m. that the line is operating again, but they encouraged businesses or industry officials with questions to consider emailing them to [email protected].

Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order on Monday that require non-essential businesses to shut down, unless their staff was working from home. He also ordered Hoosiers to stay at home unless they are buying food, seeking health care or taking care of a few other essential tasks. The order is good through April 7.

11:10 a.m., March 24

Community relief fund awards more than $7.3M in grants

More than $7.3 million has been awarded to 46 not-for-profits from a new community economic relief fund organized to help individuals and families affected by COVID-19.

The grants announced Tuesday range from $20,000 to $750,000 and were awarded to human service organizations in Boone, Hancock, Hamilton, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan counties that are focused on the economic distress associated with the novel coronavirus, which has caused temporary closures of schools, businesses and organizations in Indiana.

The first funding round, totaling $7,305,000, prioritized child care for health care workers and first responders, food access, homeless shelters, resources for seniors and immigrants, disaster planning and infrastructure support, and multi-service neighborhood centers.

The fund, called the Central Indiana COVID-19 Community Economic Relief Fund, is led by the United Way of Central Indiana. The fund still has more than $17.8 million after the initial funding round.

MORE

10:10 a.m., March 24

Coronavirus cases rise to 365 in state, with 161 in Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 365 after the emergence of 106 more cases.

The department reported that 2,931 people have been tested, up from 1,960 people in the previous day’s report. The ISDH said the test number reflects only those tests reported to the department and the numbers should not be characterized as a comprehensive total.

The death toll in the state has risen to 12, up from seven the previous day. The department initially reported seven deaths Tuesday morning.

Marion County reported 161 cases—up 51 cases from the previous day—with three deaths.

MORE

9:18 a.m., March 24

Tokyo Olympics officially postponed until 2021 because of pandemic

The International Olympic Committee announced a first-of-its-kind postponement of the Summer Olympics on Tuesday, bowing to the realities of a coronavirus pandemic that is shutting down daily life around the globe and making planning for a massive worldwide gathering in July a virtual impossibility.

The IIOC said the Tokyo Games “must be rescheduled to a date beyond 2020, but not later than summer 2021, to safeguard the health of the athletes, everybody involved in the Olympic Games and the international community.”

IOC President Thomas Bach and Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo met via phone Tuesday morning, and they, along with a handful of executives from the IOC and Japan’s organizing committee, agreed to make the call.

MORE

4:01 p.m., March 23

Unemployment applications skyrocket

More than 54,000 Hoosiers filed for unemployment benefits last week, as restaurants, hotels and other businesses began shutting down temporarily amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The same week one year ago had only 3,100 people file for unemployment benefits in Indiana.

Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed the number Monday as he ordered all non-essential businesses to shut down through April 7, unless their employees are working from home.

MORE

4:00 p.m., March 23

Stocks sink after Congress stalls on latest rescue package

Stocks are ending another bumpy day broadly lower on Wall Street as investors wait to see if Democrats and Republicans can settle their differences on an economic rescue package.

Major indexes ended down about 3% Monday, having been down as much as 5%.

Earlier, markets got a bump following the latest announcement of support from the Federal Reserve.

The Fed said it would buy as much government debt as needed to help markets operate smoothly and lend money to businesses and local governments, but the gains quickly vanished.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 582 points and fell to 18,593. The S&P 500 sank 67 points, dropping to 2,237.

The Nasdaq had a better day, falling only 0.27%, to 6,860.

2:35 p.m., March 23

State opens call center to field questions about order closing businesses

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration said it will open a call center to field industry questions about an executive order the governor issued Monday that requires non-essential businesses to close, unless their employees are working from home.

The Critical Industries Hotline will open at 9 a.m. Tuesday to help guide businesses and industries that are seeking to comply with the order.

This center is reachable by calling 877-820-0890 or by emailing [email protected] and is for business and industry questions only.

For more information, read IBJ’s frequently asked questions about the order.

1:40 p.m., March 23

City’s two largest hotels suspend operations

The two largest hotels in Indianapolis have suspended operations, following more than two weeks of occupancy and staffing struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1,005-room JW Marriott Indianapolis and 650-room Indianapolis Marriott Downtown closed Monday after they stopped taking reservations late Sunday. Signs posted on the front doors of each building refer guests to the JW-adjacent Fairfield Inn & Suites.

MORE

12:40 p.m., March 23

Community CEO Bryan Mills tests positive for COVID-19

Community Health Network announced its president and chief executive officer Bryan Mills has tested positive for COVID-19, which is caused by a coronavirus wreaking havoc across the country.

Mills, who was symptomatic and subsequently tested, learned of his diagnosis over the weekend and informed Community’s 16,000 employees in an email Monday.

Community officials said Mills is in quarantine “but still actively involved in leading and planning Community’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The network said he “continues to participate in meetings remotely, receive updates and lead key decision-making processes. If necessary, there are plans to delegate his responsibilities to other leaders within the organization.”

In the email to employees Mills said, “I am as awed as ever by the dedication of our caregivers, stepping up to the ongoing challenge of this pandemic with compassion, courage, and innovation.”

12:30 p.m., March 23

Holcomb orders enforcement of in-dining prohibition

Gov. Eric Holcomb has ordered state and local boards of health and the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission to take “all available administrative and enforcement actions” against bars and restaurants that continue to offer in-house dining services, in violation of his executive order on March 16.

State officials said departments will first deliver letters to non-compliant restaurants, ordering them to cease such operations. If they do not comply, those official will levy fines.

The ATC will order establishments with alcohol permits that continue to offer in-person dining to stop. If the activity continues, the ATC will suspend the entity’s liquor license and will consider the non-compliance at the time of permit renewal.

12:35 p.m., March 23

Holcomb orders non-essential businesses to close, tells Hoosiers to stay at home

Gov. Eric Holcomb has told non-essential businesses to close and ordered Hoosiers to stay at home—except to buy food or prescriptions, obtain health care, take care of others or go to an essential job—through April 7 in an attempt to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The state-at-home order takes effect at 12:59 p.m. Tuesday.

“The next two weeks are critical if we are to slow the spread of COVID-19, and we must slow the spread. You must be part of the solution, not the problem,” Holcomb said.

His executive order allows what are deemed essential businesses and services to continue operating. The state said that includes, but is not limited to, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, police stations, fire stations, hospitals, doctor’s offices, health care facilities, garbage pickup, public transit, and public service hotlines.

Holcomb said non-essential businesses can only remain open if their employees are conducting their work from home. And he limited all gatherings to less than 10 people, down from a limit of 50 that he had previously ordered.

Answers to frequently asked questions about the order can be found here.

MORE

12:30 p.m., March 23

City’s two biggest hotels suspend operations

The two largest hotels in Indianapolis have suspended operations, following more than two weeks of occupancy and staffing struggles caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 1,005-room JW Marriott Indianapolis and 650-room Indianapolis Marriott Downtown closed Monday after they stopped taking reservations late Sunday. Signs posted on the front doors of each building refer guests to the JW-adjacent Fairfield Inn & Suites.

The sign on the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown said the hotel would be closed for at least two weeks, and a source told IBJ the JW is likely to be closed for the same amount of time.

MORE

11:49 a.m., March 23

TechPoint postpones annual technology awards program

The Mira Awards—Indiana’s largest and longest-running technology awards program—will be postponed to a yet-to-be-determined date, TechPoint officials told IBJ on Monday.

The 21st annual Mira Awards had been scheduled to take place April 18 at the JW Marriott Indianapolis, and was expected to draw about 1,500 attendees.

“Because the Mira gala is an event where in-person networking can yield so much for the tech community, we are postponing rather than holding the event virtually,” said Mike Langellier, CEO of TechPoint, a not-for-profit industry-led growth accelerator. “We’re working now to confirm a new date later in the year when we can safely gather again.”

The event has grown considerably in the last five years, and last year sold out the JW’s biggest ballroom with 1,400 attendees. In 2016, the event drew 950. In 2018, the event moved from the Westin Indianapolis to the JW to accommodate growth.

The event annually has more than 100 nominees for more than a dozen awards and draws a who’s who in the local tech industry.

10:37 a.m., March 23

Michigan governor to issue stay-at-home order

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will announce a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with an exemption for certain workers, a government official told The Associated Press on Monday.

Michigan would join at least eight other states nationally including two of the three states neighboring Indiana: Illinois and Ohio.

The order, which will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, will allow “essential” employees necessary to sustain and protect life to continue going to work, said a high-ranking administration official who had direct knowledge of the measure. The person was not authorized to speak publicly before the Democratic governor’s scheduled 11 a.m. Monday news conference.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has an announcement about the pandemic scheduled for noon Monday but has not disclosed the purpose. Speculation has grown that Indiana might take the same action as Illinois and Ohio.

MORE

10:10 a.m., March 22

Coronavirus cases rise to 259 in state, with 110 in Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Monday morning said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 259 after the emergence of 58 more cases.

The department now reports that 1,960 people have been tested. The ISDH said the test number reflects only those tests reported to the department and the numbers should not be characterized as a comprehensive total.

The death toll in the state rose from six to seven from Sunday’s report.

Marion County reported 110 cases with three deaths.

Other area counties with cases are Hendricks (12), Johnson (14), Hamilton (21), Boone (3), Hancock (3), Madison (3) and Shelby (1).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in 40 Indiana counties so far.

As of Friday morning, 35,241 cases had been reported in the United States with 471 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

More than 351,000 cases have been reported globally with 15,374 deaths. More than 100,400 people have recovered.

11:45 p.m., March 22

Allison Transmission tells employees that co-worker has virus

Allison Transmission Holdings Inc. on Sunday notified employees that one of their co-workers was presumed to have COVID-19, WTHR-TV Channel 13 reported.

Company officials said the employee works in Plant 6 near bay location R-81. The plant is on the west side of Indianapolis, north of Michigan Street and west of Holt Road.

According to WTHR, the company said it was still waiting for official test results. No other employees were thought to have had close contact with the employee, so the company has not asked any workers to self-quarantine. The employee hasn’t been on site since Tuesday.

Allison has 2,600 employees in Indiana.

5:50 p.m., March 22

Lilly to launch drive-thru COVID-19 testing for health care workers

Eli Lilly and Co. will begin offering drive-thru testing for COVID-19 on Monday at its Indianapolis headquarters, but the service will be limited for now to physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals.

The drugmaker said Sunday afternoon that the general public will not be able to receive tests at this time, and it did not say whether it might broaden the drive-thru service in the future to include non-health care workers.

The announcement came two days after Lilly said it was exploring setting up a drive-thru testing service for the public to take the crunch off hospitals, which are doing the bulk of the testing.

MORE

3:49 p.m., March 22

COVID-19 death toll in state rises to six

The Indiana State Department of Health announced Sunday that two more Hoosiers have died after testing positive for COVID-19, bringing the death toll in the state to six.

Both of the latest victims were adults over 50 with underlying health conditions, the state health department said.

One lived in Marion County, and the other lived in Scott County.

Marion County now has had three deaths. The other COVID-19 victims lived in Johnson County and Howard County.

The state health department said 201 Indiana residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19. All but one are adults.

10:26 a.m., March 22

COVID-19 cases in state continue to surge

The Indiana State Department of Health on Sunday reported that the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 201 after the emergence of 76 more cases, 35 of them in Marion County.

The number of cases has grown day by day as officials conduct more testing. The new-case count was 47 on Saturday, 23 on Friday and 17 on Thursday.

The 76 new cases came from 661 tests conducted by the state health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories. So far, those entities have reported conducting a total of 1,494 tests.

Officials say four people in Indiana—two from Marion County and one each from Delaware and Johnson counties—have died from COVID-19.

5:42 p.m., March 21

Indiana reports fourth COVID-19 death

Indiana health officials said Saturday that a fourth person died from the coronavirus as the state reported 47 new cases amid the pandemic, bringing Indiana’s total count to 126.

The state’s latest death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, was an adult from Delaware County who was over 60 and had been hospitalized, the Indiana State Department of Health said.

Nearly half of the 47 new cases reported Saturday—22—were in Marion County, which now has 46 cases. The growing number of cases come as the virus has spread to Indiana’s largest population centers.

Cases of COVID-19 have now been reported in 34 of Indiana’s 92 counties, with 833 test results reported to the state health department by late Friday. All but one of Indiana’s 126 confirmed cases have been in adults.

Indiana has seen two people die in Marion County and one each in Delaware and Johnson counties.

MORE

12:01 p.m., March 21

Community Health to close MedCheck locations, reallocate resources

Community Health Network announced Saturday that it will close its eight central Indiana MedCheck urgent treatment centers, effective Sunday. The Indianapolis-based hospital network said it is doing so to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to reallocate resources to where they are needed most.

Community said it will relocate MedCheck services to nearby primary care offices. It directed patients to call their doctor’s office for care or to call Community’s triage resource center. For most central Indiana residents, that number is 317-621-5500. Anderson residents should call 765-298-4240, and Kokomo residents should call 765-776-3990.

In addition, Community offers virtual care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at ecommunity.com/virtual care.

10:06 a.m., March 21

State reports 47 more COVID-19 cases, including 22 from Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Saturday reported that the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 126 after the emergence of 47 more cases.

The tally includes cases diagnosed through the state health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories.

Three Hoosiers have died. The state health department reported the latest fatality, an Indianapolis man, on Friday afternoon.

The state health department said 833 people have been tested in the state, including 279 in the last 24 hours.

The new cases include 22 from Marion County, five from Hamilton County, three from Allen County and Clark County, two from Hendricks County and Johnson County and one each for Delaware, Elkhart, Greene, Hancock, Harrison, Howard, Lake, LaPorte, Scott and Vigo counties.

