INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic that you may have missed overnight.
Here’s a look:
President, First Lady test positive. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president tweeted early Friday.
Trump’s positive test comes just hours after the White House announced that senior aide Hope Hicks came down with the virus after traveling with the president several times this week. Trump is 74 years old, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from a virus that has now killed more than 200,000 people nationwide.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump tweeted.
Trump announced late Thursday that he and first lady Melania Trump were beginning a “quarantine process” after Hicks came down with the virus, though it wasn’t clear what that entailed. It can take days for an infection to be detectable by a test.
The diagnosis marks a major blow for a president who has been trying desperately to convince the American public that the worst of the pandemic is behind them even as cases continue to rise with less than four weeks before Election Day. And it stands as the most serious known public health scare encountered by any sitting American president in recent history.
Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most people develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.
In an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity Thursday, Trump said he was awaiting results of a COVID-19 test. “Whether we quarantine or whether we have it, I don’t know,” he said, adding that first lady Melania Trump was also awaiting results.
Hicks traveled with the president multiple times this week, including aboard Marine One, the presidential helicopter, and on Air Force One to a rally in Minnesota Wednesday, and aboard Air Force One to Tuesday night’s first presidential debate in Cleveland.
Hit hard. The pandemic hit the hotel industry particularly hard, leading to thousands of furloughs in Marion County. Without demand, some people were ultimately terminated.
Tourism officials report the final big event of 2020 in Indy, the Performance Racing Industry event, canceled. Unfortunately, the rest of the year does look a bit bleak for hotels. That is according to Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association.
“The next six months for the hospitality industry, we forecast as potentially much harder,” Tamm said, “significantly harder than the previous six months because of cold weather and other matters.”
But there are smaller events scheduled in individual hotels and more Colts games to come. Phil Ray, the JW Marriott’s general manager, said the hotel is seeing encouraging numbers.
“We started really slow,” Ray said. “Now we’re getting to the point where typically weekends will be getting up in the 25%, 30% range. But, really it’s growing and now we’re seeing weekends getting almost to the point that it’s almost kind of pre-pandemic levels where at least there’s some demand starting to arrive. From the time we were very, very slow. We are starting to see some build.”
The JW Marriott shared some of the same obstacles hotels across the country experienced.
“We were closed for about 108 days but then after we reopened, we’ve been slowly seeing business and confidence start to build,” Ray said.
Ray admitted they did furlough a large group of staff members, but once they reopened they were able to bring some people back. They have not reached the pre-furlough employee number yet. This happened to hotels across the map.
“With no demand coming for the rest of this calendar year, we had a lot of owners that held out and kept people on furlough,” Tamm said. “But simply with no demand, a lot of hoteliers had to terminate people, regrettably.”
Indiana spread. New numbers from the COVID-19 Tracking Project show Indiana now ranks as the fourth-worse state in the country when it comes to the rate of spreading coronavirus.
There are several factors that contribute to this data as Indiana moves into Stage 5, but some are warning people not to let your guard down.
“The first thing that could contribute to it of course is Labor Day it’s been about three weeks since that happened. And we see that generally after a major holiday…I think kids in schools could be a reason,” said Dr. Brian Dixon, director of Public Health Informatics at Regenstrief Institute.
Those are the factors that could have caused a spike in Indiana’s reproduction number — or R-not.
At one point the Hoosier State was the sixth-best, according to data from the COVID-19 Tracking Project. Now Indiana is the fourth-worst.
“I think what the data are telling us is people are starting to go back to kind of go back to normal activities,” said Dixon.
Indiana is now in Stage 5 the final phase of reopening. Wednesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb emphasized just because the virus is spreading doesn’t mean we’re backtracking.
“What we need to do to be extra vigilant. But it doesn’t mean that we go back to 4.5 or 4. It means we need to hunker down in the areas where we see spread,” said Holcomb.
However, Dixon says while things looked ok when the decision was made the state might have acted too fast.
“I do think that potentially we are moving ahead maybe a little sooner than what we should have.”
Dixon added it’s important for people to keep safety precautions in place especially over the holidays something state health commissioner Dr. Kristina box also stressed to Hoosiers.
Back to class. Starting Monday, pre-K through third grade will return to in-person learning at Indianapolis Public Schools. All students will not go back to the classroom until the week of Oct. 19.
Daniel Webster School 46 is preparing for 130 kids to return to the classroom next week. Less than 25 students in grades kindergarten through third grade opted for virtual learning. It will be the first time these teachers get to see their students in person since March.
We were able to tour the school on Friday to see how teachers and staff are preparing. There are procedures for almost everything.
Stickers on the floors show kids which direction to walk in hallways. Grades K-8 will grab lunch in the cafeteria and then eat in their classroom. Students in high school will eat in the cafeteria socially distanced. There are also touch-less water fountains and an isolation room in case a child shows symptoms of COVID-19.
“With that social distancing already in place is really one of the big things we are doing to make sure we can contact trace,” said Allyson Peterkin, principal of Daniel Webster School 46.
Students will not share supplies and all work will be done on computers rather than paper handouts. In the classrooms, there are desks instead of communal tables to enhance social distancing.