While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for August 7

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

Here’s a look:

Stimulus talks stall. Time is running out for White House officials and Democrats to come to an agreement on the next stimulus package. Last night, both sides left a three-hour meeting trading blame.

Many are wondering whether they will be able to reach a deal by today’s deadline. As of now, there appears to be little chance of a bipartisan agreement before the weekend begins.

From the beginning, Republicans and Democrats have disagreed on some key issues.

One major point of contention is whether to continue unemployment benefits at $600 a week, which expired last week. Democrats argue those benefits need to be extended through the end of the year, but Republicans have instead proposed a $200-a-week replacement.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch Mcconnell said he could support extending the extra $600 as long as President Trump backs the measure.

“We’re focused on a bottoms-up approach to the most critical issues, and that’s what we’re focused on.  So in certain issues where we’re apart on money, we’re also apart on policy,” White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said.

“They were unwilling to meet in the middle. They said it mostly has to be their way, and they admitted that. And that’s what makes this so disappointing because we feel we’re covering the needs of the American people,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said.

It’s unclear if the two sides will meet today. White House officials say the president may take executive action if a deal is not completed by today’s deadline.

Record number of cases despite mask mandate. The statewide mask mandate has been in effect for the last 10 days. Despite the mandate, we saw a record 1,051 COVID-19 cases on Thursday. We hadn’t seen numbers that high since late July, before the mask mandate was in effect.

The numbers are alarming, and doctors say there are several reasons that we are seeing a higher number of cases.

They say the virus is now more widespread in the community, more people are testing, and delays in test results are all factors.

But infection prevention experts insist the key to slowing the spread is to wear a mask and continue to social distance.

Doctors say it usually takes five to 14 days when people might start to experience symptoms. They then have to go get tested, and those test results could take up to a week, and in some cases, even longer.

So they say some cases we’re seeing are from before the mask mandate was put in place.

Doctors say we won’t see those numbers decrease until the end of the month or around Labor Day.

Link between in-person voting and spread of COVID-19. A study co-authored by professors at Ball State found a connection between in-person voting and the spread of COVID-19 after a primary election. The research focused on the election in Wisconsin that was held in April.

As of right now, Indiana is still one of a few states in the country not expanding mail-in voting for November. It is something they did for the primary in June, and clerk’s offices were overwhelmed by the number of absentee applications. Even so, there were still long lines at polling locations.

We also saw this in Wisconsin when the state held its primary in April. The study found the consolidation of polling locations in Wisconsin did lead to some spread of COVID-19.

Governor Holcomb says he has not seen this study, but he promised to review it and even talk to Wisconsin’s governor about it.

Right now, Indiana voters must have a reason to request an absentee vote-by-mail ballot. For the June primary, changes to the election process went through the Indiana Election Commission. We are told they do not have any meetings scheduled at this time. 

COVID-19 contact tracing success. Indiana is reporting a 77% success rate of COVID-19 contact tracing, and in Marion County, officials say the success rate is 80%.

But what does that mean?

Officials say a successful contact tracing program helps investigators trace the pandemic’s path through a community and wall off those who test positive from everyone around them.

Level 4 travel advisory lifted. The U.S. lifted its global “Do Not Travel” advisory. The ban started more than four months ago.

The Level 4 travel advisory is the highest level of advisory. It urged Americans not to travel overseas due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The department says the move comes as health conditions are improving in some countries, but officials still warn to use caution if you’re traveling abroad. And right now, Americans are still banned from traveling in the European Union.

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