Coronavirus: Indiana Expands Testing, Prepares To Discuss K-12 Education Cuts This Week

Jun 15, 2020

Indianapolis shut down several streets to allow restaurants to expand outdoor seating for social distancing.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 42 additional confirmed deaths since Friday, bringing the state’s total to 2,240. The state announced nearly 40,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 348,000 Hoosiers tested.

State Expands Testing, Will Release COVID-19 Positive Cases By Zip Code

The Indiana State Department of Health is making it easier for Hoosiers to get tested for COVID-19 and assess their risk with a map of positive cases by zip code.

Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box announced, starting Monday, anyone who wants a COVID-19 test can get one at OptumServe testing sites – regardless of whether they have symptoms or belong to a high-risk group.

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On Monday, the Indiana State Department of Health will launch a new update to its dashboard to show how many COVID-19 positive cases there are by zip code.

Box says she’s received questions about how cases break down on a smaller scale than counties.

“I personally look at that as I look at some of our disparate populations or populations that we know are hit harder with this and can focus on particular zip codes to see what those numbers are,” Box says.

Simon Property Group Sues The Gap For Not Paying Rent During COVID-19 Pandemic

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group is suing one of its largest tenants for unpaid rent during the coronavirus pandemic. The lawsuit highlights just one of the company’s recent moves due to COVID-19.

The lawsuit filed by Simon in Delaware state court claims The Gap failed to pay nearly $66 million in rent and other charges during months when the retailer was closed.

Indiana University Kelley School of Business Center for Education and Research in Retail director John Talbott says it sends a message that Simon will hold tenants to their lease obligations.

“That’s the main message I see is that there’s just not possible for Simon to allow Gap to not just pay without trying to enforce it through the courts, because everybody would just not pay,” says Talbott.

Indianapolis Council Takes Up Racism As Public Health Crisis And COVID-19 Funding

The Indianapolis City-County Council met last week and business included a COVID-19 update, new proposals for using federal funding and a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis.

The resolution could mean more funding and research to address systemic change. Council President Vop Osili says the council is committed to tackling racism. 

"To consider our own decisions and actions through the lens of racial equity and to increase our accountability to those we are privileged to serve," says Osili. 

Fairbanks School of Public Health Dean Paul Halverson addressed the council and says racism and social issues directly impact the health outcomes of black people.

"Are substantially worse if you are a person of color, and that also is true when it comes to COVID-19," says Halverson. 

Marion County Public Health Director Virgina Caine gave a COVID-19 update. Caine says the county is moving in the right direction but she is concerned about a spike. 

Indiana Confronts Budget Shortfalls; To Discuss Potential K-12 Cuts Next Week

Higher education institutions have been asked to take a 7 percent cut in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

As the state confronts budget shortfalls, Gov. Eric Holcomb says other state agencies were asked to make cuts before K-12 and higher education.

"These are difficult decisions. Decisions we don’t want to make or like to make, but under these circumstances, we have to," Holcomb says.

Indiana Office of Management and Budget director Cris Johnston says education accounts for more than 50 percent of the state’s annual budget. 

He currently predicts the state will have a $2 billion budget shortfall because of “Stay-At-Home” business closures.

Not All Frontline Workers Work In Hospitals. Meet Janitor Dennis Osborn

While doctors and nurses are risking their lives working with COVID-19 patients in hospitals, some are risking theirs working in stores and making deliveries. Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Rebecca Thiele has been talking with other essential workers whose stories need to be told.

Dennis Osborn is a janitorial contractor who works for a pharmaceutical company in Indianapolis. He says he's thankful he's been able to work during the "Stay-At-Home" order — construction contractors working for the company haven't been as lucky. 

"The first guy told me he was going seven weeks. I couldn't survive seven weeks on my paycheck," Osborn says.

Osborn says he's worked during the "Stay-At-Home" order except for a few days when he felt sick. He worries about the spread of the virus because he doesn't have a thermometer at home and says his janitorial company hasn't been screening its workers.

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