Indiana on course for school reopenings despite virus jumps
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana officials showed no signs Wednesday of slowing down school reopenings that are just weeks away even as the state has been seeing higher rates of people testing positive and being hospitalized for the coronavirus.
Some Indiana school districts are poised to resume classes with students in attendance starting in late July under guidelines issued by state education officials last month.
Health officials will monitor for COVID-19 outbreaks but school decisions will be made between school leaders and local health departments, said Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner.
“We are going to do what we can to try to support schools so that they can stay open,” Box said. “We think that’s important, not only for the educational experience of our students but for their mental and their physical health, also.”
Indiana’s K-12 schools largely closed their doors in mid-March as coronavirus infections hit the state, and Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered in early April that schools remain closed through the end of the school year.
Holcomb decided last week week to keep capacity limits in place for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues until at least July 18 even though deaths have dropped significantly over the past month.
Meanwhile, Purdue University said it will require that students be tested before moving into residence halls or participating in classes. The university will pay for the testing.
Indiana has recorded 2,732 confirmed or presumed coronavirus-related deaths, as the state health department added 15 fatalities to the death toll on Wednesday.
The state’s seven-day average rate for tests confirming COVID-19 infections had fallen to 4.1% on June 18, but grew to 5.9% as of July 4, Box said. Indiana hospitalizations with confirmed or suspected infections have gone from 595 on June 26 to 667 as of Wednesday.
Box said health officials remain concerned about outbreaks in other states and parts of Indiana.
“We anticipated this, which is why was paused the reopening plan last week and that decision has been confirmed by the numbers we’ve been experiencing,” Box said.
STATE FAIRGROUNDS EVENT
A five-week festival planned for the Indiana State Fairgrounds has been canceled. The Fairgrounds Fun Park announced last week was to be operated by the carnival ride company that was to provide the midway for August’s Indiana State Fair that was called off in June.
Box said the ride operator and fairgrounds staff had a thorough safety plan for the July 31-Sept. 7 festival with rides, games and carnival food booths, but that the organizers decided to cancel after meeting with state health officials.
“While we are saddened that our event cannot take place, we understand the current situation and will always put public health and safety as our number one priority,” North American Midway Entertainment CEO Danny Huston said in a statement.
Box and Holcomb, however, both supported plans for running the Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 with 50% fan capacity, a total that could still top 100,000 people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2-1/2 mile oval.
“It is a massive piece of property, where you can physically distance, where you can mask up if you are in close proximity to someone,” Holcomb said.