Schools To Remain Closed For Rest Of Year; State Braces For Historic Unemployment

first_imgBy Erica Irish TheStatehouseFile.com INDIANAPOLIS—The intensifying COVID-19 pandemic is spelling new and unprecedented consequences for the world, and Indiana is no exception, state officials said as they unveiled the latest tolls of the disease and new steps proposed to stem its spread.“If you’re starting to act when you see the spread, it’s too late, it’s already moving its way across your community,” Gov. Eric Holcomb said at the virtual press briefing Thursday, one in a series of daily updates this week. “We are not going to be figuratively or literally whistling past the graveyard. We are going to be taking the steps that need to be taken in the state of Indiana.”The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases rose to 3,039 Thursday, according to reports from the Indiana State Department of Health. At least 78 people have died from the respiratory disease, and Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said hospitals are reporting an estimated 700 patients confirmed to have or suspected of having COVID-19 are being treated intensive care units around the state.Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick, Indiana’s chief education officer, joined Holcomb and other leaders in the virtual briefing to announce the state’s K-12 schools are to remain closed for the rest of the year.The decision is prompting Indiana’s school districts to prepare for extended alternative learning, either online or in hybrid models that blend e-communication with print packets. McCormick said school districts will need to submit plans for this alternative learning by April 17. She also said high school seniors enrolled in courses required for graduation will receive credit regardless of what happens in the coming months to ensure as many students graduate as possible.McCormick acknowledged the response to COVID-19 isn’t perfect for students and their families, and especially for those who might lack access to the tools they need for at-home learning and for students who need special education and remedial teaching.“We know we will have some work to do, but our local schools are very aware of that,” McCormick said. “The capacity on this may look different going forward. It’s changed a lot of things. It’s also been an urgency call to many of our school districts.”Accompanying this burden on healthcare and education is a “historic” rise in unemployment claims, according to information provided by Indiana Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne.An estimated 146,243 residents applied for unemployment in the past week — the week ending in March 28 — and more than 62,300 more claims were filed in the two weeks prior. Payne compared the numbers to the height of the 2008 recession, which saw Indiana’s highest number of unemployment claims in any one-month period at 157,000.Fred Payne of the Department of Workforce Development described the surge in unemployment claims as a result of the coronavirus at Thursday’s virtual press conference. Photo by Janet Williams, TheStatehouseFile.com.Now, Payne said the state and his department will need to prepare to break this standard each week as more residents file for unemployment.“The number of claims we’re received in a one-month period at the highest point of our downturn is what we may be seeing now on a weekly basis,” Payne said.Payne said he and his department are awaiting federal guidelines to help additional claims, too, including for those from independent contractors and freelances. But those guidelines have yet to be released, causing claims from those groups to be temporarily denied.While Holcomb has yet to announce an extension to his stay-at-home order, which is set to expire next Monday, he said he will provide more guidance on the order before the weekend and urged residents to take the crisis seriously.“Don’t be a denier. Don’t deny the facts. COVID-19 is spreading across this country, spreading across our state, as I just tried to articulate, at a scale and a pace that is unprecedented,” Holcomb said. “And if you want to destroy our economy long-term, then don’t deal with the virus.”Erica Irish is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. FacebookTwitterCopy LinkEmailSharelast_img read more

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