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What you need to know from Gov. Holcomb’s Thursday COVID-19 briefing

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INDIANAPOLIS (WPTA21) - Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, State Health Officials, and other leaders held a daily briefing to update the state's response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Thursday morning, the Indiana Department of Health said 17 Hoosiers have died, and 645 patients have been confirmed to have the virus.

While testing has expanded greatly in Indiana, health officials are preparing for a surge of cases.

"I hope this will remind us that this isn't just a marathon. This is a triathlon. This is something that will require us to not let up," Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said.

"We need to do more, not less."

Gov. Holcomb signed a new executive order Thursday in a continuing effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus. Click here to see the executive order.

Gov. Holcomb outlined these new additional efforts in the executive order:

  • The Department of Workforce Development (DWD) has suspended the one-week waiting period that is required before paying unemployment benefits to allow claimants to receive their checks more quickly. The suspension is retroactive to March 8, 2020.
  • Hoosiers with chronic health issues will be able to receive a 90-day supply of their non-controlled prescription medication, such as insulin or cholesterol medications.
  • Medicaid recipients can use their benefits to cover costs of using alternate forms of transportation, such as ride-sharing services, for appointments to see their healthcare providers.
  • The Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) has additional funding flexibility to allow for additional home delivery of meals.
  • The Department of Local Government Finance (DLGF) has extended deadlines related to local government finances.

State Health Commissioner Kristina Box said the three new deaths reported Thursday occurred in Jasper, Putnam and Franklin counties.

A total of 17 Hoosiers have died.

Health officials say most people have mild symptoms. Those folks don't need to be tested and can recover at home.

The CDC, state and local health officials reiterate that the best way to slow the spread is to practice social distancing.

"No matter your age or current health, social distancing applies to you. Each and every Hoosier. You might get COVID-19 and be just fine, but the person you give it to may not be," Dr. Box said.

Long-term Residential Facilities

Dr. Box also stressed how important it is for long-term care residential facilities to have a plan to respond to a coronavirus outbreak.

That's because those residents tend to be older and have underlying health issues, putting them at a greater risk to experience COVID-19 complications.

Dr. Box said Indiana, as well as every other state, will experience an outbreak in one of these facilities. It's simply a matter of time.

The Indiana State Department of Health assembled five regional strike teams that travel to long-term care facilities to help them navigate their COVID-19 response.

Dr. Box said she's asked all nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to have a plan to respond to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Getting Medical Supplies to Hospitals in Need

The Indiana Department of Transportation and the Indiana National Gaurd are working together to get much-needed medical supplies to hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Dr. Box said Indiana received some medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, and her office is working to get even more supplies elsewhere.

Unemployment Relief Efforts

Fred Payne, Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner, said Indiana started off with a 3.1 percent unemployment rate this year.

However, things have taken a dire turn.

For the week ending on March 21, Indiana had a record-breaking 62,777 new unemployment insurance claims filed.

Indiana is now waiving the 1-week waiting period to file for unemployment.

On a federal level, the coronavirus stimulus bill will allow expanded coverage to include independent contractors, those who are self-employed, and those who have a limited work history.

There's also a 13-week extension to the unemployment expiration date on top of Indiana's 26-week deadline.

Unemployed workers who file and are approved will now see an extra $600 per week for four months, Payne said.

Even if you're already receiving unemployment benefits unrelated to coronavirus, the new federal stimulus bill would apply to you.

Payne said it typically takes 21 days for claims to be received and for payments to be sent to workers in need.

Due to the unprecedented amount of calls, Payne said wait times will be longer than usual.

Click here to check out the Indiana Department of Workforce Development's FAQ page.

How COVID-19 is affecting Indiana's economy

"Challenges lie ahead," Indiana Office of Management & Budget Director Cris Johnston said.

Indiana wrapped up 2019 with $2.3 billion in reserves.

Those reserves are now being used as Indiana faces a public health emergency.

Johnston said March revenues will reflect February's activity, so he doesn't want to propagate false hope with those numbers.

One area that Indiana will see a drop in cash is gaming revenue, due to casinos closing.

Johnston said April will be the month that officials will really get an understanding of how the novel coronavirus is impacting Hoosiers.

Income taxes due on April 15 is now due on July 15, which will provide some relief for businesses and individuals.

"However, this timing difference will put a strain on the state's resources. This June 30 will not be like the last," Johnston said.

"It's difficult to put a number on what the total impact would be, not only do we have a delay in the deferral and but we will be seeing the results in collections from this downturn in collections from the month of April."

Johnston also said his staff is working to find ways to save money for the state.

Coronavirus resources

  • Click here for the latest CDC novel coronavirus resources and links.
  • Track the COVID-19 globally using this map tracker here.
  • You can view the latest Indiana COVID-19 numbers here.
  • Track Ohio's coronavirus numbers here.
  • Need to get tested? Click here to find a testing site near you.
  • You can catch up on the latest ABC21 coronavirus coverage here.
  • Sign up here for the latest local, state and national news regarding COVID-19.
  • Click here to sign up for ABC21 News and Weather Alerts

Kayla Crandall

Kayla Crandall is an Emmy award-winning journalist. She serves as the Social Media and Digital Content Manager at WPTA. Follow her on Twitter @KaylerJayne.

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