Coronavirus

1 in 5 prisoners in the US has had COVID-19, 1,700 have died

Donte Westmoreland poses for a photo outside a hotel Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020, in southeast Denver. Westmoreland was recently released from Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas, where he caught the virus while serving time on a marijuana charge. Some 5,000 prisoners have become infected in Kansas prisons, the second-highest COVID-19 rate in the country, second only to South Dakota. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — One in every five state and federal prisoners in the United States has tested positive for the coronavirus, a rate more than four times as high as the general population. In some states, more than half of prisoners have been infected, according to data collected by The Associated Press and The Marshall Project.

As the pandemic enters its 10th month — and as the first Americans begin to receive a long-awaited COVID-19 vaccine — at least 275,000 prisoners have been infected, more than 1,700 have died and the spread of the virus behind bars shows no sign of slowing. New cases in prisons this week reached their highest level since testing began in the spring, far outstripping previous peaks in April and August.

“That number is a vast undercount,” said Homer Venters, the former chief medical officer at New York’s Rikers Island jail complex.

Venters has conducted more than a dozen court-ordered COVID-19 prison inspections around the country. “I still encounter prisons and jails where, when people get sick, not only are they not tested but they don’t receive care. So they get much sicker than need be,” he said.

Now the rollout of vaccines poses difficult decisions for politicians and policymakers. As the virus spreads largely unchecked behind bars, prisoners can’t social distance and are dependent on the state for their safety and well-being.

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This story is a collaboration between The Associated Press and The Marshall Project exploring the state of the prison system in the coronavirus pandemic.

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Donte Westmoreland, 26, was recently released from Lansing Correctional Facility in Kansas, where he caught the virus while serving time on a marijuana charge. Some 5,100 prisoners have become infected in Kansas prisons, the third-highest COVID-19 rate in the country, behind only South Dakota and Arkansas.

“It was like I was sentenced to death,” Westmoreland said.

Westmoreland lived with more than 100 virus-infected men in an open dorm, where he woke up regularly to find men sick on the floor, unable to get up on their own, he said.

“People are actually dying in front of me off of this virus,” he said. “It’s the scariest sight.” Westmoreland said he sweated it out, shivering in his bunk until, six weeks later, he finally recovered.

Half of the prisoners in Kansas have been infected with COVID-19 — eight times the rate of cases among the state’s overall population. Eleven prisoners have died, including five at the prison where Westmoreland was held. Of the three prison employees who have died in Kansas, two worked at Lansing Correctional Facility.

In Arkansas, where more than 9,700 prisoners have tested positive and 50 have died, four of every seven have had the virus, the second-highest prison infection rate in the U.S.

Among the dead was 29-year-old Derick Coley, who was serving a 20-year sentence at the Cummins Unit maximum security prison. Cece Tate, Coley’s girlfriend, said she last talked with him on April 10 when he said he was sick and showing symptoms of the virus.

“It took forever for me to get information,” she said. The prison finally told her on April 20 that Coley had tested positive for the virus. Less than two weeks later, a prison chaplain called on May 2 to tell her Coley had died.

The couple had a daughter who turned 9 in July. “She cried and was like, ‘My daddy can’t send me a birthday card,’” Tate said. “She was like, ‘Momma, my Christmas ain’t going to be the same.’”

Nearly every prison system in the country has seen infection rates significantly higher than the communities around them. In facilities run by the federal Bureau of Prisons, one of every five prisoners has had coronavirus. Twenty-four state prison systems have had even higher rates.

Prison workers have also been disproportionately affected. In North Dakota, four of every five prison staff has gotten coronavirus. Nationwide, it’s one in five.

Not all states release how many prisoners they’ve tested, but states that test prisoners broadly and regularly may appear to have higher case rates than states that don’t.

Infection rates as of Tuesday were calculated by the AP and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the criminal justice system, based on data collected weekly in prisons since March. Infection and mortality rates may be even higher, since nearly every prison system has significantly fewer prisoners today than when the pandemic began, so rates represent a conservative estimate based on the largest known population.

Yet, as vaccine campaigns get underway, there has been pushback in some states against giving the shots to people in prisons early.

“There’s no way it’s going to go to prisoners … before it goes to the people who haven’t committed any crime,” Colorado Gov. Jared Polis told reporters earlier this month after his state’s initial vaccine priority plans put prisoners before the general public.

