Dvorak calls for swift, comprehensive state response to coronavirus pandemic
SOUTH BEND — State Representative Ryan Dvorak (D-South Bend) today called for a comprehensive state response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in Indiana.
“In order to minimize the worst possible health and economic impacts,” said Dvorak, “we must take decisive action immediately.”
Dvorak’s recommendations fall into three categories – Public Health, Economy, and Government. “The response to this virus must be a collective effort from all levels of government, with cooperation from our private sector, and it must be a comprehensive approach to all of the problems we now face,” said Dvorak.
“Some of these actions can be handled administratively,” continued Dvorak, “but some will possibly require executive orders, or even action by the General Assembly, which means we may need to consider the logistics of how to conduct an emergency Special Session.”
The regular session of the General Assembly already adjourned for the year on March 11, 2020, and a Special Session would need to be called by the Governor.
Here are the recommended actions Dvorak is calling for:
Public Health Action
The public health response to this pandemic has been limited, primarily by lack of resources. To contain the spread of the virus, a vigorous response must begin now.
1) Establish a clear chain of command with the State Department of Health acting as the liaison to the federal government, and the definitive voice for all public health action to local health departments, local government units, and employers.
2) Require all testing, surveillance, and related public health actions be reported daily to the Department by local health departments. Require all healthcare providers to report all of their information daily as well – either locally or to the state – so long as it is reported.
3) Maintain a database/dashboard - open to healthcare providers - inventorying strategic statewide healthcare resources, including available acute and ICU beds, protective equipment, respiratory and IV equipment, as well as available doctors and nurses.
4) Begin fever monitoring in public buildings, and require employers to monitor their employees for fever.
5) Designate fever clinics (in as many locations as practical) to isolate, test and triage all fever cases, and develop state testing capacity and protocols to apply to all pandemic screening.
6) Adopt emergency rules to require commercial airlines, motor coach operators, taxis, private drivers, public transportation, etc., to regularly clean and disinfect vehicles.
The economic fallout from this pandemic will be unprecedented. State tax revenues are already plummeting, and businesses are beginning layoffs as economic activity grinds to a halt.
1) Open up eligibility for people applying for unemployment and expedite applications to help the largest number of people possible.
2) Direct the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to issue an emergency rule creating a moratorium on utility shut-offs for the duration of the emergency. This should include electric, gas, water, phone/mobile, and internet access.
3) The State Supreme Court should order a halt to all eviction and foreclosure proceedings for the duration of the emergency.
4) The Office of Attorney General should open a hotline and online reporting for violations of Indiana’s emergency price gouging statute (Ind. Code 4-6-9.1 creates a $1000 fine for retailers who grossly inflate prices after a declared emergency).
5) Create a centralized management structure for local emergency food distribution – releasing appropriations to existing food banks, and expanding capacity into areas that lack adequate emergency food resources.
6) Create a state employment center to hire temporary workers necessary for emergency programs where needed – i.e., orderlies, sanitation work, food distribution, fever monitoring.
7) Create a registry for business owners to register economic hardship/layoffs/closings, etc. – to help quantify the scale of the economic problem, but also to track potential recipients of any future relief programs.
Government Continuity Action
State and local governments are facing difficulties in operations as quarantine and isolation protocols impact everything from staffing to public meeting requirements.
1) Decide now whether to postpone the scheduled May Primary Election to have time to adequately prepare.
2) Allow no-excuse vote by mail ballots for every voter in the state, along with possible “curbside voting” protocols for Election Day.
3) Issue clarification of Indiana’s Open Door Law requirements for public meetings during the emergency since many public meetings could violate isolation protocols. Assess capacity for local units to conduct remote meetings.
4) Require all local units to assess continuity plans to ensure adequate staffing of all emergency response personnel for the duration of the emergency.
5) Designate a senior official to coordinate daily communication with local governments to provide up-to-date information on public health statistics, state-level response actions, best practices to be implemented at the local level, and proper information to be relayed to businesses and citizens locally.
Dvorak called for a united effort to make the duration of this emergency as short as possible, and asked for additional ideas from the public to help rectify problems that may not be receiving adequate attention yet.
“These recommendations are just a first step,” Dvorak said, “and I am sure we will be required to do more - but I know we are entirely capable of getting through this if we work together.”