COVID-19 response memo, 5/22/20

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COVID-19 response memo, 5/22/20

BY THE NUMBERS

Number of Statewide Cases: 30,409 (+473)

Marion County Cases: 8,928 (+113)

Hamilton County Cases: 1,084 (+13)

Johnson County Cases: 1,052 (+3) US Cases: 1.57M

Global Cases: 5.1M

Number of Statewide Deaths: 1,791 (+27) Number of Marion County Deaths: 528 (+10) US Deaths: 94,729 (+1,123)

Global Deaths: 333,489 (+4,189)

Number of new Hoosiers Filing for Unemployment: 30,311 as of 5/21/20

FEDERAL

Updated PPP Guidance

On Thursday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Treasury released additional guidance on the PPP Lender Processing Fee Payment and 1502 Reporting Process. The new guidance informs PPP lenders on the process by which they will report PPP loans and collect processing fees on fully disbursed loans. 

USDA Set to Provide $1 Billion in Loan Guarantees for Rural Businesses and Ag

On Thursday, Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced USDA will provide loan guarantees of up to $1 billion to assist rural businesses struggling to meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Secretary Perdue also announced agricultural producers not eligible for USDA Farm Service Loans can receive funding under the USDA Business and Industry (B&I) CARES Act Program.

The Department is providing a 90 percent guarantee on Business and Industry CARES Act Program loans and will set the application and guarantee fee at 2 percent of the loan. Appraisals will be accepted within two years of the loan application date and no collateral will be required for working capital loans. The maximum term for working capital loans is 10 years.

Loans under the program must be used for working capital to prevent, prepare for, or respond to the effects of COVID-19 on business activity. Eligible businesses must have been operational as

of Feb 15, 2020. Program funding will expire on September 30, 2020. A press release on the announcement is here.

Senators Introduce RESTART Act

Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced the Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty (RESTART) Act on Thursday to support small and medium-sized businesses hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. The RESTART Act would provide increased flexibility to employers who took out PPP loans by extending the 8 week loan period to 16 weeks for businesses that have seen revenues decline by 25 percent or more. The legislation would also create a loan program to provide funding to cover 6 months of payroll, benefits, and fixed operating expenses. The bill would also provide loan forgiveness as a backstop to combat ongoing economic stress. A one-pager on the bill is here.

FDA Provides Transparency for Antibody Tests

FDA has posted a list of antibodies tests that will be removed from the notification list of tests being offered for COVID-19. Antibodies tests on the removal list were either voluntarily withdrawn or do not have a pending emergency use authorization with the agency. Such tests are not expected to be marketed or distributed. A press release from FDA on the announcement is here.

TSA Updates Security Procedures

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced changes to the security screening process in an effort to reduce cross-contamination and prevent the spread of COVID-19. The updated security screening process will require passengers to keep possession of their boarding pass rather than handing it to a TSA official. A separate X-ray screening for food items will be also be implemented as part of the updated security measures. TSA is also encouraging travelers to wear masks and adhere to social distancing guidelines. A press release from TSA is here.

Virus ‘Does Not Spread Easily’ From Contaminated Surfaces or Animals, Revised CDC Website States

The coronavirus primarily spreads from person to person and not easily from a contaminated surface. That is the takeaway from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which this month updated its “How COVID-19 Spreads” website. The revised guidance now states, in headline-size type, “The virus spreads easily between people.” It also notes that the coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19, “is spreading very easily and sustainably between people.” The CDC made another key change to its website, clarifying what sources are not major risks.

Under the new heading “The virus does not spread easily in other ways,” the agency explains that touching contaminated objects or surfaces does not appear to be a significant mode of transmission. The same is true for exposure to infected animals.

CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said Thursday that the revisions were the product of an internal review and “usability testing.” “Our transmission language has not changed,” Nordlund said. “Covid-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person to person.” The virus travels through the droplets a person produces when talking or coughing, the CDC website says. An individual does not need to feel sick or show symptoms to spread the submicroscopic virus.

Close contact means within about six feet, the distance at which a sneeze flings heavy droplets.

