While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for September 16

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INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic that you may have missed overnight.

Here’s a look:

Big Ten decision expected. Big Ten football remains in limbo with a decision expected soon on a fall football season.

According to multiple sources, the season could start the weekend of Oct. 16. It appeared an announcement would be made Tuesday night, but the conference hasn’t said anything official yet.

University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank said Big Ten football will remain on hold until there are answers to questions about COVID-19 testing and tracing, along with possible long-term heart issues related to the coronavirus.

Blank said once the Big Ten university leaders have their concerns addressed “we will try to plan a delayed season.”

IPS students returning to classroom soon. Indianapolis Public Schools is giving students the option to return to the classrooms.

IPS will first welcome back pre-K through third grade students on Oct. 5, if they elect to do so. The district will send out a new survey starting Wednesday for parents to decide if they would like their child to return to the classroom or not. 

Starting Oct. 19, pre-K through sixth grade students can opt to return in-person. Seventh through 12th graders will be under a hybrid learning model, which means rotating students out by last name.   

Superintendent Aleesia Johnson felt the timing was right, given Marion County’s lower COVID-19 positivity rate. Johnson believes returning to the classroom would be beneficial to students so they can receive the best education as possible.   

IU adding on-campus COVID-19 testing. As Indiana University continues to battle the pandemic, the university is gearing up with additional on-campus testing labs.

“It’s my hope at that point that we can test students one to two times a week if we need to, and at that point, I hope they can catch more cases,” said Aaron Carroll, IU’s Director of Mitigation Testing.

The school hopes to have the labs ready to go by mid-October. Two of the three spots would be located in Indy, with the third in Bloomington. The three spots would be capable of handling 5,000 tests a day per location. At 15,000 tests a day, school officials believe they will be capable of having more tests per day than the state.

“That’s a good thing, but I would be so annoyed,” laughed IU freshman Bryan Nguyen when asked how he felt about more testing. “We actually just got back from contact tracing quarantine. My friend tested positive, and I tested negative two or three times.”

“I think that’s a good thing,” responded Layla Qureshi who was walking with Nguyen, “We have to sacrifice to be on campus.”

IU has been taking part in random testing across the campus.

COVID-19 deaths at federal prison. Two inmates have died in as many days from coronavirus at the federal prison complex where the U.S. government plans to carry out two executions next week.

The virus deaths are likely to raise alarm with advocates and lawyers for the condemned men over the spread of coronavirus at the Federal Correctional Complex in Terre Haute. As of Tuesday, more than 40 inmates had confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the agency’s statistics.

The executions of Christopher Andre Vialva and William Emmett LeCroy are scheduled to be carried out at the prison complex next week. The government carried out three executions in July and two executions in August.

The Bureau of Prisons said a 53-year-old inmate, Tim Hocutt, died Monday at the Terre Haute facility.

Hocutt, who was serving a 13-year sentence for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, had reported that he was suffering from a “mild cough, congestion and nausea” and had previously tested negative for COVID-19, the Bureau of Prisons said. But Hocutt tested positive on Monday after he alerted medical staff to his condition and was pronounced dead the same day at the complex’s medium-security prison.

His death came a day after the death of another inmate, Byron Dale Bird, who was serving a sentence at the high-security penitentiary on the prison grounds.

The 65-year-old Bird was taken to a local hospital on Aug. 27 after testing positive for the virus and was admitted to an intensive care unit. He died at the hospital on Sunday. Bird was serving a 74-year prison sentence after being convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, witness tampering, failing to register as a sex offender and other charges.

Cases surge in India. India’s total of coronavirus infections passed 5 million Wednesday, still soaring and testing the feeble health care system in tens of thousands of impoverished towns and villages.

The world’s second-most populous country has added more than 1 million cases of infection this month alone and is expected to become the pandemic’s worst-hit country within weeks, surpassing the United States, where more than 6.6 million people have been infected.

India’s Health Ministry reported 90,123 new cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, raising the total to 5,020,359, about 0.35% of the nation’s nearly 1.4 billion population. Its record daily high of 97,570 cases was reported on Sept. 11.

The ministry said 1,290 more people died in the past 24 hours, for a total of 82,066, which is the third-highest toll in the world. Experts warned that India’s fatality rate could increase in coming weeks with lockdown restrictions relaxed except in high-risk areas.

But authorities ruled out imposing a second countrywide lockdown as recoveries were growing at more than 78%. Its fatality rate is 1.6%, far lower than 3% each in the United States and Brazil, according to tallies by Johns Hopkins University.

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