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As your congressman, I wanted you to see the latest details on coronavirus (COVID-19) in Indiana.
Updates from the Indiana State Department of Health
New Cases, Data
The ISDH today reported 884 new positive cases of COVID-19 in Indiana, bringing the total number of Hoosiers diagnosed with the virus to 75,862 as of 12:00pm today. 2,863 Hoosiers have died.
A total of 861,655 individuals have been tested, as reported by the ISDH, to date.
For more data on COVID-19 in Indiana, click here.
The complete list of counties with cases is included in the ISDH COVID-19 dashboard at https://www.in.gov/coronavirus/, which is updated every day at 12:00pm.
Indiana University students move back to campus with extra COVID-19 testing
The following contains excerpts from this WTHR article.
Many families packed up their cars Sunday for the start of another semester at Indiana University with one big change — COVID-19 screening for all its students.
Sunday marked the first day of students moving back into campus housing.
IU is anticipating 42,000 students coming back to its campuses. As a requirement this year, all students will be tested for COVID-19.
“This is a big operation and it has taken the incredible teamwork of a very large team to pull it off,” IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel said.
The university’s testing is located outside Memorial Stadium in the parking lot.
Ten days before arriving, students are required to be tested. If they test negative, they are allowed to come to campus for another round of testing.
IU’s COVID-19 testing and surveillance operations are being led by Dr. Aaron Carroll, a professor for the school of medicine. The team is using rapid-result swab tests that take about 15 to 30 minutes for results.
If a student tests negative, they can move-in. If a student tests positive, they are asked to isolate at home or in isolation housing on campus.
Throughout the semester, students will be randomly selected for saliva tests each week with a goal to do regular testing for all students. Faculty and staff will also be tested regularly.
“The numbers have been low. We are pleased. It’s exactly where we would like to start,” Dr. Carroll said.
Read more here.
Local Churches Find New Ways
The following contains excerpts from this Journal Gazette article.
In the age of COVID-19, Union Baptist Church Pastor Timothy Lake is proceeding with caution.
State rules now allow religious congregations to meet under certain conditions, but Lake is in no rush to fill the pews for the Fort Wayne congregation’s typical Sunday services, with their gospel singing and other enthusiastic worship expressions.
“The demographics of our congregation tell us we have a high percentage of our congregation in that high-risk category,” Lake said last week. The majority of the congregation is age 65 and older or battling chronic conditions including diabetes and heart problems that can worsen the coronavirus disease.
The church has been meeting virtually, using Facebook livestreaming and having people dial in on conference calls.
“We are really trying to be extra-sensitive and having an abundance of caution before encouraging those people back to gathering,” the pastor said.
Lake’s response is typical of many area churches, where leaders haven’t been quick to go back to worship-as-usual as the global pandemic that prompted temporary widespread shutdowns in March continues.
Some area churches complained vehemently when early regulations forbid church gatherings or limited them to 10 people. The outcry to then-Allen County Health Commissioner’s Dr. Deborah McMahan’s recommendation to not allow services led the Indiana attorney general to challenge the policy as unconstitutional religious discrimination.
The debate was followed by modifications of county instructions and a state clarification that religious gatherings were “essential services” and allowed if kept to 10 people.
State restrictions since then have been loosened to allow gatherings of up to 250 people, provided conditions, including social distancing and enhanced sanitation, are followed.
Larger gatherings are allowed if plans are submitted to and cleared by local health authorities.
The Allen County Health Department has reviewed 26 large-gathering plans since Gov. Eric Holcomb’s most recent order, said Megan Hubartt, department spokeswoman. She added none was of a religious nature, and local health officials are acting under the assumption religious gatherings are exempt.
Fort Wayne-area religious congregations have had a mixed response to restrictions. Some started or ramped up existing virtual gatherings, some have had parking-lot services but maintained social distancing, while others found work-arounds.
The Rev. Peter Cage of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Fort Wayne said that congregation phased in gathering in May. But the church also instituted a private or small-group means of administering Holy Communion so those who felt uncomfortable in church could partake, he said.
The size of St. Paul’s sanctuary played into the decision to resume gathering, Cage said.
“We’re blessed with a (lot of space) under our big dome,” he said of the downtown church. “We’ve got a lot of space for people to spread out.”
St. Paul’s membership hovers around the 250-person gathering limit, but not everyone comes at one time, the pastor said.