The state health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the limited testing so far.

9:13 p.m., March 20

City, Horizon House team to screen, protect homeless from coronavirus

The Hogsett administration plans to distribute 15 hand-washing stations downtown and as part of a larger effort to try to protect the city’s homeless population from contracting and spreading COVID-19.

The city said it is working with Horizon House, which is training its outreach workers to screen homeless people who are living in encampments and other non-shelter locations for COVID-19, in addition to providing them with hygiene kits, food kits, blankets and crisis support.

“In many ways, our community is facing unprecedented challenges that affect every resident in Indianapolis,” said Mayor Joe Hogsett. “But with circumstances that are continually evolving, we must ensure that we are continually prioritizing our city’s most vulnerable residents.”

The city plans to put handwashing stations in a number of locations, including at the Central Library, at the Cathedral Kitchen parking lot, on Georgia Street outside St. John’s Catholic Church and at University Park.

Beginning Monday, Horizon House Center will also be providing COVID-19 screenings and providing walk-thru services.

8:24 p.m., March 2o

BMO Plaza worker has COVID-19, landlord says

The 28-story BMO Plaza office tower downtown informed tenants on Friday that an employee of one of the companies in the building has a confirmed case of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

In an email to tenants, the building manager did not identify the tenant but said it was below the 18th floor. It said the employee has not been in the building since March 12.

The building manager who sent the email referred questions to Jacqueline Trost, a vice president of Detroit-based REDICO, which is part of a group that bought the 444,644-square-foot tower in 2018. In an emailed statement, Trost said: “The safety of our tenants, visitors and guests is very important to us,” noting that the company is following prevention guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and has shared those with tenants.

BMO Plaza, 135 N. Pennsylvania St., was built in 1986. It has dozens of tenants, including BMO Harris, the U.S. Department of Defense, Aprimo, Quarles & Brady, Rubin & Levin and HWC Engineering.

MORE

4:55 p.m., March 20

Indiana has third coronavirus death

An Indianapolis resident on Friday become the third Hoosier to be killed after contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel coronavirus.

The Indiana State Department of Health patient was an adult over age 60 who had been hospitalized.

It’s the second Marion County resident who has died from the illness. A Johnson County resident has also died.

“Losing a loved one is devastating, and it’s troubling to see the toll that COVID-19 is taking on elderly residents here in Indiana and across the country,” said Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, in a statement. “I implore Hoosiers to continue to stay home if they’re sick and practice social distancing so that we can halt the spread of this virus and protect the most vulnerable among us.”

The state reported 23 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing to 79 the number of Hoosiers diagnosed through the health department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private laboratories. All but one are adults.

The health department reported Friday morning that 554 people have been tested, up from 380 the previous day. Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

4:50 p.m., March 20

Cummins temporarily shutters Bartholomew County plant

Columbus-based engine maker Cummins Inc. has suspended production at its Walesboro engine plant in Bartholomew County for the next two weeks, the company announced Friday afternoon. Employees will continue to receive full pay during the shutdown, the company said.

Cummins said the production suspension, which took effect Friday, was in response to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ decision to shut down its pickup truck assembly until at least the end of March. Fiat Chrysler is a Cummins customer.

“While the company is not announcing any other production suspensions or plant shutdowns at this time, the company cannot predict if and when further suspensions or shutdowns may arise,” Cummins said in a prepared statement.

The company cited changes in customer demand, shortfalls in supplier deliveries and government regulations or mandates as possible factors that could lead to additional shutdowns.

Cummins also said it was withdrawing its previously issued 2020 financial guidance because of “growing uncertainty about demand for the remainder of 2020.”

When Cummins issued its 2020 guidance Feb. 4, it said it expected its full-year revenue to decline between 8% and 12%. That guidance “did not factor in the effects of the coronavirus pandemic,” the company said.

Cummins Chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger said in a prepared statement that the company is in a strong financial position and has experienced leadership, “and we will successfully navigate through this difficult period.”

4:45 p.m, March 20

KAR suspends auto auctions

KAR Global is suspending its physical automobile auctions across North America for two weeks, according to a disclosure filed Friday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Carmel-based auction company announced it is halting all physical and simulcast-only sales at its 73 ADESA locations in the U.S. and Canada. The company is maintaining “minimal” operations for security purposes and to receive and release vehicles under certain circumstances.

The company’s digital marketplaces will remain operational during that time, with support from a remote workforce.

“We believe this is a temporary safety measure, and that our balance sheet, including our cash position, is strong and we are well positioned to sustain our business and navigate the uncertainty for the foreseeable future,” the filing reads.

Gene Rodriguez, a spokesperson for KAR Global, declined to answer questions about what will happen to employees.

4:40 p.m., March 20

Illinois governor orders residents to stay in their homes

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Friday ordered all state residents to remain in their homes except for essentials, joining similar dramatic efforts in California and New York to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Pritzker’s order, which takes effect Saturday, still allows the state’s 12.6 million residents to seek essentials including groceries and medicine.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said Friday is not ready to order Hoosiers to stay home.

MORE

4:20 p.m., March 20

Dow drops more than 900 points

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 900 points Friday, extending its weekly loss to 17%.

The S&P 500 dropped 4.3% and the NASDAQ slid 3.8%.

MORE

4:12 p.m., March 20

Walmart to hire 2,000 employees in Indiana to meet growing demand

Walmart said Friday it will hire 150,000 workers nationwide—including 2,000 in Indiana—to meet increasing demand in its stores.

The new employees will work in stores, clubs, distribution centers and fulfillment centers.

The announcement comes one day after Walmart said it would more more than $365 million in case bonuses to hourly workers on April 2. To be eligible, employees must have been on staff on March 1. The company said it will also acclerate a second quarter bonus, with plans to pay an additional $180 million to employees.

4 p.m., March 20

Local fund raises money Broad Ripple businesses, service employees

Thousands of dollars have poured in to Broad Ripple in recent days through a new fund aimed at helping retail shops and restaurants—and their employees—that had to alter their business strategies because of COVID-19.

The ‘Rona Relief Fund (a shorthand nod to the coronavirus) has raised at least $9,450 since its launch Friday morning. The Broad Ripple Village Association-managed fund allows individuals and businesses to nominate themselves or others as recipients.

The pool of money will be split evenly, between $100 checks for service employees in need and gift cards bought from the area’s restaurants and retailers. The purchase of gift cards has been recommended nationwide as a means to support small businesses, because it provides revenue for businesses immediately, while allowing customers to cash in later on.

MORE

3:28 p.m., March 20

Sahm’s turns downtown cafeteria into temporary meal delivery space

Fishers-based Sahm’s Restaurant Group has teamed with OneAmerica Financial Partners Inc. and the not-for-profit food relief organization Second Helpings to launch a meal-preparation operation at OneAmerica’s downtown Indianapolis headquarters.

Sahm’s, which operates 15 local restaurants and brewpubs, has converted its Sahm’s Cafeteria inside OneAmerica Tower into a space to prepare and deliver meals to local seniors and families in need. The first deliveries happened on Friday.

OneAmerica said it has provided a grant to help fund the effort and Sahm’s is using the food it already had on hand at its restaurants. OneAmerica declined to disclose how much it has donated to the cause.

Organizers are also seeking outside contributions, including donations of food-packaging materials.

MORE

2:59 p.m., March 20

IU joins other colleges in canceling commencement

Indiana University on Friday announced it was calling off its spring commencement ceremonies in May because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

President Michael McRobbie said all IU graduates will be able to participate in a future IU commencement ceremony when the public health situation allows.

“Commencement is a seminal moment for our graduates and their families,” he said in a letter. “Today’s announcement is truly only a postponement of the moment that has been so richly earned.”

The change of plans does not affect the timing and awarding of IU degrees. All IU degrees will continue to be awarded when earned, IU said.

IU joins Purdue, Butler and Indiana State University in canceling spring ceremonies.

11:45 a.m., March 20

Indiana postpones primary election to June 2

Indiana’s primary election is being postponed from May 5 to June 2 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials announced Friday morning.

Gov. Eric Holcomb, Secretary of State Connie Lawson, Republican Party Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Democratic Party Chairman John Zody announced the agreement.

Holcomb, a Republican, said he believes it is the first time in the state’s history that an election day has been rescheduled. He signed the executive order changing the date Friday.

“My plea and my hope is that we all understand the gravity of what is surrounding us,” Holcomb said. “The more people who are practicing what we’re preaching, the faster we’ll get through this.”

All dates corresponding with the primary election will be moved by 28 days to reflect the shift. For example, military and overseas ballots were required to be mailed 45 days prior to the primary election, so that deadline, which is already passed, is being moved 45 days prior to June 2.

MORE

11:06 a.m., March 20

Noblesville latest city to beef up restrictions

Noblesville Mayor Chris Jensen has joined mayors in Fishers and Carmel in issuing an executive order to enforce restrictions and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Jensen announced Friday that residents are being asked to avoid unnecessary travel, self-quarantine when appropriate and work from home when possible. Similar restrictions were implemented in Carmel and Fishers earlier this week.

“Issuing an executive order allows us to communicate clear parameters and enforce restrictions on door-to-door solicitations as well as close city buildings including public safety buildings, except in the case of emergencies in an effort to mitigate person-to-person contact,” Jensen said in a written statement.

In addition to those restrictions, Noblesville City Court has been suspended until May 2020.

10:52 a.m., March 20

Cake Bake Shop lays off 170 employees

The Cake Bake Shop, which has locations in Broad Ripple and Carmel, has laid off most of its employees, but the business itself remains open.

In Facebook posts, owner Gwendolyn Rogers said she was forced to lay off 170 of her 188 employees because of the current pandemic-related prohibition on in-house dining. The business is still operating on a carry-out and delivery basis.

“I am working with my banks, my insurance company, my accountant and the government to try and create some sort of relief support for my team,” Rogers wrote in a post Thursday. Rogers also said the restaurant’s two locations are accepting tips that will be distributed among the affected employees.

The Cake Bake Shop offers cakes, pies and other desserts as well as a menu that includes soups, salads and sandwiches. Rogers’ first shop opened in Broad Ripple in 2014. The Carmel location opened last year. The business has developed a national following, helped by major celebrity endorsements.

10:28 a.m., March 20

Number of confirmed cases in state rises to 79

The Indiana State Department of Health on Friday said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 79 after the emergence of 23 more cases.

The department now reports that 554 people have been tested, up from 380 the previous day.

The death toll in the state remained at two.

Six more cases were diagnosed in Marion County, bringing the total to 25.

Other area counties with cases are Hendricks (4), Johnson (4), Hamilton (5), Boone (2), Madison (1) and Shelby (1).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in 27 Indiana counties so far.

As of Friday morning, 14,250 cases had been reported in the United States with 205 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

More than 246,400 cases have been reported globally with 10,038 deaths. More than 86,000 people have recovered.

7 p.m., March 19

Cambria lays off workers in Noblesville, Westfield

Ceres Enterprises, the Ohio-based operator of Cambria hotels in Noblesville and Westfield, is laying off 65 employees in Indiana due to the spread of the new coronavirus.

The hotel management company issued a notice to the state Wednesday saying it had already started the process of laying off much of its staff at both hotels—which remain open and operating. Affected positions include sales, front desk, kitchen, maintenance and housekeeping.

The hotels are operating on a skeleton crew of about 15-20 people across both hotels.

“We anticipate to return our staff to employment as soon as possible,” Deborah Nigro, human resources manager for Ceres Enterprises, said in a written statement.

When contacted by phone, representatives from Ceres Enterprises declined to comment and would not provide the total number of staff at each hotel.

Westfield’s Cambria Hotel was built in 2017 as part of Grand Park Village, across from the city’s Grand Park sports campus. For the past two years, the Indianapolis Colts have used the 152-room hotel at 18592 Carousel Lane during training camp at Grand Park.

In Noblesville, the 130-room Cambria Suites at 13500 Tegler Drive, just Interstate 65 at Exit 210, opened in 2009.

4:30 p.m., March 19

Dow pulls itself back above 20,000, rises 1% in choppy trading

U.S. markets remain testy as the Dow Jones industrial average Thursday extended its streak of 1,000-point swings to nine sessions. The blue chips clawed into the plus column—rising nearly 1% on the day—as investors digested various government formulas aimed at limiting the economic damage from the coronavirus.

The Dow rose 188 points, or 0.95%, to close at 20,087. Other major indexes also advanced, with the S&P 500 climbing 11 points, or 0.47%, to close at 2,409, and the Nasdaq Composite jumping 160 points, or 2.3%, to close at 7,151.

MORE

4 p.m., March 19

Holcomb supports delaying primary

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Thursday he supports delaying the state’s May 5 primary as part of Indiana’s larger response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but he said the decision will be up to Secretary of State Connie Lawson.

Holcomb, a Republican, said he’s concerned about the safety of poll workers, voters and all the people involved in making an election run smoothly. And he said he’s talking about the possibility with Lawson, a Republican whose office includes the Indiana Election Division, which works with counties to administer elections.

Lawson’s office did not immediately respond to messages from IBJ.

MORE

3:55 p.m., March 19

Remainder of Indiana high school basketball tournament called off

The Indiana High School Athletic Association announced Thursday that the remainder of this year’s boys basketball state tournament has been canceled.

The IHSAA said it made the decision after Gov. Eric Holcomb directed all state public schools to remain closed during the pandemic until May 1.

On March 13, the IHSAA announced the remaining games of the state tournament would be postponed. It also considered a plan to play the games with only participants, officials and direct family members in attendance.

1:20 p.m., March 19

Schools to stay closed statewide until at least May 1

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed executive orders Thursday that extend the closure of schools and take other steps to deal with the pandemic.