Like more than a dozen states, Kansas’s vaccination plan does not mention prisoners or corrections staff, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, a non-partisan prison data think tank. Seven states put prisoners near the front of the line, along with others living in crowded settings like nursing homes and long-term care facilities. An additional 19 states have placed prisoners in the second phase of their vaccine rollouts.

Racial disparities in the nation’s criminal justice system compound the disproportionate toll the pandemic has taken on communities of color. Black Americans are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites. They are also disproportionately likely to be infected and hospitalized with COVID-19, and are more likely than other races to have a family member or close friend who has died of the virus.

The pandemic “increases risk for those who are already at risk,” said David J. Harris, managing director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.

This week, a Council on Criminal Justice task force headed by former attorneys general Alberto Gonzalez and Loretta Lynch released a report calling for scaling back prison populations, improving communication with public health departments and reporting better data.

Prison facilities are often overcrowded and poorly ventilated. Dormitory-style housing, cafeterias and open-bar cell doors make it nearly impossible to quarantine. Prison populations are sicker, on average, than the general population and health care behind bars is notoriously substandard. Nationwide, the mortality rate for COVID-19 among prisoners is 45% higher than the overall rate.

From the earliest days of the pandemic, public health experts called for widespread prison releases as the best way to curb virus spread behind bars. In October, the National Academies of Science, Medicine, and Engineering released a report urging states to empty their prisons of anyone who was medically vulnerable, nearing the end of their sentence or of low risk to public safety.

But releases have been slow and uneven. In the first three months of the pandemic, more than 10,000 federal prisoners applied for compassionate release. Wardens denied or did not respond to almost all those requests, approving only 156 — less than 2%.

A plan to thin the state prison population in New Jersey, first introduced in June, was held up in the Legislature because of inadequate funding to help those who were released. About 2,200 prisoners with less than a year left to serve were ultimately released in November, eight months after the pandemic began.

California used a similar strategy to release 11,000 people since March. But state prisons stopped accepting new prisoners from county jails at several points during the pandemic, which simply shifted the burden to the jails. According to the state corrections agency, more than 8,000 people are now waiting in California’s county jails, which are also coronavirus hot spots.

“We call that ‘screwing county,’” said John Wetzel, Pennsylvania’s secretary of corrections, whose prison system has one of the lower COVID-19 case rates in the country, with one in every seven prisoners infected. But that’s still more than three times the statewide rate.

Prison walls are porous even during a pandemic, with corrections officers and other employees traveling in and out each day.

“The interchange between communities and prisons and jails has always been there, but in the context of COVID-19 it’s never been more clear,” said Lauren Brinkley-Rubinstein, a professor of social medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill who studies incarceration and health. “We have to stop thinking about them as a place apart.”

Wetzel said Pennsylvania’s prisons have kept virus rates relatively low by widely distributing masks in mid-March — weeks before even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending them for everyday use in public — and demanding that staff and prisoners use them properly and consistently. But prisoners and advocates say prevention measures on the ground are uneven, regardless of Wetzel’s good intentions.

As the country heads into winter with virus infections on the rise, experts caution that unless COVID-19 is brought under control behind bars, the country will not get it under control in the population at large.

“If we are going to end this pandemic — bring down infection rates, bring down death rates, bring down ICU occupancy rates — we have to address infection rates in correctional facilities,” said Emily Wang, professor at Yale School of Medicine and co-author of the recent National Academies report.

“Infections and deaths are extraordinarily high. These are wards of the state, and we have to contend with it.”

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Schwartzapfel reported from Boston and Park from Washington.

Coronavirus links

Indiana coronavirus timeline

With information from the Indiana Department of Health through March 4, 2021, this timeline reflects updated tallies of deaths and positive tests prior to that date.