Pathway Community Church on Carroll Road also has a large building it is now using in a different way.
The church is gathering as a group, but Gov. Eric Holcomb’s mandate to wear masks in public places has been an issue in how that takes place.
Pathway’s building has been divided into areas for people to wear masks and areas for people who do not wish to wear one, Pastor Ron Williams said in an online video message.
He also has encouraged those at higher risk with COVID-19 to attend church virtually at pccfw.tv.
But he also has stressed Christian teaching in the congregation’s reopening stance.
“We’re just asking you still to consider to lay down a little bit of your rights as it relates to a wearing mask when you come in … and we’re going to adhere to strict social distancing when you come in,” he said in an online message.
Christian teaching is to show love and respect to others. The church provides masks, Williams said, adding that what’s important is “humility, (being) willing to show compassion. Willing to show concern, willing to give things up for the sake of another.”
Area Roman Catholics have resumed in-person gatherings for Mass since May, said Jennifer Simerman, spokeswoman for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Indiana bishops had issued a dispensation from the obligation to attend weekly Mass because of the pandemic. The declaration was set to expire Aug.15, but the bishops, including the diocese’s Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, extended it last week until Nov. 1.
Online Masses are widely available on Facebook and other livestreaming sites, she said. “People have been thrilled with the offering,” Simerman said, adding a list can be found at www.redeemerradio.com/c19outreach.
Read more here.
Face Masks Really Do Matter. The Scientific Evidence Is Growing.
The following contains excerpts from this Wall Street Journal article.
Face masks are emerging as one of the most powerful weapons to fight the new coronavirus, with growing evidence that facial coverings help prevent transmission—even if an infected wearer is in close contact with others.
Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he believes the pandemic could be brought under control over the next four to eight weeks if “we could get everybody to wear a mask right now.” His comments, made in mid-July with the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed an editorial he and others wrote there emphasizing “ample evidence” of asymptomatic spread and highlighting new studies showing how masks help reduce transmission.
The research Dr. Redfield cited included a recently published study suggesting that universal use of surgical masks helped reduce rates of confirmed coronavirus infections among health-care workers at the Mass General Brigham health-care system in Massachusetts.
The CDC currently recommends the use of cloth face coverings in public, and several states have made the coverings a requirement for most people in wide-ranging public situations. An analysis published in July in the BMJ, a medical journal, found that face coverings are now recommended or mandated in 160 countries to reduce coronavirus transmission.
Researchers from around the world have found wearing even a basic cloth face covering is more effective in reducing the spread of coronavirus than wearing nothing at all. And many are now examining the possibility that masks might offer some personal protection from the virus, despite initial thinking that they mostly protect others.
Experts caution that widespread masking doesn’t eliminate the need to follow other recommendations, like frequent handwashing and social distancing.
In the absence of widespread availability of N95 masks—considered among the most effective but typically reserved for health-care workers—transmission can still be reduced with simple and affordable face coverings, the research shows. A case study by Australian researchers published in July in the journal Thorax found that a three-ply surgical mask made of nonwoven material noticeably reduced droplets dispersed while speaking, coughing and sneezing. The surgical mask proved more effective than two-layer and one-layer cotton facial coverings, the researchers found, noting that efficacy diminished as masks grew thinner.
The study, which analyzed the droplet spread of a healthy volunteer after capturing it on video, hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed. Researchers concluded from their observations that homemade cloth masks likely need several layers—ideally at least three—to prevent the transmission of the virus.
Their findings largely align with other recently published research. In a study posted Friday in the journal Science Advances, a team that included researchers from Duke University found that, in a test of several masks, an N95 mask was most effective in reducing droplet emissions. A three-layer surgical mask and a mask made with a combination of cotton and polypropylene were the next best alternatives.
Some two-layer cotton, pleated-style masks performed better than other types of masks, including an N95 mask with a valve. And both types were superior to a knitted mask, a bandanna or the unmasked control trial, according to the study, which measured the total count of droplets and particles emitted while a person spoke when wearing the facial coverings.
The research also found that a neck gaiter, which extends below the chin and can cover most of the neck, resulted in more droplet transmission than wearing no mask at all. The researchers suggested that the gaiter dispersed larger droplets into several smaller droplets, consequently increasing the droplet count and potential spread.
“Considering that smaller particles are airborne longer than large droplets (larger droplets sink faster), the use of such a mask might be counterproductive,” the researchers wrote in the study.
