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If you are watching this at home I’m grateful—that means hopefully you are social distancing, not spreading the contagious coronavirus COVID-19 for which there is still no cure. That means you are being part of the solution, not the problem, so on behalf of the state, I thank you.
But because both the infection rate and the death rate continue to climb, Indiana, we need to do more. Our neighbors and our economy need to see that we are taking steps that will help flatten the curve, to ensure our healthcare system is able to treat the most vulnerable. To best do that, let me lay out five points.
FIRST. As of Tuesday, your state government personnel will not be a reason you have to get out of your house. The state will be reduced to only the absolute essential workforce level. Such as state hospitals, police, prison staff, child protection services, health, and our already-activated National Guard. We will be maximizing remote work, online and call centers, to continue core functions, such as unemployment insurance and welfare applications. Whatever non-essential state business that has to be conducted in person will have to wait.
Citizens shouldn’t worry. This means all types of licenses issued by the state will automatically be extended by 60 days. And law enforcement officials are not going to be issuing citations for, say, expired driver’s licenses or registrations.
SECOND. Let me also say how proud I am of our five central Indiana hospitals. In order to expand capacity and enhance coordination and save lives, we are activating a comprehensive healthcare-oriented emergency operations center, jointly run by Marion County, our capital city, and the state.
This center will centrally inventory and provide support for personnel, supplies like ventilators, masks, goggles gloves and gowns and space, as we move into the patient surge for COVID-19 phase. By supporting movement and coordination between all hospital systems, we will not leave any healthcare delivery system alone in their struggle to take care of Hoosiers—both those affected by the pandemic and those with other illnesses. I am thrilled that our hospital systems have stepped up to participate in this innovative initial phase of the process: Eskenazi, Community, Ascension, IU Health and Franciscan. They are all together going to quickly be able to respond to unmet needs, and pool precious resources for the state’s well-being.
This is yet another example of Indiana responding to uncommon problems with uncommon solutions. Think about this: On March 1, New York had one positive confirmed case of coronavirus. Today, 22 days later, they have more than 15,000 and it is growing, not slowing. Their hospitals are being overrun. That’s what we are trying to manage and avoid, which is why we need to slow the spread, and we need to do it now. Yes, we started with the central Indiana hospitals, only because that’s where we have seen the most community spread. Friday, Marion County had 47 positive cases. On Saturday, 82. Today the number is 110. Overall, sadly, three Marion County residents have died.
This hybrid approach will be replicated across the state, to ensure that we are the best prepared to address the spread in each quadrant of our state. Because we know COVID-19 is spreading statewide. On March 6, Indiana had one positive case. Today 259.
THIRD. In times of trouble, in times of not being able to be in total control, in times of such uncertainty, many of us find comfort, find strength, in fact, we find guidance in our faith. Our statewide faith leaders have become in high demand, whether we all realize it or not. I want to thank all of our faith leaders, who are live streaming their services. I was told yesterday that five central Indiana pastors live streamed their sermons to more than 50,000 Hoosiers. If ever there was an essential service, our houses of worship are on top of that list—right next to our doctors and nurses. Thanks to all the faith leaders for realizing the church is a body, not a building, especially in the difficult and different days ahead. We will get back to the day when we can all join in person in full force. But until that day, let’s continue to spread the word, not COVID-19.
FOURTH. To all our healthcare heroes out there who are pulling double shifts every day, putting their lives on hold so they can tend to others, this is your finest hour. And our entire state is depending on you like never before. To all the schools and churches and businesses, a long list, Subaru, Toyota, Fiat-Chrysler Simon Malls the biggest mall in the world, to General Motors who is redeploying their work force converting their Kokomo production line to make ventilators. To all the breweries that converted their production into hand sanitizer production lines. To all the manufacturers out there who have donated their protective gear to hospitals in the state. To all the businesses that are gone to multiple shifts to spread out the work and their workforces, to the union shops who are asking their contractors who to drop off the needed items that are hospitals are asking for. To all the gritty restaurant owners who are trying to survive by adapting overnight to a new to-go-only business model. I personally ordered to-go every day to support our local entrepreneurs during these tough unprecedented times and I know long-established restaurants, one told me the other day have gone from 56 employees to four. Small family-owned diners have closed. Without the tables turning, they can’t afford staff, let alone the light bill or rent.
So to everyone who is playing by the rules, to all those companies who contributing to our war effort to slow the spread, we say thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, we owe it to our private sector, the ones who risk their capital and put in endless work days and nights who are, quite frankly, taken for granted during all those good times when our economy was booming, just a couple of weeks ago. We owe it to them to get through this as fast as we can. It was for that reason that last week I directed that for restaurants to remain open, they must pivot to carry-out only. Yet a week later, we know that’s not being followed by all, and we know it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bushel. We know, one infected person infects two and those two infected two more and so on and so on.
Today, I signed an executive order that instructs the ATC to suspend any and all food and beverage licenses for those who violate the order. Additionally, I signed another executive order that calls on all Hoosiers to hunker down. Stay at home.
Unless you’re going out on an essential errand, or essential work, or essential business. Other states have recently come out with similar directives. Ohio has stay at home. Kentucky yesterday evening rolled one out. Illinois a few days before that. It’s because we’re all seeing the same trends, a wave is coming. Especially in the dense areas. But it is spreading to all counties. So stay home. Get groceries only when you need them. And only buy what you need. I’m telling you, the next two weeks are critical. That’s March 24 through April 7. If we are going to slow the spread. And we must slow the spread.
My fellow Hoosiers, the state of our state is in a much different place than when I gave that annual address just over two months ago, back in January. But because we were one of the most recession-resilient states in America going into this, I know we will bounce back better than some others. We will continue to work with our federal partners at FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the CDC the HHS, the president and the vice president, and our own congressional delegation on both sides of the aisle, to get the financial help to the people in need and to get it here now.
A year ago last week, we here in Indiana had 3,100 Hoosiers file for unemployment benefits. Fast-forward, exactly a year later, last week we had 54,000 Hoosiers file for help. That’s only in a week. And so whether you are an employee or an employer, Whether you’re dealing with mental, physical, or financial health issues, whether you are a small town or a big city, the state of Indiana will work with our federal partners, as we steer through the rocky, shallow waters ahead.
And lastly. FIFTH. Here is something you don’t often hear from elected officials but it needs to be said. I want to thank our local press corps. For putting out critically important information on the effects and impacts of the coronavirus. Make no mistake about it, this disease is killing people. Time is of the essence. And the best thing we can do for each other, for this generation and the next, and for our economy is to get a handle on the virus by slowing the spread. That’s what we have power over.
That’s the power of one of you. And what you can do.
That is your power. And that is the power that together will remain Indiana strong.