All K-12 public schools will remain closed until May 1, the governor said. And non-public schools were also ordered closed. He said the date might be extended through the end of the 2019-2020 school year if circumstances warrant.

The governor also extended the current state of emergency an additional 30 days when it expires on April 5.

In addition, the state will align with the federal government to delay state income tax payments from April 15 to July 15. The U.S. Treasury extended the deadline to pay federal income tax by 90 days.

And penalties will be waived for 60 days for property tax paid after May 11. The state said it will work with counties that may experience cash flow stress because of the delay.

MORE

12:41 p.m., March 19

Subaru to suspend Indiana operations for one week

Subaru of Indiana Automotive will suspend production at its Lafayette plant next week “to further ensure the health and safety of associates and to adjust volume for market demand as a result of COVID-19,” the company announced Thursday.

Employees will receive full pay during the March 23-29 shutdown, the company said.

More than 6,000 people work at the facility, which produces about 410,000 vehicles each year.

11 a.m., March 19

Treasury chief: Family of 4 could get $3K under virus relief plan

The first federal checks to families could be $3,000 for a family of four under the White House proposal to unleash $1 trillion to shore up households and the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday that the “checks in the mail” would be direct deposited into people’s accounts under the plan the Trump administration has proposed to Congress.

The payments would be $1,000 per adult and $500 per child so that a family of two parents and two children would receive $3,000, Mnuchin told Fox Business Network. The goal is to get that money out in three weeks, he said.

He said such families would receive another $3,000 six weeks later if the national emergency still exists. Officials have previously said the money is expected to be allocated by income level, to exclude the super-wealthy.

MORE

10:25 a.m., March 19

Number of confirmed cases in state rises to 56

The Indiana State Department of Health on Thursday said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 56 after the emergence of 17 more cases.

Testing rose dramatically in the past day, from 193 to 380.

The death toll in the state remained at two.

Ten more cases were diagnosed in Marion County, bringing the total to 19.

Other area counties with cases are Hendricks (4), Johnson (3), Hamilton (2), Boone (1) and Madison (1).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in 22 Indiana counties so far.

As of Thursday morning, 9,415 cases had been reported in the United States with 150 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

More than 222,600 cases have been reported globally with 9,115 deaths. More than 84,500 people have recovered.

9:04 a.m., March 19

SBA makes emergency loans available statewide to help businesses survive outbreak

The U.S. Small Business Administration has approved low-interest federal disaster loans in Indiana to provide working capital for businesses struggling during the coronavirus outbreak.

The assistance will be available statewide and in numerous border counties in surrounding states. The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act signed by President Trump authorized the SBA to offer an additional $50 billion in loans nationally to help small businesses during the pandemic.

Indiana became eligible for the SBA assistance after Gov. Eric Holcomb requested a disaster declaration for the state on Tuesday.

The loans are available to small businesses, private not-for-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises “that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020,” the SBA said.

The interest rate for the loans is 3.75% for small businesses and 2.75% for private not-for-profit organizations, with terms up to 30 years. Applicants may apply or learn more online.

In anticipation of the loans being offered, the Indy Chamber launched a Rapid Response Hub on Monday to direct small business owners to various resources.

8:05 a.m., March 19

State’s largest hotels consider closing

The owners of the 1,005-room JW Marriott Indianapolis and the 650-room Indianapolis Marriott Downtown are considering closing their doors temporarily as occupancy falls at hotels across the country into the single digits.

Bruce White, chairman of White Lodging, which owns the JW Marriott, told IBJ no final decision has been made. But he said “when you have occupancies of less than 5%, [closing] is certainly something that any owner would need to consider.”

Mike Wells, president of REI Investments, which co-owns the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown with White Lodging, said the  situation is unlikely to change until the government again encourages citizens to move freely. He said he thinks other hotels also are considering closing.

The decisions by local hoteliers comes as the French Lick Resort announced it would close and at least two downtown Chicago hotels said they would close in response to the pandemic.

MORE

7:50 a.m., March 19

Hospitality group asks Holcomb to defer restaurant, hotel taxes

The Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association on Wednesday sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb and state legislative leaders asking them to consider deferring taxes on the restaurant and lodging industries for the next year.

Businesses still would be on the hook for taxes they owe they year but would be able to pay them one calendar year later interest-free. They would apply to personal and real property taxes, state and local sales taxes, and innkeeper’s and food and beverage taxes.

The proposed real and personal property deferral would go into effect April 1, while the sales-related tax deferral would apply immediately. 

The measures are among several the group said might help soften the blow to tourism- and dining-focused businesses across the state—particularly in larger cities like Indianapolis.

Total spending nationally on transportation, retail, lodging and restaurants is expected to drop by $355 billion this year, or 31 percent, leading to the loss of 4.6 million jobs, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

MORE

2 a.m., March 19

Trump signs $100B rescue bill while proposing $1 trillion plan to stabilize economy

By a sweeping bipartisan tally, the Senate approved a $100 billion-plus bill to boost testing for the coronavirus and guarantee paid sick leave for millions of workers hit by it — and President Donald Trump quickly signed it.

By the time the measure became law Wednesday, the White House and lawmakers had already turned their focus to the administration’s far bigger $1 trillion plan to stabilize the economy as the pandemic threatens financial ruin for individuals and businesses.

Details on Trump’s economic rescue plan remain sparse—and it’s sure to grow with lawmaker add-ons—but its centerpiece is to dedicate $500 billion to start issuing direct payments to Americans by early next month. It would also funnel cash to businesses to help keep workers on payroll as widespread sectors of the $21 trillion U.S. economy all but shut down.

In a memorandum, the Treasury Department proposed two $250 billion cash infusions to individuals: a first set of checks issued starting April 6, with a second wave in mid-May. The amounts would depend on income and family size.

The Treasury plan, which requires approval by Congress, also recommends $50 billion to stabilize the airlines, $150 billion to issue loan guarantees to other struggling sectors, and $300 billion for small businesses. The plan appears to anticipate that many of the loans would not be repaid.

Taken together, the administration plan promises half of the $1 trillion to families and individuals, with the other half used to prop up businesses and keep employees on payroll.

MORE

Hogsett, Osili pledge steps to increase absentee voting in primary

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and City-County Council President Vop Osili announced Wednesday that the city intends to mail all registered voters in Marion County an absentee ballot application well before the planned May 5 primary election.

Because in-person voting during the primary could be hindered by public health restrictions, Hogsett said he felt it was important to provide citizens an alternative way to vote.

“Our top priority as public officials continues to be the protection of our residents from the threat associated with the COVID-19 outbreak,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in a written statement. “We are also mindful of our obligation to ensure that voters are able to freely and safely exercise their rights, and we are committed to pursuing changes that will allow all registered voters to cast a ballot this year.”

Osili said supports the measure and said he will work with the Democrat-controlled City-County Council to secure sufficient funding to cover the cost of postage for all registered voters who choose to vote by mail.

The mailings will also include instruction on how to vote by mail.

Guidance will be issued in coming weeks as to when voters can expect absentee ballot applications to arrive. Voters are encouraged to update their voter registrations as soon as possible in order to ensure they receive an application at their current residence.

7:59 p.m., March 18

All Indiana public schools now closed to on-site classes

All public schools across Indiana are now closed to students, and at least one district will not to resume in-person classes this academic year in an attempt to slow the coronavirus spread, officials said Wednesday.

Most of Indiana’s public school districts had shut down or switched to online classwork by Monday, but the governor’s office said Wednesday that all have now done so.

The South Dearborn Community Schools in southeastern Indiana said Wednesday it would conduct all classes online for rest of this school year. That decision was made “in the best interest for the health and safety of our students, staff, and community,” district Superintendent Eric Lows said in a message posted to its website.

7:45 p.m., March 18

Simon Property shuts down all its shopping malls

Simon Property Group, the world’s largest shopping mall owner, closed its retail properties Wednesday night and plans to leave them closed until March 29.

The Indianapolis-based company said Wednesday that it made the decision “after after extensive discussions with federal, state and local officials and in recognition of the need to address the spread of COVID-19.”

Simon owns or has a stake in more than 200 retail properties in the United States, including local centers Castleton Square, Greenwood Park, Fashion Mall at Keystone, Hamilton Town Center and Circle Centre.

Simon shares slid 23.7% on Wednesday afternoon, to $45.90 each, amid another tough day for the stock market, but we’re up 5.7% in after-hours trading.

3:06 p.m., March 18

Pharma giant Lilly to help Indiana health officials with COVID-19 testing

Indianapolis-based pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Co. announced Wednesday that its scientists are working with the Indiana State Department of Health to speed up analysis of COVID-19 tests collected in the state.

State officials have taken sharp criticism in the last week for the slow pace of testing. Through Tuesday, the department of health had conducted 193 tests, out of which 39 were presumed positive.

In the state of New York, about 10,000 people had been tested as of Tuesday morning.

Lilly officials said its scientists will use company research laboratories to analyze samples taken in Indiana health care facilities, including nursing homes and emergency rooms.

Lilly said it expected to ramp up capacity quickly, making about 1,000 tests a day available here within a week, and eventually up to a peak of 2,000 tests a day, depending on the availability of chemicals, called reagents, which are used in the testing process.

MORE

12:54 p.m., March 18

HUD to pause evictions

President Donald Trump said the Housing and Urban Development Department will suspend foreclosures and evictions through April as a growing number of Americans face losing jobs and missing rent and mortgage payments.

The HUD news came as the president announced a larger group of initiatives to try to help the country address and cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

MORE

12:24 p.m., March 18

Chamber, mayor urge small firms to be ready for relief requests

The Indy Chamber and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett are urging small businesses to start to prepare now for anticipated federal disaster relief.

Hogsett and Indy Chamber President and CEO Michael Huber told reporters Wednesday morning that they’re expecting the state to be approved for federal aid through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and they want businesses to be ready to apply for it as soon as possible.

“My message to all of our suffering small businesses is simple: Use this time to prepare all documentation you’ll need to quickly apply for this federal relief,” Hogsett said.

The Indy Chamber launched the Rapid Response Hub on Monday to direct small business owners to various resources and answer questions they may have. Huber said many questions involve whether or not a business can remain open. The hub is also connecting businesses to various online coaches from the IU Kelley School of Business who can help with the loan application process.

“We are making more and more resources available for business coaching, potential small business loan coaching and resourcing,” Huber said.

10:27 p.m., March 18

Number of confirmed cases in state rises to 39

The Indiana State Department of Health on Wednesday said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 39 after the emergence of nine more cases.

The death toll in the state remained at two.

Two more cases were diagnosed in Marion County, bringing the total to nine.

Two cases were reported in Hamilton County. The city of Noblesville issued a written statement Wednesday morning announcing the city’s first case, but then retracted it a short time later.

Other area counties with cases are Hendricks (4), Johnson (3), Boone (1) and Madison (1).

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

The department said it had tested 193 Hoosiers for the virus, up from 159 the previous day.

Health officials say Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the limited number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in 19 Indiana counties so far.

As of Wednesday morning, 6,519 cases had been reported in the United States with 115 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

More than 204,200 cases have been reported globally with 8,246 deaths.

11:55 p.m., March 17

Grocers go on hiring spree to meet demand during outbreak

While many businesses will be forced to make cutbacks to survive the COVID-19 outbreak, major players in the grocery industry are ramping up hiring to keep up with a period of major demand on the food-supply chain.

Kroger Co., the nation’s largest grocer, on Tuesday said it had immediate openings in a number of areas, including in stores as cashiers and pickup members or in manufacturing plants and distribution centers.

“The positions may be perfect for people whose current jobs have been suspended by the coronavirus crisis,” Kroger said. “Every role will help us keep our stores stocked with fresh, affordable food and other essentials.”

Regional grocer Meijer on Tuesday also said it was hiring seasonal workers to meet demand. Walmart and Costco also are among those hiring.

5:52 p.m., March 17

Purdue joins other schools in calling off commencement

Purdue University on Tuesday announced it was calling off its spring commencement ceremonies in May because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Purdue said it was organizing a virtual graduation ceremony or it would try to offer graduates opportunities to participate in future ceremonies.

Purdue joins Butler University and Indiana State University as Indiana colleges who have canceled spring ceremonies. Others are considering it.

5:34 p.m., March 17

Gleaners raises enough to meet Irsay’s $1M challenge

In less than 24 hours, Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana has raised more than $200,000, the amount needed to receive a matching donation of $1 million from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay.

Irsay announced Monday that he would give the organization $1 million to help provide food to the hungry during the pandemic if the community first donated $200,000.

On Tuesday afternoon, Gleaners announced it had already exceeded that goal.

“This overwhelming response exceeded our expectations,” Gleaners President and CEO John Elliott said in a written statement. “We were confident we would achieve the goal, but did not expect to do so in less than 24 hours.”

4:07 p.m., March 17

ISO calls off performances for two more months

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, which already canceled this month’s performances, now plans to call off all events through May 27 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, it announced Tuesday.

In addition to three concerts in March on six dates, the ISO is canceling eight concerts in April and May covering 16 dates.

Those with tickets can donate the money spent on them to the ISO by not seeking a refund. Or they can exchange tickets for any concert remaining in the current ISO subscription season (ending June 13) or the summer Bank of America Film Series. Tickets also can be exchanged for gift certificates to be used for any ISO ticket purchase in the next 5 years

Exchanges can be made through June 13.

1:50 p.m., March 17

City to designate parking spots for takeout food

Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Indianapolis Department of Public Works announced Tuesday special parking meter accommodations that aim to make it easier for residents to get takeout food from restaurants affected by COVID-19 restrictions. The city will temporarily designate up to two parking meter spaces in front of any local restaurant that requests “Carry-Out Parking Only” signage.

