As your representative in Washington, I want to relay to you the latest details on COVID-19 -- also known as coronavirus -- and what can be done to minimize risk to exposure.
Update From the Indiana State Department of Health
The ISDH today reported 563 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, bringing the total number of Hoosiers diagnosed with the virus to 5,507 as of 10:00am this morning. 173 Hoosiers have died.
- A total of 28,764 tests have been reported to ISDH to date.
- The complete list of counties with cases is included in the ISDH COVID-19 dashboard at https://www.in.gov/coronavirus/, which is updated every morning at 10:00 a.m.
Americans are being advised to brace for a very painful week ahead as many parts of the country are nearing the projected peaks of COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus taskforce response coordinator, stressed that the number could be lower IF people change their behavior and observe guidelines put out by The White House, the CDC and ISDH.
Given the severity of this pandemic, it is imperative to follow these guidelines to maximize security for your family, community and self.
We will get through this -- but it requires effort from all of us.
From Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb and State Government
Governor Holcomb announced late last week that Indiana has been granted a federal Major Disaster Declaration, which provides funds to help communities recover from COVID-19.
- The funding can be used to cover costs of emergency needs including crisis counseling, food programs, temporary shelters, protective equipment, safety resources and personnel. Read more here.
Governor Holcomb also announced that Indiana's stay-at-home order will be extended by two weeks through April 20 and also extended Indiana’s public health emergency order for 30 days, to May 5.
- The first public health emergency was declared on March 6 and allows the state to increase coordination across all levels of government in the state’s response to coronavirus.
Governor Holcomb also signed two executive orders this week to aid in the fight against COVID-19.
- Executive order 20-14 extends the requirements for bars, nightclubs and restaurants to stay closed to dine-in patrons until April 6 at 11:59 p.m. They may continue to provide take-out and delivery services.
- Executive order 20-15 eases government operations including permitting electronic notary services to remotely review and approve documents.
Additional steps taken by the State of Indiana include:
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) will hold a virtual job fair for more than 1,000 construction and related positions at 10 a.m. ET on Thursday, April 16.
- To register for the INDOT Virtual Job Fair, go to https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7684424500148015117.
- All registrants will receive a link to the recording of the virtual job fair whether they are able to participate live or not.
The Indiana Commission for Higher Education will offer free virtual FAFSA filing help for students and families from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 4.
- Help will be available through the Commission’s Learn More Indiana social media platforms: Facebook (facebook.com/LearnMoreIN), Instagram (@LearnMoreIndiana) and Twitter (@LearnMoreIN)
To read more about executive orders issued by Governor Holcomb and to keep up to date with his office, click here.
From the White House and administration
The White House announced last weekend a unique public-private consortium to provide COVID-19 researchers access to the most powerful high performance computing resources. IBM, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, HP and others join MIT, Rensselaer, five public labs as well as NASA and the National Science Foundation in dedicating resources to discovering ways to fight this virus.
- We are seeing the best of America. New alliances are forming, and we’re seeing an all-of-society, government and industry response to this threat.
During the week of March 16, the Trump administration took the following action:
- Invoking The Defense Production Act (DPA). This will allow the administration to mandate American industry to manufacture medical supplies that are in short supply like masks, gowns and gloves, which are rapidly depleting among hospitals, health workers, and state and local officials.
- Expanding Medicare's telehealth programs. Medicare patients can now utilize video chat services, including Apple’s FaceTime or Skype, to visit any doctor at no additional cost. States have also been granted the authority to cover telehealth programs and that Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act penalties would be waved for all medical professionals so that they may properly utilize the telehealth programs to serve the public.
- Moving back the IRS deadline for filing taxes from April 15 to July 15. This will give millions of taxpayers more time to fill out their tax forms as coronavirus upends daily life across the country. Taxpayers should, however, file now to receive their money as soon as possible. This covers a broad range of Americans, including small businesses that file as individuals who owe up to $1 million, and other categories of small businesses, sole proprietors, and corporations owing up to $10 million.