Trump Calls on Governors to Allow Places of Worship to Open This Weekend

President Trump said that if governors do not follow his recommendations with regard to religious services, he will “override” them. Trump did not specify what that means and he did not take any questions. Earlier Friday, Trump voiced frustration that some states have put a lower priority on reopening houses of worship during the coronavirus pandemic than other enterprises that he described as less “essential.”

STATE

State Tells Agencies To Cut Budgets - 15% Reduction Sought as Virus Hits Economy State budget officials have ordered agencies to cut at least 15% from their fiscal year 2021 budgets as a result of lost revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State Budget Director Zac Jackson sent a memo Thursday directing the “reserve policy.” Essentially it means all agencies must identify 15% of their individual budgets to hold back and not spend. “I know these budget reductions will not be easy,” he said in the memo.

The new fiscal year starts in July, and it is unknown how much Indiana tax revenues will be impacted by the economic shutdown. April revenues were down about $1 billion, though much of that was related to delaying the tax filing deadline. “Unfortunately, we expect to continue to miss our revenue forecast for the remaining 14 months of this biennium,” Jackson said in the memo. “This projected loss of revenue puts a significant strain on the State's financial resources.” To maintain critical programs, Jackson directed all agencies to create a fiscal year 2021 spending plan with a reserve of 15%. The hold-back is to be applied to all functions of the agency, including grants and distributions. It impacts both General Fund and all dedicated fund programs.

This is on top of budget-tightening that the Indiana Office of Management and Budget ordered in late April, including a strategic hiring freeze, travel restrictions and limited overtime. Each agency must submit a new strategic plan by June 8 that will show how it will manage staffing and expenses to meet the reduction. If the entire fiscal year 2021 state budget was cut 15% – including other branches of government that Gov. Eric Holcomb doesn't control – it would be about $2.6 billion.

State Unemployment Rate Soared to 16.9% in April Amid Coronavirus Crisis

Indiana’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 16.9% in April as the coronavirus crisis paralyzed portions of the economy in the state and across the globe. The monthly statistics released Friday by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development are the first to fully reckon with job losses due to the global pandemic. The state’s unemployment rate for March of 3.2% was based on a survey taken early in the month, and thus didn’t reflect the surge in jobless claims over the course of March. The state unemployment rate for April was above the national unemployment rate of 14.7%.

Friday’s report also revealed decreases in the state’s labor force—which is composed of both employed and unemployed-but-willing-to-work residents—and its labor-force participation rate—the percentage of the state’s population that is either employed or actively seeking work. Indiana’s labor force shrank by 40,450 workers from March to April, dropping from 3.27 million to 3.23 million. Indiana’s labor-force participation rate decreased from 62.2% in March to 61.4% in April. It remained ahead of the national rate of 60.2%. Private sector employment in Indiana fell by 380,500 workers over the previous month, the state said. Total private employment was 2.33 million, which was 414,000 below the January 2019 peak.

The decrease was due in large part to losses in the Leisure and Hospitality sector (-116,000), Manufacturing (-78,200) and Private Educational and Health Services (-54,200). The state’s report for April likely doesn’t reflect current unemployment levels. So far in May, the state has received about 104,000 new applications for unemployment benefits.

LOCAL 

IU Announces Phased Reopening, Testing Partnership with IU Health

Indiana University has entered into an agreement with the state’s largest hospital system that will allow the university’s nearly 140,000 students, faculty and staff to get tested for COVID-19 starting June 1—a move that could allow the university to begin a “phased reopening.” IU President Michael McRobbie outlined plans in a note to the university community on Thursday. The note said the university could begin in-person instruction this fall “in some proportion,” but added the reopening would depend on the pandemic. “As we move forward into the summer and the fall semester, we must be constantly aware that the sheer unpredictability of the pandemic and the response to it from numerous quarters means that we may need, at any moment, to pause our plans or even reverse them,” McRobbie’s note said. “All our planning needs to incorporate these possibilities.”

IU, the largest university in the state, is trying to navigate its way to reopening after suspending most in-person operations, including research and instruction, in March.