Restaurant owners looking to request signage should email their business name, owner name, contact information, parking zone, and restaurant location to [email protected]. Signage will be placed as soon as possible, given the volume of requests.

The move comes after the Marion County Public Health Department on Monday ordered restaurants to stop serving food to dine-in customers. The order stands through April 5.

“As a community, we are implementing measures that prioritize the health of our residents,” Mayor Joe Hogsett said in written comments. “It is my hope that this initiative will not only make it easier for residents to stop into a local establishment to pick up lunch or dinner but save them a few dollars that can be spent helping those working in the service industry.”

12:48 p.m., March 17

Archdiocese of Indianapolis cancels masses

Effective Wednesday, the five Catholic bishops of Indiana have suspended Sunday and weekday masses until further notice for the dioceses of Indianapolis, Gary, Evansville, Fort Wayne-South Bend and Lafayette, according to an announcement on the website for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

The decision was made “in light of new information and recommendations from health officials concerning the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgency to stem the spread of the virus,” the brief statement said.

12:28 p.m., March 17

Funeral businesses put limits on services, visitations

One of the city’s largest funeral service providers in Indiana is implementing restrictions to lessen the size of groups attending services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Flanner Buchanan, along with associated companies Legacy Cremation & Funeral Services and Lavenia & Summers, said they are limiting visitation and funeral services to immediate family and invited friends only.

The businesses said they are following guidelines from government and health authorities to limit the size of gatherings.

Flanner Buchanan, founded in 1881, has 13 locations in central Indiana. The company said it is offering streaming services at no extra charge so services can be viewed at home.

10:55 a.m., March 17

Indiana reports second death from COVID-19

A Johnson County patient who had been hospitalized has died from COVID-19.

It is the second death in Indiana. On Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state’s first death.

Both patients were over 60 years old. The state said no additional information about the patient will be released due to privacy laws.

The health department also reported six new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to 30. There are two new cases in Lake County, two in Franklin County and two in Marion County.

The health department’s report includes results from tests performed at ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and through a private laboratory. Only 159 tests have been administered so far. Health officials say the Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly thousands more—than those indicated by the limited number of tests.

Cases have been confirmed in 15 Indiana counties so far. Marion County has the most cases, with nine.

As of Tuesday morning, 4,661 cases had been reported in the United States with 85 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. Washington state has seen 48 deaths.
More than 185,000 cases have been reported globally with 7,330 deaths. John Hopkins said more than 80,200 people have recovered from the virus.

12:35 a.m., March 17

Irsay announces $1M challenge to raise funds for food bank

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay on Monday announced he would donate $1 million to Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana to help provide food to the hungry during the pandemic if the community first donates $200,000.

Irsay said he was issuing the challenge in response to COVID-19 and its impact on children and families. Donations are being accepted at givergy.us/gleaners.

10:35 p.m., March 16

FACE Low-Cost Animal Clinic closes until April 20

FACE Low-Cost Animal Clinic announced Monday it is closing and temporarily suspending services immediately. The state’s largest low-cost, high-volume provider of basic veterinary care said it intends to reopen with limited services on April 20.

“After reviewing the recommendations put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Veterinary Medical Association, as well as the actions of school systems, public health departments, and our local, state and federal officials, we are taking these measures to ensure the well-being and safety of our clients, employees, volunteers, and community,” said Jen Hancock, executive director of FACE, in a written statement. “Furthermore, we want to support our partners in human health care by ensuring they have access to the critical medical supplies they need.”

FACE performed 10,461 spay-neuter surgeries in 2019.

6:23 p.m., March 16

The Dow take another nosedive

The Dow Jones industrial average took a 2,997-point nosedive on Monday as fears deepened that the coronavirus outbreak will throw the global economy into recession.

Even for a market beset by volatility in recent weeks, the losses were staggering. The 12.9% drop in the Dow was its worst since 1987. The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ also dropped 12%.

MORE

6:15 p.m., March 16

Purdue extends online classes through end of semester

Purdue University is extending remote learning through the end of the year, meaning students won’t be returning to campus for in-person classes.

On March 10, Purdue University announced that it would temporarily move its classes online, with the goal of having students eventually return to the university before the end of the school year.

But Purdue, like Indiana University earlier Monday, has opted to finish the Spring 2020 semester using online classes.

“We had wanted to preserve the slim hope of a return to in-person instruction, but evolving circumstances and scientific guidance make it clear that no such resumption would be responsible,” President Mitch Daniels said in a letter posted on university’s website. “Our own faculty experts in public health and virology are strongly supportive of this move. And, our faculty and staff will now be better able to plan the remainder of the semester with this decision made.”

Purdue’s residence halls will remain open, although the school urged students who have another place to go to leave.

6:12 p.m., March 16

Fadness tells Fishers residents to limit travel, asks gyms, churches, other venues to close

Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness has declared a local emergency and issued a travel advisory watch for the next seven days that urges residents to eliminate any unnecessary trips around the city—and he’s encouraging fitness centers, entertainment venues, gyms and places of worship to close.

Fadness acknowledged that he has no authority to shut down those locations, but he said “it is our civic responsibility for all of us to make the right choices and make sacrifices to ensure the long-term safety and sustainability of our community.”

But he said that, by declaring a disaster emergency, he does have the ability to limit travel. He said people in Fishers should only travel for medical attention, to care for others for whom a person is the primary caregiver, to and from mandatory work, and to pick up food, medication, essential household goods and hygiene products.

The restrictions are to begin at 8 a.m. Tuesday and last for one week.

The mayor said the Fishers Police Department and Fishers Fire and Emergency Services will be enforcing Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive order requiring restaurants and bars to operate on a carry-out or delivery-only basis.

In addition, he said all Fishers Parks and Recreation facilities and playgrounds will be closed.

2:31 p.m., March 16

Indianapolis Zoo closing with no set reopening date

The Indianapolis Zoo said Monday it will close to the public indefinitely, starting Tuesday.

The decision follows new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restricting gatherings to fewer than 50 people.

The zoo said it will continue providing its animals the “same extraordinary level of care during the closure as they do every day.”

Indiana’s state-owned attractions, including the Indiana State Museum, will also be closed starting Tuesday.

2:31 p.m., March 16

Indiana loses first patient to COVID-19

An Indiana COVID-19 patient who was treated at Community Health died on Monday, Gov. Eric Holcomb has announced.

“Sadly, we knew it would happen,” Holcomb said. “We anticipate it will again.”

Dr. Ram Yeleti, chief physician executive at Community Health Network, said the individual was over 60 years old and had health issues. But, he said, the individual “would not have died if not for COVID-19.”

He said the individual’s significant other is also infected, and therefore, the two could not be together. Instead, a Community Health nurse stayed in the room with the individual.

“This is the beginning,” Yeleti said. “This is real.”

Indiana has 24 positive COVID-19 tests. However, state officials have acknowledged there are likely many more cases.

2:15 p.m., March 16

5th District forums postponed

Two candidate forums for Indiana’s 5th Congressional District have been postponed.

The Westfield GOP Club announced Monday morning that it is postponing its forum, which had been expected to take place March 25 at the Westfield High School auditorium, following Gov. Eric Holcomb’s restrictions on large gatherings and Westfield schools closing.

“My goal is to reschedule this in April once social distancing is no longer required and am hoping I will have a clearer picture in the next few weeks,” Westfield GOP President Scott Willis said in an email.

The forum scheduled tonight by Indiana Town Halls has also been called off.

The event was initially scheduled to be at a 350-seat auditorium in Noblesville. Last week, organizers changed the format to be without an audience and livestreamed from WFYI-TV Channel 20’s studio in downtown Indianapolis. Former “Indiana Week in Review” host Jim Shella was expected to moderate, but Shella posted online Monday afternoon that the event had been postponed.

Shella’s announcement came after 5th District GOP candidate Kelly Mitchell said she would not be attending the forum as originally planned due to coronavirus concerns. She called on Indiana Town Halls to reschedule it. It was not immediately clear whether her request impacted the decision.

2:01 p.m., March 16

IndyCar searches for solutions in case Indy 500 must be canceled or postponed

Officials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar racing series are searching for alternatives in case coronavirus restrictions extend into late May.

Sources close to the series said Mark Miles, CEO of Penske Entertainment Group—which owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar Series—and his lieutenants are looking at contingency plans for holding the race this summer or fall.

The Centers for Disease Control has recommended that no gatherings with more than 50 people take place for the next eight weeks. The Indy 500 falls two weeks outside of that time frame. And the first practices fall just outside of it, too. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday directed the state to follow those recommendations.

The GMR Grand Prix is set to run on the Speedway’s road course May 9, which is inside that eight-week period.

“We are aware of the CDC’s interim guidance suggesting the postponement of events involving more than 50 people over the next eight weeks,” IMS and the IndyCar Series said in a statement issued Monday. “Our priority is to do our part in protecting the public health while still conducting the 104th Indianapolis 500 … as scheduled on May 24. This continues to be a dynamic situation which we are monitoring constantly in coordination with federal, state, local and public health officials. We are planning for all contingencies and will be prepared to run the GMR Grand Prix and Indy 500 as the COVID-19 situation permits.”

MORE

1:30 p.m., March 16

Hogsett orders gyms, theaters and more to close; issues travel warning

Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Marion County Public Health Department on Monday issued a series of orders prohibiting all gatherings of 50 or more people and extending closures in Marion County to entertainment venues, gyms and fitness facilities, as well as restaurants and bars.

Hogsett also issued an executive order declaring a local disaster emergency in Marion County and issuing a watch-level travel advisory, which advises against travel except when essential, such as travel to and from work, in emergency situations or to pick up groceries or prescriptions. The order will be in effect for at least seven days, and Hogsett plans to seek permission from the Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night to extend the order to April 5.

Grocery stores and cafeterias within hospitals and nursing homes will remain open. The Marion County restrictions are stricter than those of the state.

MORE

12:06 p.m., March 16

State agencies ramp up work-from-home options, limits meetings to 10 people or less

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Monday that state government’s 30,000 employees will “maximize the use of remote work” wherever possible and meet virtually when possible while maintaining operations.

State agencies are limiting non-essential, in-person meetings to 10 people or less and employees have been directed to meet virtually whenever possible. High-risk individual should not attend meetings in person.

Employees who work outdoors have been encouraged to practice social distancing, Holcomb said in a statement.

State employees over the age of 60 with underlying health conditions have been advised to work from home.

11:54 a.m., March 16

State museum to close; state parks and inns remain open

The Indiana State Museum and Historic sites, which are closed on Mondays, will close to the public indefinitely beginning Tuesday.

The visitors center at White River State Park will also close.

However, Indiana state parks and recreation centers, including state park inns, will remain open, and their restaurants will covert to take-out and delivery.

11:31 a.m., March 16

Holcomb directs restaurants, bars, nightclubs to close

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb on Monday morning announced tighter restrictions on everyday life in the state in hopes of stemming the spread of COVID-19, including the closure of bars, restaurants and nightclubs through the end of March.

He also directed hospitals and other health care facilities to cancel elective and non-urgent surgical procedures immediately. IBJ reported on Sunday night that three major central Indiana hospital systems already were taking steps to do so.

Holcomb said the state would adhere to the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to limit mass gatherings to no more than 50 people.

The directive on food and entertainment venues came with the caveat that eateries still could provide takeout and delivery service.

MORE

11:10 a.m., March 16

State reports 24 virus cases, with 7 in Marion County

The Indiana State Department of Health on Monday said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 in the state has risen to 24, an increase of five cases from Sunday’s report.

No deaths from the virus have been reported.

The health department’s report includes results from tests performed at ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and through a private laboratory. Only 139 tests have been administered so far. Health officials say the Indiana has far more coronavirus cases—possibly hundreds more—than those indicated by the limited number of tests.

The department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

Thirteen counties have reported cases, with four experiencing multiple cases: Marion (7), Hendricks (3), Johnson (3) and Howard (2).

Indianapolis-area counties with single cases are Boone and Hamilton.

The first positive case of COVID-19 in the state, reported March 6, involved a Marion County resident who traveled to Boston in late February to attend the BioGen conference.

As of 10:53 a.m. Monday, 3,813 cases had been reported in the United States with 69 deaths, according to a running tally maintained by health researchers at Johns Hopkins University & Medicine.

More than 174,786 cases have been reported globally with 6,705 deaths. John Hopkins said more than 77,650 people have recovered from the virus.

9:15 p.m., March 15

Hospitals cancel, restrict non-urgent surgeries

As the threat of the coronavirus sweeps across Indiana, hospitals are beginning to cancel or restrict elective, non-urgent surgeries to make room for a possible influx of patients.

Ascension St. Vincent announced Sunday evening it will be canceling elective surgeries effective Tuesday at its flagship hospital on West 86th Street—the city’s largest hospital, with more than 1,600 beds.

Community Health Network hospitals also are postponing elective procedures unless the physician, in consultation with the hospital’s medical director, determines the patient will face a “life-threatening or life-altering risk” in the next 30 days.

A spokesman for Franciscan Health Indianapolis said on Sunday it is restricting the number of elective cases, but has not yet banned surgeons altogether from performing them.

MORE

9 p.m., March 15

IU extends virtual classes through end of semester; students won’t return to campuses

Indiana University will extend its spring break for one week and then finish the semester with all its classes online, rather than bringing students back in April for in-person instruction as it originally planned.

The change means students will begin virtual instruction on March 30 through the end of the semester.

IU President Michael McRobbie said Sunday night that the rapidly changing coronavirus outbreak makes it “now clear we need to go beyond the actions we have already taken.”

