While you were sleeping: Coronavirus updates for April 29

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

Here’s a look:

More money is on the way for Hoosiers who need help feeding their families.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration announced increases to the amount of money families with school-age children receive. 

This change begins in May, and it impacts families with children who are no longer able to eat free and reduced-rate meals at school due to closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

For those already receiving SNAP benefits, the money will be added to their existing EBT cards. Pandemic EBT cards will be issued to families who don’t already receive SNAP benefits. You don’t have to do anything to receive the new benefits.

The FSSA also announced an option for grocery delivery for those on the SNAP program.

“Allowing individuals who have high risk or a barrier with transportation access to safely receive their food,” Dr. Jennifer Sullivan said. “We have already authorized curbside pickup for SNAP, and this additional program is a welcome advancement that will continue permanently after the public health emergency.”

The number of positive cases inside the state prison system continues to rise. As of today, 148 Indiana Department of Corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been two deaths. Also, 321 offenders statewide have tested positive for the virus.

Some say the IDOC isn’t doing enough to keep offenders and staff safe. Others say they are doing everything they can.

The ACLU believes the lack of testing in prisons is keeping the positive numbers lower than they actually are.

Meanwhile, IDOC officials made clear on Monday they do not plan to test every inmate.

Westville has the most positive cases with 143 prisoners and 36 staff members.

Yesterday, families protested for hours, pointing out inmates want to be tested but are being ignored.

The IDOC tells us it has a limited number of tests, but those who test positive are being isolated. They say every inmate and staff member received a face mask and is being screened. Over 3,500 offenders are in quarantine, and nearly 600 are in isolation.

Ken Falk with the ACLU argues the DOC needs to look for ways to release people to home detention, even if only temporarily, to reduce the population. But the IDOC says it doesn’t have the power to release inmates—only a judge can issue a sentence modification.

The number of Americans who died from COVID-19 is now higher than the death toll of U.S. soldiers killed in the Vietnam War.

By late Tuesday afternoon, Johns Hopkins data showed U.S. coronavirus deaths to be 58,343. The bloody conflict in Vietnam, which spanned two decades, killed 58,220 Americans, according to statistics from the National Archives.

Coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed one million Tuesday, over four times the number in Spain, the country with the second-most.

Indiana is ramping up its testing efforts as the COVID-19 task force looks to Friday for an update on re-opening the state. The task force announced a partnership with OptumServe Health Services to begin large-scale free testing. Indiana is the second state to add Optum testing.

In the first 30 days, the task force expects 100,000 Hoosiers will be tested. The testing is for any symptomatic Hoosier, close contacts of positive cases, or residents of congregate living settings.

Twenty testing sites will open up in the next week in Indiana National Guard armories. An additional 30 testing sites will open in the next two weeks.

Testing will be available for at least 8 hours a day, Monday through Friday with an appointment. To register, people can visit the Optum portal. Information about the website address and hotline will come soon.

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