Happy Thursday. Local, state, and federal highlights in today’s memo include:

  • Marion County Health Officials Cap Middle, High School Capacity at 50%

  • The Economic Hole We're In

  • Top Medical Experts Says Eye Protection and Face Shields Can Help Prevent Spread of Coronavirus

  • Unemployment Claims Reach Four-Month Low

  • Speaker Pelosi Mandates Masks for Lawmakers

  • Liability Shield Fight Threatens to Blow Up Relief Talks

  • "No Evidence" Hydroxychloroquine Works for Treating Covid-19, Birx Says

  • Trump launches "Embers Strategy"

  • Important Dates

  • Daily Numbers

    Let’s dive in.


Marion County Health Officials Cap Middle, High School Capacity at 50%


Breaking: Indianapolis middle and high school buildings may operate at no more than 50% capacity in an effort to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, under a public health order announced Thursday by the Marion County Health Department.

Elementary schools, however, will be able to fully reopen for all students to return to classrooms five days a week. The public health order also calls for all students in third grade and above to wear masks, permanent seating charts, and staggered passing periods. Marion County Public Health Department Director Virginia Caine also recommended that high-risk teachers and students be allowed to opt out of in-person instruction.

The order is based on new metrics from the health department that specify what level of school reopening is considered safe based on the COVID-19 test positivity rate in the community. Marion County had a seven-day average positivity rate of 9.2% as of Sunday. It is considered “yellow” under the new system, the first level triggering restrictions on schools. Under the four-level system, which ranges between green, yellow, orange and red, the positivity rate must drop below 5% for schools to operate with no restrictions on in-person learning. If the county reaches a positivity rate of 13% or higher, schools should not offer in-person instruction.

Restrictions will remain in place for at least two weeks. (Indianapolis Business Journal)


The Economic Hole We're In


Breaking: Per Axios, the staggering 32.9% contraction in annualized GDP last quarter quantifies just how big a hole the U.S. economy is in — dwarfing the previous record set in 1958, when GDP shrank at an annualized 10% rate. 

  • Why it matters: If it wasn’t clear before today, the economy is going to need support to dig its way out. And that assumes we don’t fall back in, which may already be happening as the coronavirus surge forces some states to clamp down again.

  • "The path of the economy will depend significantly on the course of the virus," Fed chair Jerome Powell said yesterday. "It's so fundamental."

Zoom out: When the U.S. shut down its economy and passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March, a GDP contraction of this size was not out of the realm of possibilities, notes former Treasury official Tony Fratto.

  • What nobody was projecting was that weekly unemployment claims would still be running at 1.4 million in July — the product of a failed coronavirus response.

The state of play: The extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits under the CARES Act is set to expire tomorrow, and Congress and the Trump administration are still painfully deadlocked over the next stimulus bill.

  • Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) attempted this afternoon to unanimously pass a short-term extension of the benefits at a reduced level of $200 per week, which was summarily rejected by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

  • Schumer then attempted to pass the $3 trillion relief bill that House Democrats approved in May. That, too, was blocked and condemned by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) as a "totally unserious proposal."

Between the lines: "The legislative shenanigans were not meant to actually enact policy, but rather to help further the political blame game as Congress prepared to leave town without an agreement," the Washington Post notes.

The bottom line: More than 30 million unemployed Americans could see their incomes drop 50%–75%.


Top Medical Experts Says Eye Protection and Face Shields Can Help Prevent Spread of Coronavirus


What’s New: Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert and a key member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Wednesday that the U.S. could eventually reach a point where it recommends the use of eye goggles to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  During an interview with ABC News medical correspondent Jennifer Ashton, Fauci was asked whether the U.S. would one day recommend eye protection due to the pandemic.  "You know, it might," Fauci said, noting that it would offer an added layer of protection. (The Hill

Meanwhile, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, is recommending the use of face shields along with masks to protect against COVID-19 infection. Face shields can offer more protection to the wearer than cloth face coverings, which are intended to prevent asymptomatic individuals from spreading coronavirus to others. (The Hill)


Unemployment Claims Reach Four-Month Low


What’s New: The number of Hoosiers filing first-time unemployment claims last week is at the lowest level in more than four months, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the Indiana Department of Workforce Development shows 17,938 unemployed workers filed for benefits.