“At this time, we continue to have no confirmed cases on Indiana University campuses,” he said. “But with the anticipated greater availability of test kits in the near future, this could change very quickly.”

The school originally told students and faculty that it planned to suspend in-person classes at all of its campuses for the two weeks following spring break, which was scheduled from March 15 to March 22. Students were to receive instruction remotely from March 23 to April 5 and return to their campuses on April 6.

IU will also close most of its residence halls and on-campus housing on March 20.

8:55 p.m., March 15

CDC recommends gatherings don’t exceed 50 people

In the most extreme effort yet to slow the march of coronavirus in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended late Sunday that events of 50 people or more not be held for about two months.

In addition, the Trump administration announced Sunday that some of the most vulnerable Americans will be able to get tested for the novel coronavirus from their cars starting this week—a significantly less ambitious program than the swift nationwide testing campaign President Donald Trump promised Friday.

In its announcement, the CDC said that for the next eight weeks, organizers should cancel or postpone in-person events of that size throughout the U.S. When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.

MORE

7:30 p.m., March 15

Indiana has 20th case, this one in Floyd County

A resident of Floyd County has tested positive for COVID-19 and is being treated at Baptist Health Floyd hospital, Floyd County health officials said Sunday.

Health officials said he attended church, several sporting events and was at Caesars Southern Indiana casino over the past two weeks.

5:25 p.m., March 15

Fed cuts interest rates to nearly zero to combat outbreak

The Federal Reserve took emergency action Sunday and slashed its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to nearly zero and announced it would purchase more Treasury securities to encourage lending to try to offset the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The central bank said the effects of the outbreak will weigh on economic activity in the near term and pose risks to the economic outlook.

The central bank said it will keep rates at nearly zero until it feels confident the economy has weathered recent events.

The actions are the most drastic steps since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

MORE

4:41 p.m., March 15

Ohio, Illinois close bars, restaurants

Officials in Ohio and Illinois have ordered restaurants and bars to close in the state in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced Sunday that all bars and restaurants around Ohio must close Sunday night at 9 p.m.

In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has also ordered bars and restaurants shut—starting Monday night and lasting through March 30—although they also will be allowed to remain open for deliveries and pickup orders.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has not ordered any retail closures, although he has restricted gatherings to no more than 250 people.

His spokeswoman, Rachel Hoffmeyer, said that Holcomb “continues to evaluate the situation. We will send out notice of any decisions that are made.”

MORE

2:38 p.m., March 15

Fed’s expert says he’s open to a ‘national shutdown’ to stem virus

The government’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday he would like to see aggressive measures such as a 14-day national shutdown that would require Americans to hunker down even more to help slow spread of the coronavirus.

Still, Dr. Anthony Fauci said travel restrictions within the United States, such as to and from hard-hit Washington state and California, probably will not be needed anytime soon.

Fauci, the public face of the administration’s messaging during a round of morning TV interviews, said the country should do as much as “we possibly could,” even if officials are criticized for “overreacting.” He said he raised the issue of measures such as a shutdown with the Trump administration, and said it has been open to his ideas.

“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” said Fauci, a member of the White House task force on combating the spread of the coronavirus. He heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health

MORE

2:10 p.m., March 15

Kroger latest retailer to restrict hours

Kroger announced that stores in Indiana and four other states in its central division will restrict hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The new hours will apply to Kroger and Pay Less stores.

Kroger is the latest grocery chain to announce restricted hours. Market District and Walmart have similarly restricted hours in an effort to let employees restock shelves and sanitize their stores.

“Our supply chain teams are working tirelessly to ensure that food, medicine and cleaning supplies reach our customers as quickly as possible,” said a Kroger statement. “This schedule change will allow our store teams to focus on stocking the fresh, affordable food and essentials that our customers are looking for when they walk in our stores.  The change will also allow even greater attention to cleaning our stores.”

11:17 a.m., March 15

Simon closes suburban Philadelphia mall

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group is closing one of the nation’s largest malls, located in suburban Philadelphia, days after Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said all non-essential retail outlets should close to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Simon had initially posted a statement saying that the King of Prussia mall would let individual stores decide whether to stay open. The Philadelphia Enquirer reported that the statement said, “With respect to Gov. Wolf’s statement, the governor did not mandate store closures and did not define what nonessential retail is.”

But on Sunday, the security office of the King of Prussia mall said the mall was closed until further notice. A notice from Simon said nonessential mall tenants were expected to comply “effective immediately” with the governor’s recommendation.

11:00 a.m., March 15

State confirms 4 more cases of COVID-19, including one in Hamilton County

State health officials say 19 people in Indiana have now tested positive for COVID-19—an increase of four cases in the past 24 hours, including the first in Hamilton County.

Three additional cases have also been diagnosed in Marion County. No deaths have been reported.

The following counties have confirmed cases:

Adams: 1

Boone: 1

Hamilton: 1

Hendricks: 2

Howard: 1

Johnson: 3

LaPorte: 1

Marion: 6

Noble: 1

St Joseph: 1

Wells: 1

10:17 p.m. March 14

Walmart to reduce hours starting Sunday

Walmart announced Saturday that it will reduce hours at thousands of its stores—Walmart locations and Neighborhood Market stores—to 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice.

“This will help ensure associates are able to stock the products our customers are looking for and to perform cleaning and sanitizing,” the store said in a statement posted on its website.

Stores that were already operating on more reduced hours will maintain those hours of operations.

“I don’t think any of us have been through an experience like this,” Walmart U.S.’ chief operating officer, Dacona Smith, said in the statement. “And we continue to be amazed at what our people, whether in the stores or in the supply chain, are doing to make sure customers have what they need.”

7:48 p.m., March 14

Georgia becomes second state to delay primary

Georgia’s March 24 presidential primaries will be postponed to May 19, election officials announced Saturday as cases of coronavirus in the state jumped and Gov. Brian Kemp activated the National Guard and signed an emergency declaration unlocking sweeping powers to fight the disease threat.

In-person early voting, which began statewide March 2, will be halted and the election will be moved to May 19, when Georgia’s other 2020 primary elections are being held, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement.

The move comes a day after Louisiana pushed back its primaries. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order on Friday delaying the April 4 primary in Louisiana until June 20.

In Indiana, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties are calling for more flexibility in how voters can cast ballots on the May 5 primary election but not a date change.

In a joint letter sent Friday to the Indiana Election Commission from Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody, they suggest allowing any registered voter to vote absentee by mail.

Ohio, Florida, Illinois and Arizona are planning to hold primaries on Tuesday, with election officials in those states saying they are taking extra precautions to protect voters.

7:35 p.m., March 14

President Trump’s coronavirus test was negative

Donald Trump’s doctor says the president has tested negative for novel coronavirus.

Trump had held out on testing for days, despite his interactions with at least three people who have since tested positive. Trump had said Friday that he would probably take the test at some point, but the White House doctor said as recently as Friday night that no test was called for because Trump wasn’t exhibiting symptoms.

But on Saturday, the president acknowledged having had a test.

6 p.m., March 14

Indiana casinos to close starting Monday

Indiana’s casinos will be closed for two weeks beginning at 6 a.m. Monday, the state’s racing and gambling regulators announced Saturday.

The closings follow Gov. Eric Holcomb’s directive on Thursday that non-essential gatherings should be limited to no more than 250 people. That has led to a rash of closings or cancellations at theaters, event venues and museums.

The Indiana Gaming Commission and Indiana Horse Racing Commission said they will continue to monitor the coronavirus situation and will provide updates.

1:45 p.m., March 14

IPL, Duke, Citizens defer disconnections for unpaid bills

Indianapolis Power & Light, Duke Energy and Citizens said they are suspending service shutoffs for people with unpaid bills.

IPL said it “recognizes the impact and stress COVID-19 is causing in people’s daily lives.” IPL and Citizens are delaying disconnections until April 15. Duke has not announced a time period.

However, the utilties said customers will ultimately be responsible for paying all charges accrued during the time that shutoffs are deferred.

1:31 p.m., March 14

Trump tested, waiting for results

After days of resistance, President Donald Trump said Saturday that he was tested for the coronavirus as the White House stepped up precautions after his direct and indirect exposures to COVID-19.

Trump also told reporters at a White House briefing that he had his temperature taken before stepping into the room and it was “totally normal.”

Trump had held out on testing for days, despite his interactions with at least three people who have since tested positive. Trump had said Friday that he would probably take the test at some point, but the White House doctor said as recently as Friday night that no test was called for because he wasn’t exhibiting symptoms.

MORE

1:03 p.m., March 14

Market District restricts hours to allow restocking, sanitization

The Market District grocery store in Carmel said Saturday it will begin limiting its hours to give workers time to restock shelves and sanitize the store.

The store will be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. The adjacent GetGo store will mirror the supermarket hours.

Standalone GetGo stores will operate with normal business hours.

“We continue to be amazed by the relentless dedication of our Team Members, and the calmness of so many guests as they visit our busy stores,” said Giant Eagle spokesperson Dan Donovan. “By standardizing opening and closing hours for the time being across our supermarkets, we are putting our store teams in the best position to ensure optimal shopping conditions for our guests each day.”

11 a.m., March 14

Three more people in Indiana test positive, raising total to 15

Three additional people in Indiana have tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel coronavirus.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Saturday reported a total of 15 cases, up from 12 on Friday. The agency is updating its coronavirus dashboard at 10 a.m. each morning.

The new cases are in Marion, Wells and LaPorte counties. There have now been three positive tests in Marion County.

There have been 2,177 positive tests in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins, which is tracking the virus. There have been 47 deaths and 12 recoveries, according to the dashboard.

State health officials have acknowledged there are more cases in Indiana than have been detected because of limited testing. But Dr. Kristina Box, the state’s health commissioner, said the problem has not grown to the point that the health care system has seen significant impacts.

“I suspect there’s definitely more cases than we’ve recognized here, but again it’s not a Washington state thing because we don’t have that kind of burden on our health care hospital system right now,” Box said.

7:48 p.m., March 13

Holcomb suspends commercial driver rule to try to stock shelves

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Friday his administration is taking steps to suspend or modify state rules to help individuals and business that are adversely affected by efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Holcomb signed an executive order meant to speed up deliveries to retailers, which are running short of supplies, by lifting regulations on the number of hours that commercial drivers can work.

The exemption will last through April 5.

MORE

6:30 p.m., March 13

White House, House Democrats reach deal on coronavirus economic relief package

The White House and House Democrats reached agreement Friday on a coronavirus relief package to spend tens of billions of dollars on sick leave, unemployment insurance, food stamps and other measures to address the unfolding crisis.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced the agreement in a letter to fellow House Democrats. “We are proud to have reached an agreement with the Administration to resolve outstanding challenges, and now will soon pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.”

A vote to pass the legislation was expected later Friday in the House, and in the Senate next week.

MORE

6 p.m., March 13

Center for Performing Arts suspends events through April 12

Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts has suspended all performances and events on its campus through mid-April.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a ban on large public gatherings Thursday as a way to control the spread of the coronavirus. In response, the center announced on Friday that it would suspend activities at all of its venues—the Palladium, the Tarkington and the Studio Theater—until April 12.

Performances include those by the Carmel Symphony Orchestra, Central Indiana Dance Ensemble, Civic Theatre, Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre and Indiana Wind Symphony.

Educational and rental events at the Center have also been canceled.

A written statement indicated the Center is working to rescheduled events, if possible.

In the meantime, officials with the Center are contacting ticketholders to offer refunds. Ticketholders will also be given the option to donate the balance of their purchase to the presenting organization as a way to help defray costs associated with the cancellation.

16:45 p.m., March 13

Conner Prairie to close through March 30

Conner Prairie in Fishers has announced it will be closed beginning Saturday through March 30.

The living history museum joins The Children’s Museum and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra in closing to the public to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. The closure affects all exhibits and scheduled special events.

“While the museum has not had any presumptive or confirmed cases of coronavirus on our grounds, this decision was made with an abundance of caution to protect its members, visitors, staff, volunteers and community,” the museum said in a news release.

Conner Prairie will continue to monitor and re-evaluate the situation during the next two weeks and plans to issue an update on or before March 30 about whether it will reopen at that time.

4:45 p.m., March 13

Democratic, Republican chairmen call for more flexibility in primary voting

The leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties in the state are calling for more flexibility in how voters can cast ballots on the May 5 primary election.

In a joint letter sent Friday to the Indiana Election Commission from Indiana GOP Chairman Kyle Hupfer and Indiana Democratic Party Chairman John Zody, they suggest allowing any registered voter to vote absentee by mail.

Currently, Indiana voters can vote absentee by mail if they have a disability, are at least 65 years old, are a member of the military or are public safety official, are a “serious sex offender” or have a specific reason they can’t vote on Election Day, such as unavailability of transportation, have to work the entire 12 hours polls are open or are confined due to illness or injury,

Zody and Hupfer say they think the Election Commission should suspend that rule so voters do not need a reason to vote by mail.

NEW

3:04 p.m., March 13

United Way launches $16.5M virus relief fund

A coalition of community organizations led by the United Way of Central Indiana announced Friday the creation of a $16.5 million fund for community economic relief for those affected by COVID-19.

The fund will support human service needs during economic distress associated with the novel coronavirus, which has caused temporary closures of schools, businesses and organizations in Indiana.

The fund was announced Friday afternoon during a press conference.

The fund, called the Central Indiana COVID-19 Community Economic Relief Fund, received a $15 million donation from Lilly Endowment Inc. and a $500,000 contribution from each of the following: Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation, Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation and United Way of Central Indiana.

The grants will be distributed to human service organizations in Boone, Hamilton, Hancock, Hendricks, Marion and Morgan counties.

