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Get the latest on the global Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic as it impacts Northwest Indiana, the state, country, and globe. Bookmark this page as there will be several updates each day from Lakeshore Public Radio, IPB News, NPR, and the Associated Press.

Coronavirus: Unemployment Benefits Extension Weeks Away, Positive Signs On Surge

Lauren Chapman
IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 49 additional deaths on Wednesday, bringing the state’s total to 436. The state announced nearly 9,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 48,000 Hoosiers tested.

Holcomb, State Leaders 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Improvement In COVID-19 Trends

Indiana state officials say they’re seeing encouraging signs in COVID-19 data across the state.

But they emphasize the need for continued vigilance as talk of reopening the economy intensifies.

Gov. Eric Holcomb says he’ll be monitoring the “facts on the ground” to decide when businesses can start to reopen.

“We’ll be looking at our supply chain – is it sufficient? Our PPE levels, our hospital beds, our [ventilators]," Holcomb says. "We’ll be looking at, like I said, our testing ability, our tracing.”

The governor indicated there will have to be new workplace accommodations made to ensure employee safety before businesses reopen. But he didn’t elaborate on what those accommodations would look like.

Hoosiers Can Get 13 Extra Weeks Of Unemployment Benefits, But There’s A Wait

The federal government recently issued a memo to states, including Indiana, on how to extend unemployment benefits beyond the state’s current time limit. However, it will still be several weeks before those changes are implemented.

Under Indiana state law, unemployment benefits end after a maximum of 26 weeks. With the new federal rules from the CARES Act, the Department of Workforce Development will manage the payment of federal benefits for an additional 13 weeks. This will help anyone who exhausted state unemployment benefits since last July.

The extra weeks of benefits couldn’t start until April, at the earliest, since that’s when the state signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to accept the changes. But it might be a little while before Hoosiers can benefit from them.

As Schools Move Online, So Do Security Threats. Here's What Experts Say You Can Do

Efforts to protect student privacy online are more crucial than ever as schools nationwide rely on the internet to connect with students and families, and with fraudulent activity on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. And experts say awareness of cyber security threats and solutions is half the battle.

One of the fastest rising virtual meeting platforms Zoom, was banned by New York Cityschools over data and privacy concerns. 

READ MORE: Can I Go For A Walk? Here's What The Expanded 'Stay-At-Home' Order Really Does

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana 2020 Two-Way. Text "elections" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

LEE MAS: ¿Puedo Salir A Caminar? Esto Es Lo Que Significa Una Orden De Permanecer En Casa

Bill Rader sits on the Hoosier Educational Computer Coordinators board and is technology director for Danville Community Schools. He says some schools in Indiana have chosen not to use Zoom, but plenty of teachers still do and like the platform.

Coalition: Halt Southern Indiana Highway Project During COVID-19

A coalition of environmental groups, businesses, and churches is asking the state to halt the planning process for a highway project during the coronavirus pandemic. The project aims to improve highway connections in southern Indiana. 

In a letter, the coalition says the COVID-19 pandemic could make it difficult for the public to participate in planning for the Mid-States Corridor Project.

Tim Maloney, with the Hoosier Environmental Council, says some routes would impact state or national forests and karst areas — porous landscapes that help to form caves. 

Maloney says in karst areas, there would be nothing to filter the water coming off the road before it reaches underground rivers where species like the endangered Hoosier Cavefish live.

IRS Launches Online Tool To Help Americans Get COVID-19 Relief Money Sooner

The Internal Revenue Service, in conjunction with the Treasury Department, released an online tool Wednesday meant to help Americans get their economic impact payments more quickly.

Get My Payment” is an online application, similar to the “Where's My Refund” tool, that will allow taxpayers to check the status of their payment and update their direct deposit information.

A news release from the IRS says “Get My Payment” will be updated once daily, typically overnight.

“‘Get My Payment’ will offer people with a quick and easy way to find the status of their payment and, where possible, provide their bank account information if we don’t already have it,” wrote IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in the release. “In addition to successfully generating payments to more than 80 million people, IRS teams throughout the country proudly worked long days and weekends to quickly deliver Get My Payment ahead of schedule.”

To use Get My Payment, go to irs.gov and be prepared to provide information from your 2018 and 2019 tax return, if you filed. 

COVID-19 Amplifies Health Inequities For Black Residents

The COVID-19 pandemic impacts the health of black residents in Indiana disproportionately. 

Health leaders came together virtually Tuesday to talk about social determinants that contribute to poorer health outcomes for many black residents.

Indiana Family and Social Services Secretary Jennifer Sullivan says the crisis amplified the problems.

"We also knew the gaps in Indiana’s health outcomes that predated this pandemic would be even more exposed now, than they were before," says Sullivan. 

Marion County Public Health Director Virginia Caine says 42 percent of deaths from COVID-19 in her county are African American, twice the death rate of white people. She says deep rooted inequity in the health care system is a factor.

"A lot of them may have unintended bias, or implicit bias, that they are not even aware of," says Caine. 

Fort Wayne Proposal Seeks Food & Beverage Tax Dollars For COVID-Affected Businesses

A non-binding proposal in Fort Wayne City Council is calling on Allen County’s Capital Improvement Board to help financially support the local hospitality and restaurant industry as the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on their business across the country.

Republican Jason Arp says in his proposal that a 1 percent tax on all prepared food and beverages sold in Allen County is used to pay off Allen County War Memorial Coliseum debt, with an additional $100,000 going towards a due diligence fund. He adds in the language that it is “unconscionable” for the CIB to rake in revenues from county businesses “that are not being utilized and being retained for future possible investments.”

Arp is asking the CIB to “do an analysis of its current and anticipated financial position and evaluate and report any ability to provide a grant or loan to businesses that generate the Supplemental Food and Beverage Tax as an Economic Development Project.”

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

This is a rapidly evolving story, and we are working hard to bring you the most up-to-date information. However, we recommend checking the websites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Indiana State Department of Health for the most recent numbers of COVID-19 cases.

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