Indiana’s June unemployment stands at 11.2%, down from 12.3% in May and much lower than the 16.9% in April. Prior to the pandemic and the economic shutdown, Indiana unemployment measured 3.2% The DWD shows the labor participation rate in Indiana reached 64.3%, above the national average of 61%, and nearly equal to the 64.4% in February. (Inside Indiana Business)


Speaker Pelosi Mandates Masks for Lawmakers


What’s New: The revelation that Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) tested positive for the novel coronavirus echoed throughout Capitol Hill on Wednesday as lawmakers sought to thwart the spread of COVID-19 in their Washington workplace and across the country. 

 Gohmert — a lawmaker who flaunted disdain for mask-wearing guidelines during much of the past four months —  tested positive in a pair of tests at the White House before he was slated to fly with President Trump to Texas on Wednesday. The news of his infection set off a mad scramble that included a new mandate from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for lawmakers to wear masks while on the House floor. And Gohmert’s situation provoked anxiety from some members of Congress. (The Hill)


Liability Shield Fight Threatens to Blow Up Relief Talks


What’s New: A sharp disagreement over whether to provide coronavirus liability protections to businesses, schools and other organizations has quickly emerged as one of the biggest obstacles to getting a deal on COVID-19 relief legislation.

Both sides are digging in, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell(R-Ky.) and Democratic leaders — Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) — calling the issue a looming dealbreaker.

Not only is the disagreement standing in the way of passing the first major coronavirus package since late March, it’s also pitting key Republican and Democratic constituencies against each other: the business community versus unions and trial lawyers. (The Hill)


"No Evidence" Hydroxychloroquine Works for Treating Covid-19, Birx Says


What’s New: There is “no evidence” that hydroxychloroquine works for treating Covid-19, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on Thursday.

During an interview on "Fox & Friends," Birx was asked about the viral video that made several false claims about coronavirus, including that hydroxychloroquine, used in combination with zinc and Zithromax, is the cure for the virus. Birx said science and medicine have "always been full of accounts like this. And that's why you do randomized clinical trials to actually be able to compare patient-to-patient." (CNN)


Trump Launches "Embers Strategy"


According to Axios, the Trump administration is sending increased PPE, test kits and top health officials like Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx to coronavirus hotspots as part of a campaign called the "Embers Strategy," White House officials told Axios' Alayna Treene.

  • The name "Embers Strategy" is meant "to highlight the risk level of 'embers' to decrease the likelihood of 'fires,'" a senior White House official said.

Why it matters: The push is part of a larger effort to show President Trump is taking the pandemic seriously, something White House officials describe as a "renewed focus."

Administration health officials will appear on local and regional television and radio to educate the public on mitigation tactics, including wearing masks, practicing social distancing, frequent hand washing and staying home when ill.


Important Dates


Monday, August 17 - 9:00 am                                                                            Legislative Continuity Committee - Room 233

Wednesday, September 2 - 10:00 am                                                                    Pension Management Oversight Study Committee - Senate Chamber

Thursday, September 3 - 10:00 am                                                                       Pension Management Oversight Study Committee - Room 404

Wednesday, October 14 - 10:00 am                                                                       Pension Management Oversight Study Committee - Room 404


By The Numbers …


COVID-19 Cases

New cases: 970

Total cumulative cases reported Thursday: 65,253

Total cumulative cases reported Wednesday: 64,299

Increase in cumulative cases: 954

Increase in cases reported July 24-July 30: 5,677

Increase in cases reported July 17-23: 5,522

COVID-19 Deaths

New deaths: 13

Total deaths: 2,746

Increase in deaths reported July 24-July 30: 63

Increase in deaths reported July 17-23: 81

County Numbers

Marion County cumulative cases: 14,270 (increase of 174)

Marion County new deaths: 3

Marion County cumulative deaths: 717

Hamilton County cumulative cases: 2,366

Johnson County cumulative cases: 1,600

U.S. and Worldwide Numbers As of Thursday, from Johns Hopkins University:

U.S. cases: 4,447,648

U.S. deaths: 151,077

Global cases: 17,084,446

Global deaths: 668,250