MORE

2:14 p.m., March 13

Indiana officials say virus cases undercounted due to test shortage

Indiana officials say the state has more coronavirus cases than reported and the number is likely to increase as more testing becomes available.

Through Thursday, Indiana has 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including two in Marion County, two in Hendricks County and three in Johnson County. None of the cases have been fatal.

But across the state, people are regularly being denied testing because the Indiana State Department of Health has a limited number of test kits available, which is likely affecting the number of positive cases. The department had tested only 73 people through Thursday.

In Ohio, for example, state officials estimate that more than 100,000 individuals likely have the virus, even though the state has only reported five confirmed cases.

“We’d probably be close to that,” State Health Commissioner Kristina Box said Friday morning when asked about the Ohio figure.

But she said she doesn’t believe the virus has become a widespread problem yet because hospital systems would already be overwhelmed.

“I suspect there’s definitely more cases than we’ve recognized here, but again it’s not a Washington state thing because we don’t have that kind of burden on our health care hospital system right now,” Box said, referencing how the high number of cases in Washington are already causing delays in patient care.

MORE

1:30 p.m., March 13

Marian University, Franklin College cancel in-person classes

Two independent colleges announced Friday they would join the state’s public universities in suspending in-person classes.

Marian University announced on Twitter Friday that from Monday through March 27, it would move to an “alternative instructional delivery model” for most classes. Students were informed that faculty would contact students by 5 p.m. Friday to let them know how their classes would be taught for the next two weeks.

Franklin College in Franklin announced classes would be suspended and that resident halls will close to students Sunday. Distance learning is expected to begin Wednesday through March 27 when spring break begins.

1:30 p.m., March 13

500 Festival cancels events through April 11

The 500 Festival is canceling its events through April 11, including a 10-mile race, a private corporate event and 500 Festival Princess Program outreach.

The not-for-profit organization that plans community events around the Indianapolis 500 race said it is continuing to plan for events after April 11, including the One America Mini Marathon, scheduled for May 2.

“This is an evolving situation and we will continue to monitor it closely while also working in close partnership with local and state officials,” the 500 Festival said in a statement. “At this time, we are proceeding with plans to produce our month of May events.”

MORE

12:59, March 13

Indianapolis Public Library to close over coronavirus concerns

The Indianapolis Public Library will close all of its locations and bookmobile services as of 5 p.m. Saturday, the organization has announced.

The closure also includes cancellation of all library programs inside and outside of library buildings.

Nytes said the library plans to resume normal operating hours on April 6, but it will “continue to assess the situation to determine if a longer closure is warranted.”

MORE

12:37 p.m., March 13

IHSAA boys basketball tournament postponed with no rescheduled date

The Indiana High School Athletic Association has opted to postpone the state’s boys basketball tournament, after first deciding that it could be completed with games played without fans.

The group announced Friday that due to the number of schools closing for several weeks to stem the spread of COVID-19, it would be impossible to complete the tournament as scheduled.

The boys basketball regional games were scheduled for Saturday at 16 sites around the state. Four semistates were scheduled for the following weekend, and the state finals were March 28.

No date has been announced for rescheduling the tournament.

“The association will continue to evaluate the utility of continuing the boys basketball tournament at a later date and will inform our member schools and the public as soon as a definitive decision can be reached,” ISHAA Commissioner Bobby Cox said.

12:11 p.m., March 13

IndyCar series canceling all races before Month of May in Indy

The IndyCar open-wheel racing series is canceling the first four events of its 17-race 2020 season, beginning with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg that was set to run Sunday.

The next three events were to be the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, set for April 5; the Acura Grand Prix at Long Beach, set for April 19; and the AutoNation IndyCar Challenge, set for April 26.

“Although we are disappointed to delay the start of this IndyCar season and will miss our incredible fans … the safety of our fans, participants, staff, partners and media will always be our top priority,” a media release from the series said Friday.

The next two events are considered part of the Month of May festivities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The GMR Grand Prix is set for May 9, and the Indianapolis 500 is set for May 24.

IndyCar is just the latest major sports league or series to cancel or postpone events due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. The list includes the NBA, NHL, XFL, PGA and the NCAA’s men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The decision represents a huge setback for racing mogul Roger Penske, who purchased the struggling series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in January with plans to reinvigorate interest in the series.

MORE

11 a.m., March 13

Children’s Museum, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra close temporarily over virus

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis are joining hundreds of other orchestras, performing arts groups and cultural institutions across the country by suspending operations temporarily during the coronavirus outbreak.

The ISO on Thursday announced it would suspend performances and public events through the end of March. The decision means the cancellation of three concerts scheduled for six dates: The Passion of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (March 13-14); Ruth Reinhardt Leads the ISO: March 19, 20, 21); and Mendelssohn’s Elijah (March 27).

The Children’s Museum announced plans Friday to close from Saturday, March 14 through March 28.

The museum will postpone the re-opening of Sports Legends Experience. It’s preschool will also close temporarily, and all programs and events that were scheduled to take place through March 28 will be postponed.

The Indiana State Museum, the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art and the Indiana Museum of Art at Newfields say they are open but closely monitoring the situation.

MORE

8:30 a.m., March 13

Hackers pounce as coronavirus spread triggers work-at-home movement

As businesses increasingly—and in rapid fashion—urge their employees to stay at home to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, another risk to companies is emerging.

Cybersecurity experts warn that cybercriminals are moving in to target people not used to working from home and companies without work-at-home policies or cyber-safety nets.

Tech companies including Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Google have asked at least some of their employees to work from home amid the outbreak. San Francisco-based Salesforce, which has a major presence in Indianapolis, has asked its California employees to work remotely through March.

“When you have a situation like we’re in now, creating a lot of questions and confusion—and in this case triggering changes in work habits and the way we use technology, hackers are going to find a way to try to exploit the situation, and that’s what’s happening,” said Aaron Pritz, co-founder and CEO of RevealRisk, a Carmel-based firm specializing in cybersecurity. “We’re not saying you should keep coming to the office because of cybersecurity risks. We’re just saying if you make a transition, you have to do your diligence.”

Eli Lilly and Co. this week asked all those employees who could do so to work from home for an indefinite period. And many schools too are moving to a remote educational system.

The trend is likely to become more pronounced locally and nationally in the coming weeks.

MORE

7 a.m., March 13

Thousands of Hoosiers ask about COVID-19 testing, but most get turned away

Across Indiana, people are growing increasingly upset they can’t get tested for COVID-19 to learn whether they are infected.

The main reason: the Indiana State Department of Health has a limited number of test kits and has imposed strict conditions on who is eligible for testing.

As of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday, only 64 Hoosiers had been tested—or about 0.00009% of the Indiana population. The tests have resulted in 12 positive cases.

Many local hospitals say they have no test kits on hand and must go along with the state’s guidelines. But that puts them in a difficult position when patients call and insist on being tested.

MORE

1:05 a.m., March 13

Lilly teams with Canadian biotech in race to find treatment for COVID-19

Eli Lilly and Co. is teaming with a Canadian biotech to develop a treatment for COVID-19, the illness spread by novel coronavirus, with a goal of getting an antibody therapy into clinics for human testing within four months.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker said Thursday that it had entered into a agreement with AbCellera, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, to co-develop antibody products for the treatment and prevent of the disease, which has claimed more than 4,000 lives worldwide.

MORE

9:15 p.m., March 12

Hamilton County schools to close

Districts in Hamilton County announced late Thursday they will close schools into April, with the dates of the closings dependent on the district.

School officials said the decisions were based on Gov. Eric Holcomb’s directive banning events, meetings or other gatherings of more than 250 people.

“We recognize how challenging this situation is for some of our families, students and staff,” said an announcement from Hamilton Southeastern Schools. “This decision was made after consultation with Hamilton County health officials and other Hamilton County schools.”

Hamilton Southeastern will close for students starting Monday and will stay closed through April 2. HSE will use a combination of eLearning and waiver days that Holcomb said Thursday would be available to all schools.

MORE

5:49 p.m., March 12

Hogsett tells police to use summonses—not arrests—for some non-violent crimes

Indianapolis police will issue summonses for defendants to appear in court—rather than arresting them—for crimes that will be charged as non-violent misdemeanors, Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday.

The move is mean tot keep inmates out of jail at a time when local officials are seeking to stop the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The city said officers will be allowed to make arrests if they believe they are necessary to protect the public.

Hogsett also said Thursday that:

  • City-County government will begin implementing operational changes designed to protect employees and the public while maintaining basic service. The changes include a ban on non-essential travel by city employees, the transition to work-from-home for employees able to take advantage of city technology, and a push for residents to use online services when possible.
  • The Parks Department has suspended all senior programming and is evaluating other parks programming.
  • The City-County Council will be developing new tools for online engagement to ensure continued access and engagement for public meetings.

Ivy Tech delays semester, postpones in-person teaching

5:36 p.m., March 12

Ivy Tech Community College announced Thursday afternoon that it will be delaying the start of the second eight-week semester of classes until March 23 and will be teaching them virtually or through other alternative methods for their first two weeks.

The semester had been scheduled to start Monday.

The community college is the latest in a long line of Indiana higher education institutions to back away from in-person classes because of concern about the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, Butler University, Ball State University and UIndy all announced they would suspend in-person classes for at least several weeks.

5:20 p.m., March 12

All Marion County public schools to close through April 5

Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday that all of Marion County’s public school districts and charter schools sponsored by the Mayor’s Office will close their doors starting Friday.

Combined with already-planned spring breaks, the schools will remain closed through April 5.

“This decision is made in conversation with all public schools within Marion County, who agree it’s time to take this step out of an abundance of caution,” said Virginia Caine, the director of the Marion County Health Department.

MORE

4:25 p.m., March 12

Dow suffers biggest percentage drop in 33 years

The stock market on Thursday had its biggest drop since the Black Monday crash of 1987 as fears of economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis deepened.

The Dow industrials plunged more than 2,300 points, or 10%. The sell-of came despite action from the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. The steep drops over the last month have wiped out most of the big run-up on Wall Street since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. Markets have turned turbulent amid a cascade of shutdowns across the globe and rising worries that the White House and other authorities around the world can’t or won’t help the weakening economy any time soon.

The S&P 500 shed nearly 261 points, or 9.5%, while the Nasdaq Composite dropped 750, or 9.4%.

MORE

4:21 p.m., March 12

Gov. Holcomb puts limits on social gatherings, makes it easier for schools to close

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. More guidance is expected to be posted on the Indiana State Department of Health website by the end of the day.

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 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.

MORE

4:20 p.m.. March 12

No March Madness: NCAA calls off basketball tournaments, other sports championships

The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Thursday called off all winter and spring sports championships, including the men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournaments.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the Indianapolis-based organization said in a written statement.

MORE

4:19 p.m., March 12

Firefighters postpone massive Indy convention due to COVID-19

The FDIC International convention—which with 35,000 participants is one of the biggest annual tourism events for Indianapolis—has been postponed with no date yet for rescheduling.

The convention for firefighters and other rescue personnel was scheduled to run April 19-25. It typically has an economic impact of nearly $35 million for the city.

MORE

4:06 p.m., March 12

Concert promoter Live Nation, Broadway, Hollywood shutting down over virus

The entertainment industry prepared Thursday for an unprecedented shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, canceling upcoming concerts, movies, suspending all Broadway performances and eliminating live audiences from television shows until it’s safe to welcome crowds back.

Huge national concert promoter Live Nation is instructing its touring shows to prepare to return home, Billboard magazine reported Thursday. The company told employees it will be postponing current touring arena shows through the end of the month.

To accommodate calls for social distancing, Hollywood moved to pause the normal hum of TV productions and the bustle of red-carpet movie premieres. After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people, Broadway theaters announced that they would close immediately and remain dark through April 12.

MORE

4:06 p.m., March 12

Schools in Boone County shut down through at least April 6

Zionsville Community Schools and Lebanon Community Schools on Thursday announced they are closing their schools until at least April 6 because of COVID-19 concerns.

The districts said they will be closed beginning at 6 p.m. Thursday. Classes are canceled for Friday, and students will begin e-learning Monday.

Students will continue with online learning through March 27, when spring break for both districts begins.

The closures includes all activities, rentals, special events and performances.

12:38 p.m., March 12

Fiat Chrysler says a Kokomo worker has tested positive for COVID-19

A Fiat Chrysler Automobiles worker in Kokomo has tested positive for COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, and is receiving medical care, the company announced.

The Indiana State Health Department confirmed a Howard County case on Thursday morning.

Fiat Chrysler said the employee works at the Kokomo Transmission Plant is currently receiving medical care.

The plant remains open. But the company said in a statement that has “placed into home quarantine [the worker’s] immediate co-workers and others in the facility he may have come into direct contact with.”

“Additionally, the company has deep cleaned and disinfected his working area and is deploying additional sanitation measures across the entire facility, retiming break times to avoid crowding and deploying social spacing,” the company said.

A dozen people in Indiana have now tested positive for the coronavirus.

11:57 a.m., March 12

Big Ten cancels remainder of men’s basketball tournament

The Big Ten Conference announced at midday Thursday that it is canceling the remainder of its men’s basketball tournament, effective immediately, because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19.

The tournament started Wednesday night at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Fans were present for Wednesday’s games, but the conference that evening announced it would be barring them from the remaining days of the tournament, which was supposed to run through Sunday.

MORE

11:45 a.m., March 12

Statewide student music competition cancels some events

An organization that planned to sponsor student music festivals across Indiana over the next few weeks involving more than 35,000 participants has decided to cancel them.

The Indiana State School Music Association said Thursday that it made the decision in hopes of protecting the young musicians from the spread of COVID-19. Students from more than 300 schools were set to perform at more than 30 school facilities.

