While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for September 17

Coronavirus

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

Here’s a look:

Indy COVID-19 funding approved. The City-County Council approved a third and final allocation of CARES Act funding for Marion County during a special meeting Wednesday evening.

Mayor Joe Hogsett went before the council to unveil the $76 million proposal for Marion County. The funding will deplete the city’s $168 million allocation from Congress. The proposal was passed with a 23-0 vote with 1 abstention and 1 person not submitting a vote.

The money must be in the accounts of the recipient agencies by December 30.

Hogsett’s third round of suggested allocations continues financial assistance for many previously funded programs.

Rental assistance and foreclosure prevention and mortgage refinancing will total $14.5 million in advance of the anticipated expiration of a renters’ eviction moratorium January 1.

Programs to deal with homelessness and hotel housing for those without shelter account for $7.2 million in proposed funding.

Food banks will receive $2.1 million, and Gleaners will receive $750,000.

State relief money. Indiana has $1.3 billion in federal relief left to spend.

Those controlling the budget said they’d like to get the money to Hoosiers now but they’re waiting on guidance from Congress and the White House.

One thing state lawmakers can agree on, Indiana’s $1.3 billion from the CARES Act needs to be used to help Hoosiers. It’s when and how they should use it that’s causing a disagreement.

“At least take care of the needs of the individuals that are out there,” said Democratic State Rep. Greg Porter. “The state needs to be more aggressive in getting those dollars out the door.”

“I’m not in as big of a snit about this as some of my colleagues,” said Democratic State Sen. Karen Tallian.

Both lawmakers sit on the state’s budget committee.

Sen. Tallian wants the federal government to allow CARES Act money to go toward payroll and benefits of public employees such as police, fire, and EMS. She said that would free up state and local budgets heading into an uncertain financial future.

However, she said conflicting guidance from the federal government is stalling Indiana’s spending.

“We don’t know exactly the parameters of what we can use it for,” said Tallian.

Delayed start for NCAA basketball. The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for nonconference games.

“The fact our campuses will be clearing out, it will be possible to just further control the exposures, and the 25th gives us that opportunity,” said Division I Council chair Grace Calhoun, the athletic director at Penn.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, a Saturday. Calhoun said the council wanted to avoid a weekend start date because of potential overlaps of basketball and football games on campuses.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27.

Vaccine contradiction. Openly contradicting the government’s top health experts, President Donald Trump predicted Wednesday that a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus could be ready as early as next month and in mass distribution soon after, undermining the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and calling him “confused” in projecting a longer time frame.

Earlier in the day, the CDC sent all 50 states a “playbook” for distribution of a vaccine to all Americans free of cost when one is proven safe and effective — which is not yet the case. Redfield told a congressional hearing that health care workers, first responders and others at high risk would get the vaccine first, perhaps in January or even late this year, but it was unlikely to be available more broadly, again assuming approval, before late spring or summer.

After Trump’s comments, CDC officials said Wednesday night that the director had thought he was answering a question about when vaccination of all Americans might be completed.

Redfield, masked at times in a Senate hearing room, also spoke emphatically of the importance of everyone wearing protective masks to stop the pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans. He floated the possibility that a vaccine might be 70% effective in inducing immunity, and said, “I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine.”

Trump would have none of that from the CDC director.

“Vaccine is much more effective than the mask,” he declared.

As for vaccinating Americans, Trump said Wednesday, “We think we can start sometime in October.” One of his recently added advisers, Dr. Scott Atlas, said as many as 700 million doses could be available by the end of March.

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