  • March 6, 2020: Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) confirms the first case in Indiana. Officials say the Marion County resident had recently traveled to Boston to attend a BioGen conference as a contractor.
  • March 8: ISDH confirms a second case. A Hendricks County adult who had also traveled to the BioGen conference was placed in isolation. Noblesville Schools says a parent and that parent’s children will self-quarantine after attending an out-of-state event where someone tested positive.
  • March 9: Avon Community School Corp. says a student on March 8 tested positive.
  • March 10: ISDH launches an online tracker. Ball State University basketball fans learn the Mid-American Conference tourney will have no fans in the stands. Three businesses operating nursing homes in Indiana announce they will no longer allow visitors.
  • March 11: The Indianapolis-based NCAA announces the Final Four basketball tournaments will happen with essential staff and limited family attendance. The Big Ten announces all sports events, including the men’s basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, will have no fans starting March 12. Ball State University suspends in-person classes the rest of the spring semester. NBA suspends all games, including the Indiana Pacers, until further notice. Butler University and the University of Indianapolis extend spring break, after which they will have virtual classes.
  • March 12: Gov. Eric Holcomb announces new protections that led to extended public school closings and the cancellation of large events across the state. The NCAA cancels its basketball tournaments. The Big Ten suspends all sporting events through the winter and spring seasons. The league including the Indy Fuel hockey team suspends its season. Indy Eleven says it will reschedule four matches. Indianapolis’ annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade is canceled. 
  • March 13: The Indiana High School Athletic Association postpones the boys basketball tournament. Wayzata Home Products, a Connersville cabinet maker, shuts down and lays off its entire workforce due to market uncertainty. Holcomb announces actions including the elimination of Medicaid co-pays for COVID-19 testing and the lifting of limits on the number of work hours per day for drivers of commercial vehicles. Franklin College says it will begin online classes March 18 and empty residence halls of students in two days. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis closes indefinitely. The Indianapolis Public Library joins other libraries across Indiana and closes all facilities indefinitely.
  • March 14: The Indiana Gaming Commission says all licensed gaming and racing operations will close in two days for an indefinite period.
  • March 15: Indiana had its first death. St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis announces it will suspend all elective, non-urgent surgeries.
  • March 16: Indiana had its second death. Gov. Holcomb announced the first Hoosier death. He closes bars, restaurants and nightclubs to in-person patrons, but maintains carryout and delivery services.
  • March 17: Indiana had its third and fourth deaths. ISDH announces Indiana’s second death. Gov. Holcomb activates the National Guard. Purdue, Butler and Indiana State universities cancel May commencement ceremonies.
  • March 18: Indiana had its fifth death. Eli Lilly and Co. says it will use its labs to speed up testing in Indiana. The 500 Festival suspends all events. Simon Property Group closes all malls and retail properties.
  • March 19: Holcomb extends Indiana’s state of emergency into May. Holcomb says he’ll close all K-12 public and nonpublic schools; standardized testing was canceled. The state’s income-tax and corporate-tax payment deadline was extended to July 15. Holcomb says the state will waive job search requirements for people applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. Indiana’s high school boys basketball tournament was canceled.
  • March 20: Indiana’s death toll rose to 9. ISDH announces Indiana’s third death. Holcomb moves the state’s primary election to June 2. Indiana University says it is postponing May commencement ceremonies on all campuses.
  • March 21: Indiana’s death toll rises to 14. ISDH announces Indiana’s fourth death. Indiana National Guard says it and the state Department of Transportation are distributing medical supplies to hospitals.
  • March 22: Indiana’s death toll rises to 18. ISDH announces seven deaths.
  • March 23: Indiana’s death toll rises to 23. Holcomb orders nonessential Hoosiers to “stay at home” from March 24-April 7. Eli Lilly & Co. begins drive-thru testing for the coronavirus for health care workers with a doctor’s order. Ball State University cancels the May commencement.
  • March 24: Indiana’s death toll rises to 28. Fred Payne of Indiana Workforce Development says any Hoosiers out of work, including temporary layoffs, are eligible to apply for unemployment benefits.
  • March 25: Indiana’s death toll rises to 33. Indianapolis Motor Speedway announces the Indianapolis 500 is moved to Aug. 23.