The canceled competitions involve junior, middle and elementary school concert groups and the ISSMA State Show Choir and Jazz Finals. The events were set to take place through April 11.

The ISSMA has not yet decided what will happen with some high school events scheduled to take place after April 11, said Executive Director Michael Bridgewater.

A process is being developed to allow participants whose events have been canceled to submit recordings for evaluation, Bridgewater said.

10:55 a.m., March 12

St. Patrick’s Day Parade, canal greening called off

The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Indianapolis and two other St. Patrick’s Day-related events have been called off because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The downtown parade had been scheduled to take place for the 40th time on Friday before being called off by the Athletic Club Foundation.

“After consulting with public safety officials and reviewing a great deal of public information, the Foundation determined that it would be in the best interest of the general public and the fans that attend this event to cancel,” the group said Thursday in a statement.

Additionally, the Greening of the Canal event scheduled for Thursday and the Annual Shamrock Run Walk were also canceled.

A tent party sponsored by the Public Safety Foundation that was scheduled to take place during the parade also was nixed.

1 a.m., March 12

Huge volleyball event canceled due to coronavirus scare

Plainfield-based Capitol Sports Center has canceled the Nike Mideast Volleyball Qualifier, which was expected to draw upwards of 38,000 people—including young athletes and their families—to the Indiana Convention Center, Lucas Oil Stadium and the Incrediplex sports center northeast of Lawerence. The event was scheduled for March 20 to 22.

The event was canceled “due to the current health scare throughout the nation,” following discussions between Capitol Sports, governing body USA Volleyball, local and state health departments and the Indiana Convention Center, according to a brief statement on the group’s website.

The event helps determine the national championship bracket for USA Volleyball (age groups 15 Open, 15 Select and 16-18s), while also drawing college scouts from across the country. About 105 courts were expected to be set up throughout the convention center’s exhibit halls and inside Lucas Oil Stadium, while 17 courts would have been used at the Incrediplex.

The Mideast Qualifier was expected to bring $24.8 million into the local economy, as the city hosted hundreds of girls volleyball games. St. Louis was slated to host games this weekend, for separate age brackets, however those competitions were also canceled.

11:10 p.m., March 11

Butler, BSU, UIndy suspending in-person classes

Butler University, Ball State University and UIndy all announced Wednesday that they would suspend in-person classes for at least several weeks in hopes of stemming the spread of COVID-19 among their school communities.

The Indiana schools noted that no cases of the respiratory illness had been reported on their campuses, and they plan to switch instruction from classrooms to online venues. All three schools are incorporating spring break into their plans.

MORE

9:41 p.m., March 11

NBA suspends season after player comes down with virus

The National Basketball Association has suspended its season “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive Wednesday for the coronavirus, a move that came only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas.

Now there will be no games at all, at least for the time being. A person with knowledge of the situation said the Jazz player who tested positive was center Rudy Gobert. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the team confirmed the presumptive positive test.

A person who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity said the league expects the shutdown to last a minimum of two weeks, but cautioned that time frame is very fluid.

If the season is suspended at least through March, the Indiana Pacers will miss eight games, including five home games. The Pacers were next scheduled to play on the road Saturday in Philadelphia. The team’s next scheduled home game was next Wednesday against Golden State.

MORE

7:14 p.m., March 11

NCAA says it might move regional basketball games out of Lucas Oil

NCAA President Mark Emmert said the NCAA wants to move the men’s Final Four from Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium to a smaller arena in the area.

And it will also will consider using smaller venues for regional sites currently set to be played at the Toyota Center in Houston, Madison Square Garden in New York, Staples Center in Los Angeles and Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

“We have to determine the availability of the sites, obviously, but it doesn’t make good sense to have a football stadium be empty,” Emmert said.

All sites for next week’s men’s games will remain the same unless conditions in those areas force relocation, Emmert said.

MORE

7:02 p.m., March 11

Big Ten to ban fans starting Thursday

The Big Ten Conference announced late Wednesday that it will ban fans from its men’s basketball tournament starting Thursday, the second day of action at the Indianapolis event.

The decision came less than two hours after the NCAA said it would play its March Madness games in empty stadiums.

The Big Ten said it will only admit student-athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and conference staff, TV network partners, credentialed media and immediate family members of the participating teams.

In addition, the Big Ten said all winter and spring sport competitions, including championship and tournament events will be limited to the same group of people.

MORE

4:54 p.m., March 11

NCAA to play basketball tourney games without fans

The Indianapolis-based NCAA said Wednesday afternoon it is banning fans from its March Madness men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, explaining that it wants to limit the spread of the COVID-19 illness.

NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the games will be open only to “essential staff and limited family attendance.”

“While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sport, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States,” he said in written remarks. “This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and mostly importantly, our student-athletes.”

MORE

3:42 p.m., March 11

Park Tudor closing through April 13

Park Tudor School in Indianapolis on Wednesday announced it will be closed through April 13 out of “an abundance of caution” as the number of COVID-19 cases in Indiana increases.

The private school posted the update on its website and emailed parents Wednesday afternoon.

The school said there are no known cases of COVID-19 within “the Park Tudor community,” but the school was notified Wednesday that at least three members of its “community” may have been in contact with individuals who have tested positive for the virus.

The school will be closed following dismissal Wednesday until at least April 13. The closure includes an already-scheduled two-week spring break from March 30 to April 10. Beginning March 16, the school will implement e-learning.

“We understand that this is quite disruptive for all of you, as well as for our students,” the notice states. “Please know that we have not made this decision lightly, and it is based on our desire to protect the heath and safety of our entire community from COVID-19, particularly the more vulnerable members of our community.”

2:30 p.m., March 11

Carson cancels Youth Opportunities Fair

Rep. Andre Carson, D-Indianapolis, announced Wednesday that he has decided to cancel his seventh annual Youth Opportunities Fair, which was scheduled for March 16 at the Indianapolis Central Library. Carson said he was doing it “out of an abundance of caution to protect my constituents.”

“This is one of my favorite events of the year, and my staff and I cherish this chance to connect young people with a variety of enrichment activities that can help change lives,” he said in a statement. “But as COVID-19 continues its rapid spread, it’s clear that the health and well-being of friends, neighbors, and colleagues takes precedence.”

1:20 p.m., March 11

Law firm reopens Indy office

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath reopened most of its offices Wednesday, the firm said in a statement, though its Washington, D.C., offices remained closed for monitoring.

The firm had closed all its offices on Tuesday and asked employees to work remotely after someone who visited the Washington office was later diagnosed with COVID-19, which is caused by the coronavirus. commonly known as coronavirus. The firm said it later learned a second person who visited the Washington office was also diagnosed with coronavirus.

“Because the scope of each guest’s contact with firm colleagues was not readily known, and because our attorneys, consultants and professionals have been traveling cross-office to support firm integration efforts, we chose to exercise caution while our leadership team evaluated the situation,” the firm said in announcing the reopening of most offices.

“The health and safety of Faegre Drinker’s colleagues, clients, visitors and their loved ones is a top priority. The firm’s executive leadership team acted quickly to protect those we care about, making time to gather key facts, assess risk and determine appropriate next steps,” the statement said. “We received helpful advice from a board-certified infectious disease expert with specialized knowledge in communicable diseases, including coronavirus, and consulted with internal specialists. Additionally, we took the precautionary measure of engaging a specialized service to clean and disinfect each office prior to our colleagues returning.”

12:40 p.m., March 11

Notre Dame becomes latest Indiana university to call off in-person classes

University of Notre Dame on Wednesday followed in the footsteps of Indiana University and Purdue University in temporarily suspending in-person classes and planning to move instruction online.

University officials said classes on its South Bend campus would be halted on March 16 through at least April 13.

President John Jenkins attributed the move to protecting students from the spread of coronavirus, although no cases have been identified on the university’s campus.

“The probability that it will spread to our region is high,” Jenkins said in a letter to the university community.

Notre Dame students and faculty currently are on spring break. In order to give them time to adjust to new circumstances, all in-person and online classes will be canceled March 16-20. Online instruction will begin on March 23.

Jenkins also said he was suspending all study-abroad programs and bringing students and U.S.-based faculty home as soon as possible.

10:32 a.m., March 11

Indy Hematology Review postpones conference until August

The Indy Hematology Review, which was expected to hold its annual meeting March 21 at the Westin downtown, has postponed its event to August. The group had been expected to draw up to 500 doctors from across the state, but several guest speakers were required to withdraw from the event because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“We decided, for the safety of all the physicians and professionals that will be there, to postpone it,” said Debbie Locklear, president of Meeting Services Unlimited, which helped organize the event.

The spread of COVID-19 means the event will now be held Aug. 14-15, also at the Westin.

10:14 a.m., March 11

State total of COVID-19 cases rises to 10

The Indiana State Department of Health on Wednesday said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 has risen to 10 in the state after the emergence of four more cases, including three cases in Johnson County.

The other newly identified patient resides in Howard County, the department said.

The health department is providing case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

On its statistical online dashboard, the department said it had tested 43 Hoosiers for the virus. No deaths have been reported.

MORE

7:33 a.m., March 11

Indy Lilly employee tests positive for COVID-19

An Eli Lilly and Co. employee in Indianapolis has tested positive for COVID-19, multiple TV stations reported early Wednesday.

Lilly spokesman Scott MacGregor confirmed the case to WRTV-TV Channel 6 but said he could not elaborate on the circumstances, citing employee privacy.

“We continue to monitor the situation,” MacGregor said. “We’re evaluating this on a day-by-day basis.”

The station said it was not immediately clear whether the Lilly employee is included in the six cases confirmed by the Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday.

Lilly employs about 11,000 people in Indianapolis.

7:30 a.m., March 11

Medical group cancels plans to meet in Indy, takes conference online

The American Medical Women’s Association has canceled plans to meet in Indianapolis for a March 26-29 conference and has moved the events online out of concern about COVID-19.

The association had planned to hold its Leadership Development Conference for Women Physicians at the Hyatt Regency but said in a statement that “continuing on with the meeting would have caused undue hardships for many, if not most, attendees.”

“Our primary obligation as health care providers is to our patients and the communities in which we live,” the group said on its website. “In light of all of these factors, we decided not to convene the live annual meeting in favor of a virtual platform.”

AMWA’s members are physicians, residents, medical students, pre-medical students and health care professionals.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams—a former Indiana’s state health commissioner—was scheduled to be a keynote speaker for the event.

Last week, the American Coatings Show and Conference announced it would postpone its event, which had been scheduled for March 31-April 2 at the Indiana Convention Center.

This week, the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Department of Indiana canceled its spring conference due to concern the coronavirus could affect some of its attendees. The event, which had been scheduled for March 13-15 at the Indianapolis Marriott East, was expected to draw more than 200 people, including elderly veterans and school-age children.

1:24 a.m., March 11

Coronavirus clusters swell on both coasts

Alarming clusters of the coronavirus swelled on both coasts of the U.S. on Tuesday, with more than 70 cases now tied to a biotech conference in Boston and infections turning up at 10 nursing homes in the hard-hit Seattle area.

New York’s governor announced he is sending the National Guard to scrub public places and deliver food in a New York City suburb that is at the center of the nation’s biggest known cluster of infections.

At least 24 people have died in Washington from COVID-19, most in the Seattle metro area. Nineteen of the deaths are linked to one suburban Seattle nursing home and authorities in King County said the virus has spread to at least 10 long-term care facilities

On Wednesday, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will announce a ban on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in virtually the entire Seattle metro area to try to stop the spread of the outbreak, said a person involved in the planning of the decision.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency as cases statewide jumped by 51 from the day before, to 92. Of that number, 70 are now connected to a meeting held last month by biotech company Biogen at a hotel in downtown Boston.

Santa Clara County in California, home to San Jose and Silicon Valley, on Monday announced a ban on all gatherings of 1,000 people or more.

MORE

10:50 p.m., March 10

Scrutiny on NCAA tournament coronavirus plan intensifies

The Indianapolis-based NCAA faced mounting pressure over how it will conduct its marquee event Tuesday, the same day the Ivy League canceled its conference basketball tournaments and two other Division I conferences announced that their tournaments would be played without spectators because of escalating concerns about the novel coronavirus.

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments are scheduled to begin next week at more than two dozen sites across the country, including multiple venues in Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, issued a strong recommendation Tuesday to play indoor sporting events in nearly empty arenas. The NCAA remained noncommittal in how it will proceed.

“The NCAA continues to assess how covid-19 impacts the conduct of our tournaments and events,” the organization said in a statement, referring to the disease caused by the new coronavirus. “We are consulting with public health officials and our COVID-19 advisory panel, who are leading experts in epidemiology and public health, and will make decisions in the coming days.”

As coronavirus concerns have shut down college campuses, canceled political rallies and led to the National Guard entering New Rochelle, New York, scrutiny is intensifying on the NCAA, which is preparing to host large-scale gatherings across the country. The pace of the coronavirus’s spread and statements by public officials further raised the specter of one of America’s most popular sporting events unfolding in front of television audiences only, with squeaking sneakers and bouncing balls providing an echoing, eerie soundtrack.

The Mid-American Conference and the Big West announced minutes apart Tuesday evening they would hold their tournaments—in Cleveland and Anaheim, California, respectively—without spectators. The MAC followed the recommendation of DeWine, who asked for no spectators at indoor sporting events “other than the athletes, parents, and others essential to the game.”

“The safety of all is our greatest concern,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said.

MORE

8 p.m., March 10

IPS cancels all field trips through April 3

Indianapolis Public Schools said Tuesday it has canceled all school sponsored field trips through April 3 as a measure to protect students from contracting COVID-19, caused by a coronavirus.

