Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed an executive order Thursday requiring that all K-12 schools continue to utilize remote learning practices for the remainder of the school year.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick announced that decision during Holcomb’s daily press briefing and said it was made with the safety of students and school faculty in mind.
“It’s going to take a collective effort to save lives, and schools must do their part,” she said.
Schools must either complete 160 total instructional days or 20 additional days of remote learning from Thursday to the end of the school year, which varies by district. All K-12 schools will need to submit a plan for review and approval by the Indiana Department of Education by April 17.
Holcomb’s order also requires all high school seniors who were on track to graduate prior to school buildings being closed March 13 be provided with the flexibility they need to still earn their diplomas. All exams required for graduation have been waived.
“Our goal is to get you across that stage,” McCormick said.
She also said decisions about graduation ceremonies will be made by school corporations, not the state.
“That’s a local decision. The (state) has no business getting in the middle of that,” she said.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box addressed public concerns about people continuing to go outside for walks and other physical activities.
“There’s nothing better than getting out on a day like today when the sun is shining,” she said. “It’s so helpful for your mental health. Exercise, throughout my life and through many people’s lives, is the way we remove tension, how we get the stress out, so we 100% encourage you to do that.”
While Box encouraged people to take advantage of nice weather by going outdoors, she clarified it should be done while maintaining social distancing of 6 feet from others, and groups should be kept as small as possible.
Holcomb spoke about the decision to keep state parks open.
“We left the state parks open for people to exercise at a safe distance, and most of them are spread out around the state to where hopefully they’re close to home,” he said. “We’re not encouraging people to take day trips and make multiple stops to go out and exercise, so you don’t need to make it a point to go, like you have a passport, and go to every state park at this time.”
The Indiana State Department of Health announced the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Indiana has now risen to 3,039. This is an increase of 474 from Wednesday.
Jackson County now has 19 cases confirmed. That’s an increase of nine from Wednesday.
Marion County had the most new cases with 192, bringing its total to 1,304. Lake County had 28 new confirmed cases. Hamilton County saw its total number of cases increase by 21. Johnson and Hendricks counties each had increases of 24.
The state health department reported 13 more deaths from COVID-19 in the state, making the total 78.
To date, Jackson County has not reported any deaths from the virus.
According to state statistics, the 50 to 59 age demographic remains the one with the highest percentage of confirmed cases with 19.6% of cases in the state, and 52.4% of individuals in the state confirmed to be carrying the virus are female.
The demographic with the highest percentage of deaths is still 80-plus, which make up 37.2% of the state’s deaths from COVID-19.