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Indiana officials emphasize caution for students headed home

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With thousands of students across Indiana transitioning back to their homes to finish the academic semester online, health officials are pleading for them to to do so cautiously as the state continues to see record increases in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Posted: Nov 20, 2020 7:01 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — With thousands of students across Indiana transitioning back to their homes to finish the academic semester online, health officials are pleading for them to do so cautiously as the state continues to see record increases in new coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.

Many of the new COVID-19 cases across the state are trending back to the 18- to 30-year-old group, Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said during a Wednesday news conference. That's especially concerning as college and university students prepare to go home for the holidays, she said.

Box advised students leaving their campuses to “behave as if you have COVID, or have been exposed," and recommended they quarantine at home for 14 days. She also encouraged students to wear a mask inside their house, use their own bathroom when possible and avoid seeing elderly relatives until they’ve completed a two-week isolation without symptoms of the virus.

“And please don’t head out to the bars or hang out with all the friends you haven’t seen for months,” she said. “You need to keep those social bubbles small.”

Already, a number of Indiana’s colleges and universities have started screening students for coronavirus before they head home.

University of Notre Dame students must undergo coronavirus testing before they leave South Bend, Indiana, for the winter break. A student who is exposed or tests positive must quarantine on campus for two weeks, and those who don’t complete the test can’t register for classes in the spring. University officials tightened the testing requirement after students rushed the field to celebrate a football victory earlier this month.

Although students at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, won’t be required a COVID-19 test before leaving campus, the university has mandated students to submit a test result within seven days before arriving back on campus in January. Students who don’t comply will not be permitted to access their academic courses or move into residence halls.

Indiana University in Bloomington — where samplings of faculty, staff and students are tested each week to identify and contain outbreaks — will open its weekly surveillance testing to all of the 42,000 students living on or near campus. But while all students are being offered a test just before Thanksgiving, most will not be required to take one.

Coronavirus testing is also available at Purdue University in West Lafayette, but the university is only encouraging — not mandating — that students get tested before or after traveling for Thanksgiving.

To help ramp up testing, the state plans to send BinaxNOW rapid-testing cards to several universities around the state, Box said.

“Every student who is tested will receive information that tells them what the results mean and the steps that they should take,” Box said, noting, however, that the rapid tests provide “just a snapshot in time” and could show a positive test as negative, depending on when the student was exposed.

While Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear announced Wednesday that all K-12 schools in the state will cease in-person instruction starting Nov. 23, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has resisted another statewide closure of schools like the one he issued in March.

The Republican governor has instead insisted that mask-wearing and social distancing “are proven to work” so schools can remain open for in-person instruction.

Still, as virus spread increases, dozens of Indiana school districts are changing in-person learning schedules or sending students home altogether. Many schools are having trouble staying open due to the growing number of teachers and students who are sick or on quarantine, Box said last week, advising local officials to reconsider schools’ operations plans as virus spread spikes.

All schools in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, are now required to close and return to virtual instruction by Nov. 30. Schools are encouraged to close sooner, if possible, and instruction will remain online until at least Jan. 15.

Hamilton Southeastern Schools in Fishers, a suburb of Indianapolis, elected to move students to virtual-only learning this week, citing too few healthy teachers and concerns over local hospital capacities. A head cook at one of the district's elementary schools died Tuesday night from COVID-19, said Superintendent Allen Bourff. Pam Podany was entering her eighth year working for the district and had been out from work since fall break, which started Oct. 19.

___

Casey Smith is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 338977

Reported Deaths: 5723
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion46131870
Lake29183469
Allen19572307
Elkhart18074236
St. Joseph17808239
Hamilton14364172
Vanderburgh10546128
Tippecanoe948130
Porter890690
Johnson7132171
Hendricks6820162
Vigo643592
Monroe572452
Madison5506124
Clark547678
Delaware5252104
LaPorte501997
Kosciusko484042
Howard382978
Bartholomew355165
Warrick350073
Wayne345886
Floyd338078
Marshall320446
Cass311531
Grant302550
Hancock294357
Noble274147
Boone267655
Henry266139
Dubois253732
Jackson242034
Dearborn241131
Morgan236543
Gibson207329
Shelby204159
Knox198021
DeKalb193435
Clinton192922
Lawrence191349
Wabash183922
Miami181417
Adams180023
Daviess167545
Fayette159834
Jasper159113
Montgomery158329
Steuben158116
Harrison155824
Ripley155721
LaGrange152232
Whitley149715
Huntington141810
White140323
Decatur140044
Putnam138129
Wells137030
Clay135125
Randolph134022
Jefferson133416
Posey130318
Scott119421
Greene112253
Sullivan106717
Jay106414
Jennings98714
Starke98025
Spencer9268
Fulton90119
Fountain8778
Perry87321
Washington8487
Franklin77027
Carroll75313
Orange73128
Vermillion6927
Owen6699
Parke6466
Tipton64027
Rush6078
Blackford59613
Newton59412
Pike54920
Pulaski45016
Benton3943
Martin3866
Brown3815
Crawford3251
Union3012
Switzerland2735
Warren2663
Ohio2457
Unassigned0267

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

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