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November 8 - 14 News Updates

The state of Indiana has rolled back to Stage 3 based on the unprecedented number of cases of Covid-19. Northwest Indiana counties are in the orange category, the second highest code alert in the state. However, Newton county is red, the highest level of concern. Numbers are rising daily throughout the state. Please see the HOME page for further information on Covid-19.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said on Wednesday (November 11) at his Covid-19 press conference that beginning Sunday, November 15, he will sign an order cancelling Stage 5 opening in the state because of all-time high numbers of patients hospitalized from COVID-19 complications.


He did not order a new round of business closures or much in the way of restrictions; primarily just a renewed commitment to emphasizing the continuing need for Hoosiers to wear face masks, practice social distancing and good hygiene.


The new steps being imposed by Gov. Eric Holcomb will limit social gathering sizes in the counties at the higher-risk levels of coronavirus spread and would cover 87 of the state’s 92 counties.


A new executive order starting this weekend will limit crowd sizes to 25 people in the highest-risk red counties and 50 people in the next-riskiest orange counties, with larger events needing approval from local health officials.


The new order will also limit capacity at K-12 indoor sports and extracurricular events to 25% capacity in orange counties and only parents or guardians as spectators in red counties. Religious services, however, will face no crowd restrictions.


Four more people were reported dead from COVID-19 in the Region on Wednesday, and for the first time, Indiana reported over 5,000 new infections over a 24-hour period.

New local deaths included one in Lake County and three in LaPorte County.


This brings the Region's tallies to 401 in Lake County, 81 in LaPorte County, 67 in Porter County, 12 in Newton County and seven in Jasper County, according to updated statistics provided Wednesday by the Indiana State Department of Health and local health departments

Schools

The Gary Community School Corp. announced Wednesday that effective Nov. 16 only essential administrative and IT staff will be allowed in Gary district buildings. Although the schools have been operating entirely with virtual learning for students since the start of the school year, teachers have been reporting to school buildings to lead instruction from their classrooms.


Merrillville Community School Corp. announced Monday that students would stay with virtual learning until January 2021 instead of returning to in-person instruction at the start of their second trimester.

Merrillville Superintendent Nicholas Brown sent a letter to parents on Monday explaining they would continue with virtual learning. When the school district was considering opening facilities for the second trimester of the school year, the Covid-19 positivity rate was 10.2%. As of Nov. 10, the unique positivity rate in Lake County is 21.2%.


East Chicago teachers are asking The School City of East Chicago for more input into the decisions to open and close schools during the pandemic. The administration decided to close schools until November 30 due to the increase in covid-19 cases throughout the county.

Teacher's say they need more PPE as well. However, they say their concerns about safety have been ignored by the administration.

The Post Tribune is reporting that Merrillville Community School Corp. announced Monday that students would stay with virtual learning until January 2021 instead of returning to in-person instruction at the start of their second trimester.

Merrillville Superintendent Nicholas Brown sent a letter to parents on Monday explaining they would continue with virtual learning. When the school district was considering opening facilities for the second trimester of the school year, the Covid-19 positivity rate was 10.2%. As of Nov. 10, the unique positivity rate in Lake County is 21.2%.

The Lake County Council has authorized the Lake County Board of Elections and Voter Registration to distribute $195,250 in incentive pay to election workers using the proceeds of an $855,475 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life. The money will go to poll workers, individuals who participate in or oversaw ballot processing and counting at the county government center.


The Chicago-based organization is distributing $250 million in COVID-19 Response Grants to election authorities across the country.


The Council also unanimously agreed Tuesday to spend a total of $100,000 in taxpayer funds to provide qualifying jail officers a one-time bonus of $500 each.


According to the sheriff's office, jail officers have seen their usual routines upended in the hope of minimizing the spread of the coronavirus among a confined population that usually is in close contact with one another.

Mayor David Uran of Crown Point tested positive for COVID-19 Monday after experiencing symptoms overnight Sunday, he told The Times of Northwest Indiana.


Now the mayor is in isolation at home, with plans to administer his duties remotely and attend city meetings via Zoom video conferencing.


Uran said he immediately alerted the Lake Central High School athletic director via email Monday because the mayor, who regularly serves as a referee for prep basketball in the Region, was a referee at a tournament at that high school Saturday.


"For contact-tracing purposes, I wanted to make them aware of it," said Uran, noting he served as referee during the 4:30 p.m. game Saturday.

Changing a contract halfway through a contract term is unusual but School City of Hammond Supt. Scott Miller wants a $20,000 raise now and not at the end of his three-year contract.

Miller wants to increase his salary to $170,000. He also wants the district to pay for his Ph.D. at Indiana State University, which could come out to about $30,000.


Many in the City of Hammond, including Anita Cox of the Hammond Teacher Federation, says it seems extravagant. The district just agreed to give teachers a bump of about $1,000 per year.


However, Miller said his salary is still below the state’s average. He just wants pay equity.


The City of Gary Administration and the Gary Common Council are still at odds over the 2021 budget. Several members of the Common Council believe Mayor Jerome Prince's administration gave them faulty starting numbers leading to errors in the final 2021 budget passed last week.


During their budget meeting on Friday the council said they wanted to hear from the administration regarding its claim that the council's $82.4 budget is filled with errors.

However, no one from the administration attended the meeting to clarify their claims although the council said they received word that someone would attend.


The mayor on Friday, in a public statement, claimed the council erroneously increased the budget for local roads and streets and doubled salaries in the parks and recreation budget, two actions not allowed by state law.


For the first time in history, two black men will lead a Statehouse caucus in the Indiana General Assembly. The Democratic caucus, which is in the minority in the Indiana General Assembly, will be led by State Senator Greg Taylor of Indianapolis as caucus leader and State Senator Eddie Melton of Gary as assistant minority leader.


It's the first time any caucus, Republican or Democrat, has had two black men in its top leadership posts. The Republicans control the state senate with a majority.

Melton is now in position to influence proposed legislation as it moves through the Republican-controlled Senate.


A total of 11 more people were reported dead from COVID-19 in the Region on Tuesday. According to the Times of Northwest Indiana, that is the highest one day total since tracking has begun in March.


New Covid-19 deaths were reported Tuesday in Northwest Indiana. There were seven in Lake County, three in LaPorte County and one in Porter County. All data were provisional and subject to change as more information is reported to the state.

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