INDIANAPOLIS – At midnight Monday, essential and non-essential businesses will have new rules for operation during the coronavirus crisis under an order from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb.
The executive order outlines potential citations for violators.
Retail businesses, aside from stores providing essential services, will be required to operate similar to restaurants by closing their in-store services and conducting transactions over the phone or online.
“So think about florists, bookstores, fabric stores, craft stores, beauty supply stores,” said Joe Heerens, Holcomb’s general counsel. “We’ve created a category (in the executive order) that allows them to continue operating under new conditions and restrictions.”
All employers and businesses are encouraged to allow employees to either work from home or stay home sick, if applicable. If at work, employees should maintain six feet of separation from one another, according to the governor’s order.
Businesses selling necessities, such as food or medicine, should limit the number of customers in a store at any time, adjust their hours to accommodate vulnerable populations and limit hours to give themselves time to restock and clean, the order advises.
A state Enforcement Response Team will investigate reported violations of the executive order, including unsafe working conditions. Violators will first receive a verbal command to conform to the executive order. If they fail do do so, the state could order the business to close.
“This goes statewide (to ensure) all of these directives, in addition to the executive order, are complied with,” Holcomb said.
Additionally, the order closes all state campgrounds, with the exception of people living at campgrounds.
Enforcement begins at midnight Tuesday, 24 hours after the executive order starts. Despite the Easter holiday on Sunday, the limit on gatherings of 10 or more people will remain. Religious gatherings aren’t exempt.
“It’s hard to realize what’s in store for us over the next two weeks — drastic times call for drastic measures,” Holcomb said. “The truth of the matter is that this coronavirus, COVID-19, does not discriminate; it does not care what crowd you’re in. … This disease will prey upon large gatherings. We have it within us to prevent that.”
Dr. Kris Box, the state health commissioner, said the state has expanded the eligibility criteria for testing to include those with a high BMI and pregnant women.
“Since we have more capacity for testing at this time, we really are looking to our providers that are seeing patients in the hospital, in the emergency room or admitting, to make sure that they are testing for COVID-19,” Box said. “Especially in these high-risk populations.”
Box said the state has a goal of processing more than 6,300 tests daily. The state has tested 336 Hoosiers per 100,000 residents, a rate lower than all neighboring states, according to Box.
The state received its third and final shipment of personal protective equipment from the national stockpile, 80% of which has been dispersed. With “significant” conservation efforts, Box said, the supply could last 13 days.
“But (hospitals) are continuing to get (more) from their providers, their suppliers,” Box said. “We have very limited supplies remaining for emergencies. … It’s more important than ever that if you have PPE, please donate it.”
The state has increased its ventilator capacity by 124% and has 2,639. Of those, 27% are in use. Intensive Care Unit beds, all 2,964 across the state, have a 58% occupation rate, with a third of all ICU beds occupied by a patient with COVID-19. With 27% taken by non-COVID-19 patients, 42% of beds remained open as of Sunday.
Box said coroners have received guidance on coding COVID-19 deaths to ensure an accurate statewide count, which stood at 139 on Monday with 4,944 confirmed cases.
“Our hospitals are being very careful to make sure that they are also (tracking) individuals that looked like (they had COVID-19) based on their X-rays, based on the CT scan, even if they’re not testing positive for COVID-19,” Box said.
More than 126,000 apply for unemployment
Indiana’s unemployment numbers will be updated Thursday, but at least 126,223 Hoosiers applied for unemployment benefits during the week ending March 28.
Under the federal stimulus bill passed in March, each qualified unemployed American will receive $600 weekly in addition to the state benefit, which averages $300 a week. Benefits will be paid retroactively, starting March 29, through July 31.
“We’re able to take advantage of the entire length of time this benefit is available,” said Fred Payne, commissioner of the Department of Workforce Development.
A hundred contracted employees through a third-party vendor, in addition to 77 employees recently hired, will help the workforce development call center handle the influx of queries related to job losses during the coronavirus crisis, according to Payne.
Self-employed Hoosiers, gig workers and those with a limited work history are covered under the federal stimulus bill. But the state’s workforce development system had to be revamped to handle those applications, and processing them will take longer, Payne said.