  • March 26: Indiana’s death toll rises to 42.
  • March 27: Indiana’s death toll rises to 45.
  • March 28: Indiana’s death toll rises to 58.
  • March 29: Indiana’s death toll rises to 77.
  • March 30: Indiana’s death toll rises to 91.
  • March 31: Indiana’s death toll rises above 100, to 113. Holcomb extends the limits of bars and restaurants to offer only “to go” and “carryout” through April 6.
  • April 1: Officials extend Marion County’s “stay at home” order through May 1. Marion County health officials say they will start COVID-19 testing services for front-line employees.
  • April 2: The state announces K-12 schools will be closed for the rest of the school year. Indiana High School Athletic Association cancels spring sports seasons.
  • April 3: Holcomb extends the “stay at home” order through April 20. The Indiana National Guard says it, the Army Corps of Engineers and state health officials will begin to assess sites for alternate health care facilities.
  • April 6: The state reports a Madison County nursing home has had 11 deaths. Holcomb extends the “stay at home” order through April 20. He also limits additional businesses to carry-out only.
  • April 7: Indiana health commissioner Box says four long-term care facilities have 22 deaths that appear to be related to COVID-19.
  • April 10: ISDH said 24 residents of a long-term care facility in Madison County have died from COVID-related illness.
  • April 14: Indiana’s death toll rises above 500.
  • April 16: Indiana records more than 10,000 positive coronavirus tests. The governor says he expects Indiana to experience a reopening in early May.
  • April 20: Holcomb extends the “stay at home” order to May 1. The governor also says if the medical supply chain is in good shape, other elective medical procedures can resume April 27.
  • April 22: The Tyson facility in Logansport voluntarily closes so 2,200 employees can be tested for COVID-19.
  • April 24: The Indianapolis City-County Council approves $25 million to help small businesses. Fishers City Council creates a city health department.
  • April 25: ISDH says it will launch an antibody testing study for Hoosiers; thousands of residents were randomly selected to participate in the study.
  • April 27: Indiana’s death toll rises above 1,000.
  • April 28: Indiana officials say they will open COVID-19 testing to more Hoosiers, with expanded criteria and new testing services at 20 sites around the state.
  • April 29: The state says it will spent $43 million on contact tracing.
  • April 30: Indianapolis extends its stay-at-home order through May 15.
  • May 1: Gov. Holcomb announces a phased reopening plan for the state of Indiana. He also extends the “stay at home” order to May 4.
  • May 3: Indiana records more than 20,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • May 4: Indiana enters Stage 2 of its Back on Track plan, which excludes Cass County until May 18, and Lake and Marion counties until May 11.
  • May 6:The state begins testing for all Hoosiers at 20 sites, with plans to expand the number of sites to 50 in a week. Ivy Tech Community College says it will continue virtual classes when summer courses begin in June. 
  • May 8: Cris Johnston, director of the Office of Budget and Management, says the state missed out on nearly $1 billion in anticipated April revenues; all state agencies will be given budget-cutting goals. Purdue University OKs plans to reopen for the fall semester with social distancing and other safety measures.
  • May 13: The first phase of a state-sponsored study of the coronavirus estimated about 186,000 Hoosiers had COVID-19 or the antibodies for the novel virus by May 1. Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced plans for limited reopenings of worship services, retail establishments, libraries and restaurants.
  • May 15: Simon Property Group reopens Castleton Square Mall, Circle Centre Mall, and Fashion Mall at Keystone
  • May 18: Indiana reports its first case of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in a child. The Farbest Foods turkey-processing plant in Huntingburg is closed for three days; 91 people had tested positive there.
  • May 21: Indiana records more than 30,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • May 22: Indiana advances to Stage 3 of the Back on Track reopening plan. Indianapolis closes portions of five streets to allow restaurants to reopen with outdoor dining only.
  • May 26: Indiana’s death toll rises above 2,000.
  • May 27: Indiana University says the fall semester will have in-person and online courses, plus an adjusted calendar through May 2021. Ball State University says the fall semester will be 13 straight weeks of in-person classes with no day off on Labor Day and no fall break.