Exposure is also a focus of researchers now. The amount of virus exposure might influence degree of sickness, according to a review of viral literature and coronavirus epidemiology by Monica Gandhi, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. She and her co-authors posit in the research, published in July in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, that masks provide an important barrier and could lead to a milder infection or even prevent one altogether. While cloth and surgical masks can widely vary, she believes some masks can likely filter out a majority of large viral droplets.
Read more here.
Coronavirus Turmoil Raises Depression Risks in Youth
The following contains excerpts from this Wall Street Journal article.
The pandemic and its economic fallout are taking a toll on the mental health of many Americans. But the burden is perhaps greatest for those on the brink of adulthood, young people who are often seeing their dreams of careers, romances and adventures dashed.
“A number of kids are expressing that these are supposed to be the best years—high school and college—the most free years,” says Anne Marie Albano, a professor of medical psychology in psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York. “The possibility that Covid is going to completely change this period of their life, and they won’t ever get it back, is overwhelming for a lot of them,” she says.
Nearly 41% of college students reported symptoms of depression in a survey of 18,764 students from the end of March through May by the American College Health Association and the Healthy Minds Network, a research project based at the University of Michigan, Boston University and the University of California, Los Angeles. That is up from 35.7% in a Healthy Minds survey from fall 2019. Also, suicide risk measured in the spring ticked up to 27.2%, from 25% measured last fall in a survey by the college health association, which is a research and advocacy group promoting student health. In a survey taken in April by Active Minds—which has chapters on more than 550 college campuses—about 80% of 2,086 college students reported that Covid-19 had “negatively impacted” their mental health.
Even before the pandemic, young people showed rising rates of mental-health problems. According to a spring 2019 survey of nearly 68,000 college students by the American College Health Association, about 24% had been diagnosed with or treated for anxiety problems in the preceding 12 months, and 20% had been diagnosed with or treated for depression. Those rates were about double those found in the survey a decade earlier. The stress of Covid can make existing mental-health problems worse and cause new ones, psychologists say.
“Emerging adulthood is a very intense time of life,” says Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a senior research scholar at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. From the ages of roughly 18 to 29, young people “are making big decisions about their education, their career path, their romantic relationships,” Dr. Arnett says. “It’s the liftoff decade for your entry to an adult career path. To have that suddenly blown up with no sign of when it’s going to end, it’s tough.”
Psychologists say that the social isolation and the curtailing of some autonomy imposed by the pandemic are particularly difficult for teenagers and young adults. At these ages, young people are driven to seek more independence from their families, connect with their peers and pursue romantic relationships, says Karen L. Bierman, director of the Child Study Center at Pennsylvania State University.
The uncertainty around if and when the pandemic will end, and what life will look like in that future, is also causing distress.
“One of the things that carries young people through all of the things they have to do is some vision of the future. Here’s a life I see for myself that looks interesting. Suddenly that gets hard to see,” says Joseph P. Allen, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia. Dr. Allen says this can zap motivation to do things like study for the SAT or even just get off the sofa, which can make mental-health issues even worse.
The grinding unemployment that has hit young people especially hard is likely to have other harmful effects, notes Charles B. Nemeroff, professor and chair of the department of psychiatry at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. “Studies have shown a relationship between unemployment and suicide and unemployment and illicit drug use and unemployment and alcohol use. This teenage and young-adult population is particularly susceptible to those influences,” Dr. Nemeroff says.
Indeed, psychologists and psychiatrists worry that the pandemic may cause long-term harm because the developing brain is “vulnerable to insults,” he says. “One of the insults is isolation and loneliness.”
“One of the key jobs that a teenager has developmentally is to learn how to develop trusting friendships and resolve conflicts in ways that are constructive and productive,” says Maria A. Oquendo, chairman of psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and past president of the American Psychiatric Association. Social isolation could “derail their maturation and development,” Dr. Oquendo says.
Several psychologists recommend that teens and young adults create “pods” with a few friends they can see without social distancing. The key is to allow young people to meet their needs for social interaction in a safe way, says Columbia’s Dr. Albano. “If you pen them in,” she says, “you’re going to make your kids more depressed and anxious.” (They’ll also be more likely to sneak out to those big, unsupervised parties, she adds.)
Focusing on what you can control helps, says Mary Alvord, a psychologist in Chevy Chase, Md. “Every session, I start with, ‘What’s under your control right now, what’s going well?’ And when things are not going well, ‘What are aspects you can do something about?’ “
Read more here.