Purdue University, the University of Notre Dame, Ball State University and Butler University, among others, have already said they plan to resume in-person instruction this fall, with possible limitations. The first phase at IU is for researchers, including graduate students, to return to their laboratories in June, “with the goal of restarting all on-campus research that can be resumed under the present circumstances by July 1,” the note said. IU is one of the largest research universities in the Midwest. “COVID-19 has posed exceptional challenges to research at Indiana University and around the world,” McRobbie’s note said. “The pandemic has slowed or stopped many major research activities on campus, though due to a wide range of protective measures taken internally, and the dedication and skill of IU researchers, IU has been able to continue some essential research on campus and considerable other research remotely.”

Under the reopening recommendations, athletes can begin training by mid-June, and students in clinical clerkships can begin by the end of June. McRobbie also said that on-campus, in-person instruction can take place this fall with extensive risk mitigation, testing and tracking procedures. The note did not include details on which programs or coursework would begin. He asked all campuses to report to him by Tuesday how they will implement the recommendations in a report from the university’s “restart committee,” which outlines medical and public health measures “that would permit us to enter into a period of phased reopening of our research and teaching operations.” He added: “Much of this work is already well advanced through dozens of campus committees that have engaged hundreds of faculty and staff members over recent months. In the coming weeks, the campuses will all be regularly communicating further details of their plans, which will all adhere closely to the committee’s report.”

The report contains numerous safety recommendations that are also being widely implemented by other organizations around the state. They include wearing face masks, maintaining at least six feet between people and work stations, installing plexiglass or other barriers in workspaces where people must face each other, and barriers in high-visited areas such as reception desks and check-in points. Neither McRobbie’s note nor the committee report specifically said whether large events, such as football games and concerts, would be permitted. “Large events significantly increase the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” the committee report said. “Decisions about whether to permit large gatherings need to be evaluated with respect to the importance to the university’s mission, the extent to which physical distancing is possible, the risk to vulnerable individuals, and federal, state and local guidelines.”

The report also addressed campus housing, recommending that double dorm room occupancy would be feasible if students are allowed to choose their roommates. Students in “vulnerable populations” could request a single room. All students should be vaccinated for influenza and meningococcal B, the report said. Greek organizations and other off-campus organizations should implement safety protocols for housing, dining, social gatherings, meetings and events. A large step, McRobbie said, is an agreement that IU has struck with Indiana University Health, a major hospital system that will screen and test any member of the university community who is symptomatic for COVID-19. Starting June 1, any student, faculty or staff who believes they have symptoms use IU Health to review “and whenever medically appropriate,” get tested for the virus.

The service uses a web-based IU Health COVID-19 symptom checker, a virtual assistant that screens and reviews symptoms using artificial intelligence to determine next steps. If the virtual assistant determines that further screening is required, individuals will be referred to the IU

Health Virtual Screening Clinic, which is also accessible through the web around the clock. There they will have a consultation with a medical professional who will review their symptoms. “Should it be determined that the person needs a COVID-19 virus test, they will be referred for the collection of samples for testing to one of 15 different IU or IU Health locations across the state of Indiana,” McRobbie’s note said.

The locations are in Bloomington, Indianapolis, Columbus, Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Kokomo, Lafayette, Muncie, New Albany, Richmond, South Bend and Terre Haute. All will be operational in early June, the note said. The testing specimens will be analyzed by the IU Health Pathology Laboratories in Indianapolis, which can carry out more than 6,000 COVID-19 tests per day, the largest such testing capacity in the state.

“Should a person receive a positive COVID-19 test, they will be directed to self-isolate for an appropriate period,” McRobbie’s note said. “Contact tracing will be required using the procedures established by the Indiana State Department of Health. During the contact-tracing process, persons potentially exposed will be provided additional resources and information.” McRobbie urged all students, faculty and staff to continue practicing physical distancing and to stay home for now “unless it is essential to be out.”

“Do not put others at risk,” he wrote. “And take care of your own health and the health of those around you—both mental and physical. We will almost certainly face more challenges and trials in the weeks and months ahead. But I am confident we will meet them—with the same toughness, fierce resolve, humanity and empathy that carried us through a difficult spring semester.”

IMPORTANT LINKS

Links to all executive orders may be found here: https://www.in.gov/gov/2384.htm

Link to the Stay-At-Home Order FAQ may be found here: https://www.in.gov/gov/3232.htm

More information may be found at the ISDH website at in.gov/coronavirus/ and the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

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