No cases have been identified among IPS students and staff.

“We know and acknowledge the inconvenience and loss of opportunity for students, yet the risks of not acting now far outweigh the disruption,” the district said in a statement on its website.

“The health and safety of our students, families and staff is our primary concern in this fluid situation,” the statement said. “These decisions are being taken to help mitigate and slow the spread of COVID-19 and to help protect the IPS community.”

6:25 p.m., March 10

One of city’s largest law firms has closed its offices; attorneys working remotely

Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath closed all 22 of its global offices Tuesday due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak. Attorneys worked remotely after concerns that employees in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office had potentially been exposed a day prior.

No staff members or lawyers from the firm had tested positive for COVID-19, but a person who attended a firm event in Faegre Drinker’s Washington office had tested positive.

MORE

6:22 p.m., March 10

Purdue, IU take on-campus classes online in bid to prevent virus spread

Indiana University and Purdue University announced Tuesday that they would suspend in-person classes after their upcoming spring breaks out of concern for the novel coronavirus spreading across the globe.

Neither school has identified any COVID-19 cases on campus.

IU told students and faculty that it planned to suspend in-person classes at all of its campuses for the two weeks following spring break, which runs from March 15 to March 22. Students will receive instruction remotely from March 23 to April 5, and then are expected to return to their campuses on April 6.

Purdue University told its professors to move their courses to online or alternative delivery before March 23. An email from Purdue President Mitch Daniels and Provost Jay Akridge said the change would “continue as long as in-person instruction seems inadvisable (potentially through the end of the semester).”

Purdue’s spring break begins March 16 and runs through March 21. “To be clear, the campus will remain open after spring break,” the email said. “However, starting March 23, students must take their courses online.”

MORE

3:37 p.m., March 10

Hamilton County plans virus awareness session

Hamilton County officials are planning a Facebook Live discussion about the CORVID-19 virus to spread awareness without risking infection.

Three county agencies—the Hamilton County Commissioners, the Hamilton County Health Department and Hamilton County Emergency Management—will each host a live video discussing the coronavirus on their Facebook pages at 8:30 p.m. on March 18.

“We felt that a public meeting is contrary to current public health guidance and that this type of communication is one of the safest ways to educate our citizens,” County Commissioner Christine Altman said in a written statement. “Any business you can conduct remotely right now is a best practice and certainly helps reduce risk of exposure.” Though there are no known cases of the virus in Hamilton County, two of the state’s six confirmed cases as of Tuesday afternoon are in neighboring Marion and Boone counties.

1:35 p.m., March 10

Gleaner’s makes its Community Cupboard Food Pantry drive-thru only

Gleaner’s has changed the distribution of food from its Community Cupboard Food Pantry to a drive-thru option only and has closed its interior facility, including its restrooms, to the public, out of concern about COVID-19 and possible volunteer shortages.

Pantry will remain the same during the week, but distribution this Saturday due to a lower number of volunteers and staff available. The Senior Shopping Day scheduled for Monday from 10 a.m. to noon will go on as scheduled, again in the drive-through format.

Volunteers and staff will be available to guide clients when they arrive at the Gleaners warehouse. Due to parking and environmental issues, clients are asked to arrive no earlier than 9:30 a.m. and to not idle cars as they wait.

“It is important that we prepare appropriately for several possible scenarios, continue to modify procedures as needed, but also remain calm and focused on our current responsibilities to clients and others—not overreacting, but taking prudent steps to prepare for possibilities,” said Gleaners CEO John Elliott in a statement. “We feel modifying our distribution is a good step, eliminating the need for clients, staff, and volunteers to congregate in our waiting area.”

10:48 a.m., March 10

Two more reported cases of virus bring state total to six

The Indiana State Department of Health on Tuesday said the number of presumptive positive cases for COVID-19 has risen to six after the emergence of two more cases.

The newly identified patients reside in Adams and Boone counties, the department said. Adams County is in northeastern Indiana along the Ohio state line, and its county seat is Decatur.

The health department said it would provide case updates daily at 10 a.m. based on results received through midnight.

On its statistical online dashboard, the department said it had tested 36 Hoosiers for the virus. No deaths have been reported.

The first positive case of COVID-19, reported Friday, involved a Marion County resident who traveled to Boston in late February to attend the BioGen conference.

A second case, reported Sunday, involved a Hendricks County patient who also attended the Biogen conference.

The third case in the state, reported Sunday night, involved a student at Hickory Elementary School in the Avon Community School Corp. The fourth was reported Monday in Noble County in northern Indiana.

9:42 a.m., March 10

Some state prison facilities halt visitation as precaution

The Indiana Department of Correction announced Tuesday that it has suspended visitation to some prison facilities indefinitely because of the coronavirus outbreak. The department said there are no known cases of COVID-19 among staff or offenders housed at IDOC facilities, but it was taking the step as a precaution.

The following facilities are affected:

  • Indiana State Prison – LaPorte County
  • Indiana Women’s Prison – Marion County
  • Heritage Trail Correctional Facility – Hendricks County
  • Plainfield Correctional Facility – Hendricks County
  • Reception Diagnostic Center – Hendricks County
  • Westville Correctional Facility – LaPorte County
  • LaPorte Juvenile Correctional Facility – LaPorte County
  • New Castle Correctional Facility – Henry County

“I know how important visitations are to offenders and to their family and friends, but the overriding concern is to limit the opportunity of COVID-19 being introduced into our facilities,” IDOC Commissioner Rob Carter said in written comments. “I’ve directed my staff to assess the need for continued visitation restrictions on a daily basis, and when responsible to do so, restrictions will be lifted, or if necessary, expanded to other facilities to protect staff and offenders.”

12:52 a.m., March 10

Trump to seek payroll tax cut as part of virus response

President Donald Trump said Monday that he is seeking major policy changes that White House officials hope will arrest the widening economic turmoil caused by the coronavirus outbreak by providing immediate federal aid to workers and a number of business groups. Trump said he will ask Congress to cut payroll taxes and provide relief to hourly workers suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus. He also said he was seeking to provide assistance to the airline, hotel and cruise industries, which are all suffering as Americans rapidly cancel travel plans.

4:45 p.m., March 9

Dow drops 7.8% as crashing oil prices, virus fears slam markets

The Dow Jones industrial average sank 7.8% on Monday, its steepest drop since the financial crisis of 2008, as a free-fall in oil prices and worsening fears of fallout from the spreading coronavirus outbreak seize markets.

The sharp drops triggered the first automatic halts in trading in two decades.

U.S. stocks are now down 19% from the peak they reached last month. Bond yields plumbed new lows as investors sought safety.

The price of oil plunged nearly 25% after Saudi Arabia indicated it would ramp up production after Russia refused to production cutbacks in response to falling demand.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 2,013 points, or 7.8%, to close at 23,851. The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 225 points, or 7.6%, to end at 2,746. The Nasdaq dropped 624 points, or 7.3% closing at 7,950.

MORE

4:32 p.m., March 9

VFW cancels spring conference

The Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Department of Indiana has canceled its spring conference due to concern the coronavirus could affect some of its attendees. The event, which had been scheduled for March 13-15 at the Indianapolis Marriott East, was expected to draw more than 200 people, including elderly veterans and school-age children.

The event draws veterans from across the state, including the heads of various VFW posts.

Deborah Ryan, adjutant for VFW Indiana, said the decision came after news broke today of COVID-19, the disease caused by a novel coronavirus, impacting the Avon school district and other parts of central Indiana.

“We are pretty close to where some of these cases have been reported,” she said. “We don’t want to put our attendees at any kind of risk, especially those veterans that may be older or immunocompromised.”

She said the group’s summer conference is still scheduled for June 11-14, also at the Marriott on the east side.

3:15 p.m., March 9

Avon schools will be closed through March 20

All Avon Community School Corp. schools will be closed through March 20 after a second student began displaying symptoms of COVID-19, the school system announced Monday afternoon.

The student has not tested positive for the disease.

Avon Schools Superintendent Maggie Hoernemann said closing all schools is a precautionary measure. Officials did not say what school the second student displaying symptoms attends.

With the district’s spring break scheduled for March 23-April 3, students won’t actually return to school until April 6.

On Sunday night, a student at Hickory Elementary School in Avon schools tested positive for COVID-19, which led the district to close that school through March 20.

The other schools had an e-learning day on Monday. But now, district officials are expanding the closure to the entire district.

District officials said the schools will utilize e-learning days as much as possible during the closure.

Students without internet can request paper packets. The district will also provide families who rely on the school system for meals for their children with paper bag meals.

Dr. Kristina Box, Indiana’s state health commissioner, warned that the next two weeks should not be viewed as a spring break, with families visiting museums, the movies or the mall. Families need to practice social distancing, she said.

12:20 p.m., March 9

Noble County in northern Indiana has coronavirus case

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd District, said Monday that an individual at Parkview Noble Hospital has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the illness caused by a novel coronavirus that was first discovered in China. The patient is the fourth in Indiana to test positive for the virus.

Banks said the patient does not have school-aged children, meaning the East Noble School Corp. has not been immediately affected.

“My office reached out to Parkview Health, the Noble County Health Department and East Noble School Corporation,” he said in a statement. “We’ve requested regular updates on the new coronavirus case and offered any assistance our office can provide.”

9:54 a.m., March 9

Virus fears, crashing oil prices take toll on stock market

Stocks fell sharply Monday on Wall Street on a combination of coronavirus fears and plunging oil prices, triggering a brief, automatic halt in trading to let investors catch their breath.

The price of oil sank nearly 20% after Russia refused to roll back production in response to falling prices and Saudi Arabia signaled that it will ramp up its output.

While low oil prices can eventually translate into cheaper gasoline, they are wreaking havoc on already struggling energy companies and countries that depend on oil, including the No. 1 producer, the United States.

The war between the giant oil producers came just as Italy heads for a huge hit to its economy as it enforces a lockdown on 16 million people in the northern part of the country, the heart of its manufacturing and financial industries. The turmoil is expected to push Italy into recession and weigh on the European economy.

The carnage in other markets was nearly as breathtaking as in oil. U.S. stocks careened closer to a bear market, signified by a drop of 20% from its record, while a measure of fear in the market touched its highest level since the 2008 financial crisis. European stock markets fell even more sharply, and Treasury yields plunged to more record lows in the latest vicious swings for a market that has rocked investors the last couple weeks.

The S&P 500 plunged as much as 7.4% in the first few minutes of trading, and losses were so sharp that trading was temporarily halted. Stocks trimmed their losses following the halt, and the index was down 4.8%, as of 11:44 a.m. Eastern time.

MORE

7:30 a.m., March 9

Hendricks County elementary school student has positive COVID-19 test, school district says

A student at Hickory Elementary School in the Avon Community School Corp. has tested positive for COVID-19, the school district reported late Sunday night.

The district said on its website that it had been informed of the positive test by the Hendricks County Health Department. As a result of the positive test, all schools in the district will have an e-learning day on Monday. In addition, Hickory Elementary School will be closed for two weeks, which will be followed by the district’s regularly scheduled two-week spring break. School is set to resume April 6.

This is the third reported positive test for COVID-19 in Indiana, and the second in Hendricks County. Earlier on Sunday, Indiana health officials said a man from that county who had traveled to Boston in late February to attend the BioGen conference had tested positive. The man developed mild flu-like symptoms on March 2.

The patient is not hospitalized, officials said, but they did not disclose where or when the individual was tested. It was not immediately clear whether there is a connection between that man and the Hickory Elementary student.

MORE

3:45 p.m., March 8

Anxiety grips companies around globe as virus spreads

Since breaking out of China, the coronavirus has breached the walls of the Vatican. It’s struck the Iranian holy city of Qom and contaminated a nursing home in Seattle.

And around the world, it’s carrying not just sickness and death but also the anxiety and paralysis that can smother economic growth.

From Florida, where the CEO of a toy maker who can’t get products from Chinese factories is preparing layoffs, to Hong Kong, where the palatial Jumbo Kingdom restaurant is closed, businesses are struggling. The virus has grounded a British airline, and it’s sunk a Japanese cruise-ship company.

The cumulative damage is mounting.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development this week slashed its forecast for global growth for this year to 2.4% from 2.9%. It warned that Japan and the 19 European countries that share the euro currency are in danger of recession. Italy may already be there.

Capital Economics expects the Chinese economy to shrink 2% in the January-March quarter and to grow as little as 2% for the year. That would be a disastrous and humiliating comedown for an economy that delivered a sizzling 9% average annual growth rate from 2000 through last year.

The bleak outlook and nagging uncertainties about how severe the damage will be have shaken financial markets. The Dow Jones industrial average, gyrating wildly from day to day, has plummeted nearly 12% over the past month.

“The virus is going to go on, and it’s going to impact a lot of countries and economies,” said Sondra Mansfield, who owners Chalk of the Town in New York City, which makes T-shirts and tote bags that children can write on with chalk.

MORE

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Editor's note: IBJ is now using a new comment system. Your Disqus account will no longer work on the IBJ site. Instead, you can leave a comment on stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Past comments are not currently showing up on stories, but they will be added in the coming weeks. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

3 thoughts on “THE LATEST: Traffic counts sink; Chicago cases soar; state leaders work apart; Indiana deaths reach 31; casino laying off 407

  1. How does this situation compare with a serious Flu pandemic like H1N1? There is no comparison so far as I can see. There does seem to be a great deal of concern but a little over 200,000 cases and about 9000 deaths out of a population of over 7.4 billion people makes me think a little bit.

  2. Failure to disclose makes scrutiny of public policy impossible.
    Same for failure to disclose modeling assumptions.
    Back when we used to have a news media, this could never happen.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets in {{ count_down }} days.