Back to School? Look Out for Covid-Tracking Surveillance Tech
The following contains excerpts from this Wall Street Journal article.
When students return to school this fall, things are going to look different—and not just because everyone will be wearing masks.
Some students will walk past thermal-imaging cameras that take their temperature; some will wear beacons that trace their movements around campus. Other changes will be more subtle, such as security cameras that detect when students have removed their masks or are standing too close together.
The coronavirus pandemic has started a wave of surveillance technology aimed at helping schools prevent or contain infection. All this tech raises big questions that don’t have clear answers. Will it work? Could it create a false sense of security? And how will these measures be used after the pandemic ends?
Some of the new technology leverages schools’ existing security systems. Motorola Solutions whose security and communications systems are already installed in thousands of schools around the country—has developed artificial intelligence compatible with its existing cameras to recognize when an individual isn’t wearing a mask.
“We used data that we’ve collected over months of different types of face masks, and we’ve trained a neural network to tell when they have those types of masks on their faces or not,” Mahesh Saptharishi, Motorola Solutions’ chief technology officer, said.
The cameras also can detect how far apart people are. If children were spotted less than 6 feet apart for a period of time designated as worrisome, that instance could be logged and could even trigger an alert to school staff.
Perry Township Schools, in Indianapolis, is planning to use the system to enforce safe social distancing. “We’ve gone to great lengths to organize kids into cohorts and to keep them moving—they won’t be using lockers during the day—and this will help us identify areas where kids are hanging out too long,” said Chris Sampson, the district’s associate superintendent.
Dr. Saptharishi said Motorola Solutions also offers software that can assist schools in contact tracing. The software doesn’t use facial recognition, but detects physical attributes such as a person’s height or shirt color, enabling school officials to quickly review video to trace movements and contacts of a student who reported testing positive for Covid-19.
If this all sounds rather Orwellian, that’s because it is, and it has privacy experts concerned about the potential for misuse.
“Often when measures are introduced for a specific purpose, they linger on because people become acclimated,” said Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, in Seattle. Many U.S. schools were already getting heavily into surveillance technology before the pandemic, he said. “When these technologies are no longer needed to detect fever or conduct contact tracing, will they all the sudden be used to detect truancy?”
School shootings have been the impetus for much of the new surveillance tech. It’s no longer common to visit a school that isn’t outfitted with cameras and extensive visitor check-in systems, some that scan driver’s licenses against sex-offender registries and other persona non grata lists. Many of these security companies are adding Covid-detection features to their systems.
Raptor Technologies, which makes automated visitor and volunteer management systems for schools, has added customizable health-screening questions to its visitor check-in systems, based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s an honor system, though: To be denied entry, a visitor has to admit to having a fever or Covid-like symptoms.
As schools try to minimize physical contact, many have switched to self-service check-in kiosks and away from having visitors sign in with front desk staff. Raptor has seen greater sales growth for its kiosks in the past six weeks compared with all of 2019, Chief Executive Jim Vesterman said. Approximately 2,400 of its client schools already have turned on the new health-screening feature.
The Brazosport Independent School District in suburban Houston has added health-screening questions to its Raptor visitor check-in system. Separately, it also ordered thermal cameras for 18 of its 20 schools. Not only do the cameras take temperatures of students and visitors, but they also detect when someone isn’t wearing a mask. When the pandemic ends, according to Ty Morrow, the district’s safety coordinator, the district plans to integrate the cameras into an AI surveillance system it is developing to detect weapons and unauthorized visitors.
Volan Technology, which started out in late 2018 designing emergency response systems for schools and hotels, has also positioned its systems to assist in contact tracing. Students, teachers and staff at schools that have purchased its equipment for contact-tracing purposes will wear badges that communicate wirelessly with geofencing-enabled sensors installed in every room, thus tracking their on-campus movement.
The data is shared with Volan’s private, encrypted iOS app, which schools can use to look back at the movements of anyone who tests positive to determine exactly where they were, with whom and for how long during a prior 14-day period. The app would assign risk scores to people based on how much time they spent near or in the same room with the infected person, to avoid unnecessary calls from the school nurse.
Volan CEO Michael Bettua said districts have told him they might one day use the beacons to take attendance and keep track of who is on campus. There goes Ferris Bueller’s day off.
Thanks for letting me fill you in.
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Indiana’s Third District
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