- Waiving interest on all federal student loans "until further notice" -- an unprecedented move that will provide relief to more than 42 million Americans who owe more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding federal student loans.
-The U.S. Department of Education will not enforce federal standardized testing requirements for K-12 schools and will allow federal student loan borrowers to suspend payments for at least 60 days without penalty, as the government battles the pandemic.
- The U.S. State Department announced a level-four travel advisory applying to all international travel -- advising Americans to not travel abroad. The advisory instructs all Americans abroad to either return to the United States or prepare to shelter in place.
During the weeks of March 2 and March 9, the Trump administration took the following action:
- President Trump declared a national emergency to combat the escalating coronavirus crisis. This has freed up to $50 billion in additional funding, allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to waive certain regulations and laws to more quickly deliver testing and care for coronavirus patients.
- This is in addition to bipartisan legislation signed by the President earlier this month to ensure Indiana and our whole nation have the resources to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Nearly $1 billion of the funding Congress passed is going to state and local health departments. Read more about that announcement here.
- Vice President Mike Pence announced that insurance companies have agreed to waive all co-pays on coronavirus testing and extend coverage for coronavirus treatment in all of their benefit plans. Insurers also agreed to cover tele-medicine services, which will allow all patients—particularly among the vulnerable senior population—to be treated without feeling the need to go to a hospital or doctor’s office. Additionally, Medicare and Medicaid announced that beneficiaries will have coronavirus testing and treatment covered.
- A 30-day suspension of travel from Europe to the United States is in effect till April 12. This includes Great Britain and Ireland.
The CARES Act
The White House and Senate leaders reached an agreement last week on an estimated $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at shielding the U.S. economy from the worst consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
I would have written a different bill—I am dismayed to see some pork stuffed into this one. I also wish it could have passed earlier, before Speaker Pelosi interrupted the process.
This relief package is not a “bailout," however. Unlike a bailout, where a business fails and comes to the U.S. taxpayer for help, this is a relief package in response to a natural disaster. Businesses were forced to close for no other reason than it’s unsafe to remain open.
For that reason, I voted "Yes" on this bill. It is critical to keep the lights on in America. We are getting cash in the hands of Americans, letting them keep more of their own money for a limited time.
This package includes several important provisions. Those include:
Direct payments to workers and families (based on 2018 or 2019 tax return):
- Single Americans will get $1,200
- Married couples will get $2,400
- Parents will get $500 per child
- Payments are phased out for individuals making more than $75k, married couples making more than $150k
Payments cease for individuals making more than $99k, married couples making more than $198k
- $600/month unemployment insurance for unemployed due to coronavirus
$500 billion lending program:
- Businesses who receive loans must retain 90% of their workforce through Sept 30th
- The loans cannot last longer than 5 years
- Businesses must issue dividends for up to a year after the loan is no longer outstanding
$350 billion loan program for small businesses and additional relief:
- Eligible businesses with under 500 employees can receive a forgivable loan up to $10 million with a 4% interest rate to ensure they don’t lay off employees
- 50% refundable payroll tax credit on worker wages
- Delay in employer-side payroll taxes for Social Security in 2021 and 2022
Independent contractors and ‘gig’ workers:
- Millions of part-time workers who work in the digital economy will be eligible for aid
Student loan payments suspended:
- Department of Education will suspend student loan payments through September 30
Protections against foreclosures and evictions:
- Anyone facing financial hardship due to coronavirus will be given forbearance on a federally backed mortgage loan of up to 60 days, which can be extended for four periods of 30 days each.
- Those with federally backed mortgages are not allowed to evict tenants for failure to pay rent for a 120-day period, and they may not charge fees or penalties to tenants for failing to pay rent.
I delivered a speech on the House floor last Friday morning during the bill’s debate. Watch here.
Disentangling from China
I sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week urging her to include provisions in the COVID-19 stimulus package to disentangle the United States' medical supply chain from China. 97% of antibiotics and a large portion of pharmaceutical products used domestically are manufactured in China.