  • May 29: Places of worship in Marion County can begin holding indoor services at 50% capacity with proper social distancing. Jim Schellinger, Indiana secretary of commerce, said the federal Paycheck Protection Program has made 73,430 loans in Indiana totaling $9,379,164,461, the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan program has made 5,070 loans in Indiana totaling $445,428,500, and the federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans Advance program has made 38,365 grants in Indiana totaling $136,554,000.
  • June 1: Marion County restaurants begins serving customers indoors and outdoors with 50% capacity. Marion County salons, tattoo parlors reopen by appointment only. Marion County gyms, fitness centers and pools reopen with 50% capacity and no contact sports. However, a Marion County curfew that began the night of May 31 and continued into the morning of June 3 after rioting impacted the reopening of some businesses.
  • June 3: Phase 2 of statewide testing of random Hoosiers by the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and the Indiana State Department of Health begins.
  • June 5: Indiana reports May tax revenues were 20% short of projections made before the coronavirus closings started.
  • June 8: Indianapolis leaders agree to spend $79 million in coronavirus relief funding on contact tracing, rent relief, personal protective equipment and support for small businesses.
  • June 12: Indiana, excluding Marion County, advances to Stage 4 of reopening plan.
  • June 15: Casinos and parimutuel racing reopen in the state. Marion County’s public libraries begin a phased reopening. Indiana records more than 40,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • June 19: Marion County advances to Stage 4 of state’s reopening plan.
  • June 24: Holcomb says the state’s moratorium on the eviction on renters will be extended through July. Indiana announces it will create a rental assistance program July 13. Indiana Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon says he has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • June 27: Indiana hospitalizations for COVID-19 begin to increase, with about 33 new patients a day through July 1.
  • July 1: The governor pauses Stage 5 final reopening plan, announces Stage 4.5 from July 4-17.
  • July 4: Indiana’s Stage 4.5 reopening plan begins.
  • July 9: Indiana records more than 50,000 positive coronavirus tests. Marion County mandates mask-wearing.
  • July 10: Indianapolis Public Schools announces its reopening plans.
  • July 11: Indy Eleven resumes 2020 season with victory at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis reopens.
  • July 13: Indiana begins rental assistance program for all counties but Marion County. Marion County begins its own rental assistance program.
  • July 15: Indiana announces the Stage 4.5 reopening plan will continue another two weeks. The WNBA season begins.
  • July 16: Indianapolis suspends applications for its rental assistance program due to overwhelming demand.
  • July 24: Bars, taverns and nightclubs in Indianapolis are shut down again. City officials also return to other previous restrictions.
  • July 25: Indiana Fever begins WNBA season after delays.
  • July 27: Indiana governor’s order to wear face coverings begins. Great Lakes Valley Conference, which including University of Indianapolis, postpones most fall sports, including football, men’s and women’s soccer, and volleyball, until spring.
  • July 30: NBA season resumes.
  • Aug. 4: Indianapolis Motor Speedway announces the Aug. 23 Indianapolis 500 will be run without fans.
  • Aug. 9: Indiana records more than 75,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • Aug. 11: Indiana’s death toll rises above 3,000.
  • Aug. 17: Indianapolis Public Schools restarts with online-only classes. News 8 learns the 2021 NBA All-Star Game will not happen on Presidents Day weekend in 2021.
  • Aug. 20: Purdue University suspends 36 students after a party at a cooperative house.
  • Aug. 21: Indiana high school football season begins with some teams not playing due to COVID-19 concerns.
  • Aug. 23: Butler University tells undergraduates that instruction will occur remotely for the first two weeks of the semester, starting Aug. 24, instead of in classrooms.
  • Aug. 24: Purdue, Indiana, IUPUI and Ball State universities resume in-person classes.
  • Aug. 25: Reports say a fraternity, a sorority and a cooperative house at Purdue University are under quarantines.
  • Aug. 26: Gov. Holcomb extends the mask mandate through Sept. 25. Indiana’s rental assistance program will take applications for one last day.
  • Aug. 27: Indiana University says eight Greek houses are under 14-day quarantines.
  • Sept. 2: Indiana University tells 30 Greek houses in Bloomington to quarantine.
  • Sept. 6: Indiana records more than 100,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • Sept. 8: Marion County allows bars and nightclubs to reopen with 25% capacity indoors and 50% capacity outdoors.
  • Sept. 12: The Indianapolis Colts open their season with a loss in a Jacksonville stadium with a limited number of fans.
  • Sept. 21: The Indianapolis Colts home opener is limited to 2,500 fans.
  • Sept. 23: Gov. Eric Holcomb extends the mask mandate through Oct. 17.
