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Coronavirus: Indiana Unemployment Surges Again, Holcomb Urges Safe Church Services

Justin Hicks
IPB News


The Indiana State Department of Health reported 42 additional deaths Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 245. The state announced 6,351 total confirmed cases, with more than 32,000 Hoosiers tested.

Indiana Unemployment Claims Surge For Third Consecutive Week

The country’s surge in unemployment continued another week with more than 6.5 million new applications for unemployment insurance. The state’s initial jobless claims are just under 134,000.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Indiana experienced a third week of unprecedented spikes in applications for unemployment insurance in response to massive COVID-19-related layoffs. Manufacturing-intensive areas including Elkhart and Allen counties continued to see spikes in claim numbers. 

Commissioner Fred Payne says the agency is getting a massive influx of phone calls and is trying to fix a problem where calls are getting dropped when transferred.

You Asked About Filing For Unemployment. We’ll Walk You Through It

Across the country, almost 17 million workers filed for unemployment benefits in the last three weeks due to COVID-19. That includes more than 300,000 people from Indiana. If you lost your job, had hours cut back, or have to stay home due to illness or childcare, there’s a good chance you are eligible for unemployment insurance – money meant to help ends meet while you’re out of work. 

READ MORE: Can I Go For A Walk? Here's What The Expanded 'Stay-At-Home' Order Really Does

LEE MAS: ¿Puedo Salir A Caminar? Esto Es Lo Que Significa Una Orden De Permanecer En Casa

We’ve received tons of questions from people asking who’s eligible, when benefits begin and how to apply. We’ll try to answer those questions here. If you can’t find the answer, you can check the Department of Workforce Development’s constantly updated FAQ page or email us.

Holcomb Advises Churches On Safe Services During Pandemic

Gov. Eric Holcomb is urging Christian Hoosiers to safely practice their faith this weekend as people celebrate Holy Week and Easter.

Holcomb’s “Stay-At-Home” order limits gatherings to no more than 10 people – though some churches throughout the state have flouted that restriction in recent weeks.

READ MORE: Sounds From A Virtual Passover Seder

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box says churches can host “drive-in” services, though they still need to follow social distancing guidelines.

“Stay in your cars," Box says. "Go to the bathroom before you leave and don’t get out of your cars for anything, except when you reach home again.”

Holcomb says he hopes law enforcement won’t have to break up church services violating the “Stay-At-Home” order.

Marion County Emergency Operations Center Opens Temporary Morgue Overflow Facility

The Marion County Emergency Operations Center is setting up a temporary morgue facility in preparation for the expected surge in COVID-19 patients.

Director and Chief Medical Officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, Virginia Caine says slowing the spread of COVID-19 and providing a high level of care for those who contract it remain the top priorities, but preparing for a potential increase in deaths is necessary. 

"While we hope much of what we are planning for is never needed, we must do everything we can to ensure Indianapolis first responders, health care workers, and coroners all have the tools, personal protective equipment, and facilities they need to serve residents through any scenario,” Caine says.

State Supreme Court Rejects Petition To Release Inmates At Risk For COVID-19

The Indiana Supreme Court rejected a petition from the ACLU of Indiana to release jail and prison inmates at risk of COVID-19.

The ACLU’s request noted prisons and jails are particularly vulnerable to disease outbreaks. And it urged the state to – at least temporarily – release jail and prison inmates who are in high-risk categories from the virus.

The Supreme Court, though, said the ACLU is asking it to extend its authority too far. It said the power to revise sentences and make release determinations rests at the trial court and county level. And the Court’s unanimous denial points out it has already taken steps to empower local officials – judges, sheriffs and others – to release inmates when appropriate and necessary.

Indiana Correction Officials Outline COVID-19 Precautions

Ten prisoners in state Department of Correction facilities have now tested positive for COVID-19, along with 20 agency employees, prompting questions about how social distancing measures are being implemented in prisons and county jails. 

Since the middle of March, inmates entering the Monroe County Jail in Bloomington have been monitored for any signs of sickness.

“We have a men’s quarantine and a women’s quarantine cell block, so we monitor them, and quarantine them for 14 days,” says Monroe County Sheriff Brad Swain.

The Indiana Department of Correction outlines a few recommendations for facilities, including separating ill offenders, implementing social distancing when a few offenders are ill, and setting up isolation housing units when a substantial number of inmates become ill.

But it does not specify what constitutes a “substantial number.”

Forest Service Limits Group Sizes For Hoosier National Forest Visitors

The U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday it is mandating a limit on group sizes in the Hoosier National Forest, requiring all groups larger than 10 people to split up and "recreate at least 200 yards apart."

A news release from the Forest Service says it will also extend its closure of developed recreation sites in the Hoosier National Forest, including campgrounds, the Hickory Ridge Fire Tower, horse camps and restrooms, to comply with Gov. Eric Holcomb's expanded “Stay-At-Home” order.

State officials say the recent warmer weather, coupled with limited "essential businesses" for entertainment means more people have been getting outdoors and spending time in Indiana state parks.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.