- Why is that scary? China recently threatened to cut off medical exports to the US and "plunge America into the mighty sea of coronavirus." Even if we discount the risk of hostile action from China, COVID-19 has destabilized global supply chains which could prevent Americans from receiving needed medical products.
- We need immediate, short-term Band-Aids to counteract the consequences of COVID-19, but this stimulus package should also include long-term solutions to an underlying threat to the health of every American—our reliance on China for crucial medical products.
My office stands ready to assist constituents with any questions or concerns.
Unemployment, Social Services and Small Businesses
In these challenging and uncertain times, the state is providing a variety of key resources to support Hoosiers impacted by COVID-19.
Resources for Unemployed Workers
- To contact the Department of Workforce Development (DWD) regarding unemployment insurance, which must be completed electronically, click here or call 800-891-6499.
- Due to high call volume, some calls are getting a message that the phone number is not working. DWD is working to correct this and answer calls as quickly as possible.
- To watch a presentation by the DWD covering the basics of filing for unemployment insurance, click here.
- On Wednesday, April 8 at 10:30am, the DWD will be hosting a Facebook LIVE event with agency leaders to answer your questions on how to receive Unemployment Insurance benefits and help navigate the new systems as passed in the CARES Act.
- To join live and to access the recording after the event, go to DWD’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/IndianaDWD/.
Social Services Assistance
- To find information on a variety of community resources, including food, housing and health care assistance, call 2-1-1 or click here.
- To find critical-care work opportunities serving children, seniors and people with disabilities, click here.
As the situation continues to unfold, the Senate Republicans’ COVID-19 resource page will be constantly updated with available resources and information.
Messages from Cameron hospital, Parkview Health and IU Health:
- Follow the Cameron Memorial Facebook page and the Parkview Health Facebook page to keep up with latest relevant information and guidance on the virus.
- If you have questions, please consider this your first stop.
Cameron Memorial can direct questions to their COVID-19 Resource Line at (260) 667-5555. A team member will be available to answer questions and connect you with relevant resources.
If you feel symptoms or know someone who believes they are feeling symptoms of COVID-19, please refer to this resource page on parkview.com for screening resources.
More information on COVID-19, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found at cdc.gov/covid19. Information can also be found on the Allen County Department of Health website or by calling the department’s COVID-19 hotline at 260-449-4499.
- IU Health is currently offering a free virtual screening for the COVID-19 virus online or through a mobile app. The virtual screening will be staffed 24/7 by IU health professionals. The medical professionals will recommend and facilitate next steps for patients based on the virtual screening results.
You can access the virtual screening through an app on the Apple store here, an app on the Google Play store here, or an online portal here.
Many caregivers are navigating how to talk to their kids during the #COVID19 emergency. Please share this video containing several tips on this topic with any caregivers you know who might be struggling during this time.
Milk banking – much like blood banking or food banking – is a critical need and particularly at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. Now more than ever, The Milk Bank needs donations. Learn more about being a donor http://themilkbank.org/donate-milk.
If you are a foreign national or know a foreign national who cannot get home due to travel restrictions, contact my office at (260) 702-4750 for assistance.
If you believe you are beginning to feel symptoms of COVID-19, follow the CDC's guidelines.
Patients with mild disease will recover in two weeks. For those with severe disease, about 20%, recovery is three to six weeks.
The virus is spread through coughs and sneezes. When a patient coughs into their hand and then touches a surface they can place the virus on that surface. If a person comes along and touches that surface and then their mouth or nose, or eyes, they can contract the virus.
While the CDC is duly preparing for pandemic, you too have a role.
Make A Difference
Wash your hands! One of the simplest prevention measures one can take is proper hand-washing.
The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water before eating, after using the bathroom, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing, and before and after caring for a sick friend or a family member.
Stay home when you are sick! Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
"Should I wear a face mask?" The CDC recommends that only patients with the coronavirus wear a face mask to protect others around them, or, if the patient cannot wear a face mask, others should if they are in the same room together.
Health officials are not recommending that healthy people buy masks at this time.