  • Sept. 24: The state’s mask mandate is extended through Oct. 17.
  • Sept. 25: The Mid-American Conference announces it will start a six-game football season Nov. 4, with the championship game Dec. 18 or 19.
  • Sept. 26: Indiana advances to a revised Stage 5 of Indiana Back on Track plan with relaxed limits on gatherings, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and more. Marion, Monroe and Tippecanoe counties decided to have more restrictive limits, however.
  • Sept. 27: The Indianapolis Colts second home game is limited to 7,500 fans.
  • Sept. 28: Purdue University says it’s suspended 14 students, including 13 student-athletes, for violations of a pledge designed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on campus.
  • Sept. 30: The Indiana State Department of Health’s online coronavirus dashboard began showing data on positive coronavirus cases in Indiana schools.
  • Oct. 1: IU’s website shows two additional fraternities and a sorority at the Bloomington campus have been issued “cease and desist” orders.
  • Oct. 2: Franklin College suspends classes and moves to virtual education and activities through Oct. 9 after a “concerning and unusual” increase in the positivity rate for COVID-19.
  • Oct. 12: Franklin College returns to in-person classes.
  • Oct. 13: Indianapolis-based drugmaker Lilly pauses its trial of a combination antibody treatment for coronavirus for safety reasons.
  • Oct. 14: Indiana health commissioner Dr. Kristina Box announces she has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Oct. 15: Gov. Holcomb issues executive order to extend mask mandate and Stage 5 reopening plan.
  • Oct. 16: Indiana’s death toll rises above 4,000.
  • Oct. 18: The Indianapolis Colts third home game was limited to 12,500 fans.
  • Oct. 23: The Big Ten begins its football season.
  • Oct. 30: Gov. Holcomb extends the public health emergency through Dec. 1.
  • Nov. 1: Indiana National Guard to begin deploying to long-term care facilities to provide coronavirus assistance. The Mid-American Conference football teams begins its six-game regular season.
  • Nov. 5: Indiana records more than 200,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • Nov. 8: The Indianapolis Colts fourth home game was limited to 12,500 fans. .
  • Nov. 10: Indiana’s death toll rises to 5,000.
  • Nov. 12: Indianapolis calls for schools to go to virtual learning by Nov. 30.
  • Nov. 15: Indiana adds coronavirus-control restrictions for all businesses and gatherings in counties with the highest number of new cases as part of an update to the statewide COVID-19 pandemic response.
  • Nov. 16: Indianapolis limits capacity inside bars, private clubs, fraternal organizations and gyms to 25%; inside restaurants, libraries, funeral homes, swimming pools and shopping malls’ food courts to 50%; and inside religious services to 75%. Marion County Health Department requires preregistration for COVID-19 testing after increased demand at three drive-thru locations.
  • Nov. 22: Indiana records more than 300,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • Nov. 23: Indianapolis Public Schools returns to virtual learning through Jan. 18.
  • Nov. 24: The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball seasons begin; some games had no fans in the stands.
  • Nov. 25: Indiana’s death toll rises above 6,000.
  • Nov. 26: Butler University men’s basketball cancels Nov. 29 game against Eastern Illinois after a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Nov. 28: Butler University men’s basketball team postponed two more games because of a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Dec. 1: Bankers Life Fieldhouse hosts its first NCAA men’s basketball game, Kansas vs. Kentucky, since the start of the pandemic.
  • Dec. 2: Indianapolis ends its rental assistance program.
  • Dec. 5: The men’s basketball game of No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2, Baylor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is postponed 90 minutes before tipoff after two Bulldogs test positive.
  • Dec. 6: Indiana’s death toll rises above 7,000.
  • Dec. 9: Indiana records more than 404,000 positive coronavirus tests. Holcomb says virus restrictions will now by county based on ratings that show the local virus spread. Indiana and Purdue universities cancel the Old Oaken Bucket football game set for Dec. 12.
  • Dec. 10: Indiana House Speaker Todd Huston says he tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Dec. 11: The Pacers lose to the Cavaliers as the NBA preseason begins. The Carmel Walmart in Westfield closes for nearly two days to sanitize the store.
  • Dec. 12: Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns tests positive for the coronavirus.
  • Dec. 14: Health care workers receive the first coronavirus vaccinations in Indiana.
  • Dec. 15: Vice President Mike Pence holds a roundtable in Bloomington at pharmaceutical maker Catalent on the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. Indiana and Purdue again cancel the Old Oaken Bucket football game that’d been reset for Dec. 18.
  • