Indiana officials push for obeying stay-at-home order

The Indianapolis 500 on Thursday joined a long list of sporting events postponed by the coronavirus, as Indiana reported its death toll from the pandemic has risen by three to 17. State officials also insisted residents abide by the governor’s stay-at-home order to rein in the coronavirus spread and not take advantage of its travel and work exemptions. A roundup of what’s happening statewide:

Illness spreads

Indiana’s new deaths were reported from the rural counties of Jasper, Putnam and Franklin — the first ones for each county. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state grew by 170 to 645, the Indiana State Department of Health reported Thursday.

Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order took effect Wednesday. The order has exceptions for workers in essential businesses or for necessary trips for food and medicine, but largely leaves it to individuals and businesses to decide whether they are exempt.

Holcomb said Thursday that exemptions were “not encouragement to break the rules” and that the state has seen great declines in traffic and business activity.

“It’s all in an effort to get through this so that 100% can go back to work, not just the essential companies or the businesses that can conduct their business in a responsible manner,” Holcomb said.

Order enforcement

State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said he was looking into reports of police officers stopping people to ask them why they were on the road. Carter said police departments have been directed to not require proof from people while the stay-at-home order is in place.

“Our communities have seen a significant decrease in movement — it’s working,” Carter said. “But there is no need for you to carry a document with you, nor can law enforcement officers stop you simply to say: ‘What are you doing out here?'”

Indy500 postponed

Motorsports giant Roger Penske, who finalized his purchase of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year, announced that the Indianapolis 500 will take place Aug. 23, not May 24, meaning the race won’t run on the Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 1946.

“I 110% support the decision to postpone it,” Holcomb said. “I’m just tickled that we’re still going to have it … and we’ll welcome the world back to the state of Indiana at that time.”

The IndyCar road course race at the speedway will now be run on July 4, a day before NASCAR races there in an unprecedented doubleheader.

Jobless claims

Indiana’s new unemployment claims skyrocketed last week to 62,777 compared to 3,400 claims a week earlier, said Fred Payne, the state workforce development agency commissioner.

The most new jobless claims Indiana has ever seen in a month was 157,000 in March 2009, Payne said.

Supply distribution

Indiana National Guard members on Thursday started distributing medical supplies to hospitals and county health departments, driving them from a warehouse at the Guard’s Stout Field base in Indianapolis in state highway department vans with state police cruiser escorts. Federal sources have provided several truckloads of masks, face shields and gowns, Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said.

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