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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: Indiana Launches Remote Learning Grant, Visa Order Harms Colleges, Industries

Seth Tackett

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 27 additional confirmed deaths since Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 2,377. The state announced nearly 43,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 426,000 Hoosiers tested.

Remote Learning Grant Program Available For Indiana Schools

Indiana schools will have access to a grant program aimed at improving remote learning. The $61.6 million for the state-run program comes from the federal CARES Act.

The Holcomb administration said the money will be focused on three areas: adding more devices used for remote learning, closing gaps in internet connectivity and helping train teachers in remote instruction.

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.

The program is open to any Indiana school – pre-K through 12, public and private, as well as higher education institutions. And while there’s no limit on how much a single school can receive, the administration notes schools may not get the full amount of funding they ask for.

EPA Under Trump Makes Major Rule Changes During COVID-19 Crisis

It’s safe to say there have been other things on Hoosiers’ minds than the environment these days. The COVID-19 pandemic has not only affected the health of Indiana residents, but also jobs and local economies. Meanwhile, people across the country are protesting acts of violence by police officers against black men and women. 

During this time, the EPA has continued to move forward with its plans to reduce environmental regulation. With everything going on, some worry the public won’t have a chance to comment on some of the agency’s proposals.

UFCW Union Asks Poultry Plant To Reinstate Hazard Pay

As Indiana’s economy reopens, many companies are ending the extra pay they offered essential workers during the shutdown, but one labor union is asking an Indiana-based poultry processor to bring hazard pay back.

Workers at Maple Leaf Farms were paid an additional $1.25 an hour in hazard pay until the company announced that would end on June 14. In a statement, the company said it was a 10-week “Feeding America” bonus offered to employees during the state’s “Stay-At-Home” orders.

Meanwhile, positive cases of COVID-19 have increased in the county where the company’s facilities are located.

Some other Indiana meatpacking plants and grocery stores have also removed hazard pay as statewide restrictions are lifted.

Barring Highly Skilled Immigrant Workers Will Affect Indiana's Industries, Universities

Indiana universities and companies will not be able to bring many skilled international professors and researchers to the state until 2021 due to an executive order from President Donald Trump designed to protect American jobs. 

The president's proclamation said, during a time of high unemployment, skilled foreign workers with H-1B visas pose “an unusual threat to the employment of American workers.” It suspends entry into the United States for most workers under H-1B, H-2B, J, and L visas. However, there are some exceptions in place for industries like meat processing.

Indiana colleges like Purdue and Indiana University employ hundreds of professors and researchers with the H-1B visas for work that requires a high level of expertise or education.

University Of Notre Dame Still Plans To Host First Presidential Debate Despite Pandemic

As of Tuesday, the University of Notre Dame is still planning to host the first presidential debate in September despite the coronavirus pandemic. This comes after an announcement from the University of Michigan that it is backing out of hosting the second presidential debate due to work needed to prepare the Ann Arbor campus for the fall semester during the pandemic.

The second presidential debate has been moved from Michigan to Florida.

But officials from the University of Notre Dame said they still intend to host the first presidential debate on campus.

University spokesperson Paul Browne said there will be some changes to the debate to try and limit possible exposure to COVID-19 but details are still being worked out.

Indiana University Employees Raise Concerns Over COVID-19 Health Form

Indiana University is requiring all employees to fill out a Community Responsibility Acknowledgement form before returning to work in-person.

"This is necessary to ensure that employees have acknowledged the serious nature of COVID-19, importance of each individual’s knowledge of the risks presented by the virus, the need to monitor their own health, and the need to notify appropriate personnel if they are symptomatic and/or exposed and be tested if necessary," IU spokesperson Chuck Carney wrote in an email. 

One section of the form asks if individuals have underlying conditions and will need an ADA accommodation for those conditions.

IU associate instructor Iris Bull checked yes in that section. She says she then received an additional Employee Accommodation Request form a day later.

That form asked to list all underlying conditions truthfully, or else be subjected to “penalty of perjury.”

IU Athletics: No COVID-19 Cases Among Athletes, Coaches, Staff So Far

Indiana University Athletics has conducted nearly 200 COVID-19 tests on IU athletes, coaches and staff without a single positive result so far.

According to a Tuesday news release, doctors have administered 187 tests for the virus since June 9.

Members of IU's men's and women's basketball teams and football team were allowed back on campus starting June 15 for voluntary workouts and have since been completing daily medical checks and abiding by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Mayor Hogsett Announces Partnership with United Way to Help Nonprofits Safely Re-Open

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced a partnership with United Way of Central Indiana to form a Nonprofit Restart Program to help Marion County nonprofits successfully re-open their facilities.

The partnership will support local nonprofit organizations with $2 million in federal funding to purchase personal protective equipment and other safety supplies.

“As our city continues the re-opening process, residents will be seeking out a greater variety of organizations and services,” Hogsett said. “Nonprofits are often the group, or the groups, that hold our community together.”

The Nonprofit Restart Program, for local 501(c)(3) nonprofits, will be available to applicants through Aug. 15 in the form of grants of up to $5,000.

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

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