All Indiana schools closed amid virus; Lilly to help testing

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — All public schools across Indiana are closed to students and at least one district will not resume in-person classes this academic year in an attempt to slow the coronavirus spread, officials said Wednesday.

Health officials are also looking to increase the availability of testing for COVID-19 through a partnership with Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co.

Lilly laboratories will analyze samples taken in Indiana health care facilities, including nursing homes and emergency rooms, to expand testing access and speed up diagnosis of those who suspect they might be infected, the company said.

“Lilly’s scientists have been working day and night for several weeks to implement and validate this testing approach, and access or produce the chemical reagents that are in short supply across the country,” Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer, said in a statement. “Lilly’s lab meets the required certifications to conduct testing, and we’re optimistic in our ability to help accelerate testing.”

The state health department reported nine new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 39 confirmed cases across 19 counties. The new cases involve two in Marion County, which is home to Indianapolis, and one each in Clark, Fayette, Hamilton, Hendricks, Jennings, Lake and Madison counties. Indiana has recorded two COVID-19 deaths, one each in Marion and Johnson counties.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

Most of Indiana’s public school districts had shut down or switched to online classwork by Monday, but the governor’s office said Wednesday that all have now done so.

The South Dearborn Community Schools in southeastern Indiana said Wednesday it would conduct all classes online for rest of this school year. That decision was made “in the best interest for the health and safety of our students, staff, and community,” district Superintendent Eric Lows said in a message posted to its website.

The economic impact of the virus response continued to spread across Indiana as well.

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group announced that it was closing its roughly 200 U.S. malls, premium outlets and mills from 7 p.m. Wednesday through March 29 “in recognition of the need to address the spread of COVID-19.”

Honda said it will close its North American plants, including one in the southeastern Indiana city of Greensburg, for about one week starting Monday.

Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler all confirmed they will shut down all North American factories in the coming days until at least March 30.

Lear Corp., meanwhile, has closed its automotive seat-making factory in Hammond for cleaning until Thursday after reporting a second case of coronavirus at the plant, which employs about 875 workers. The plant’s workers make seats for the Ford Explorer SUVs and other vehicles manufactured just across the state line at the Chicago Assembly Plant.

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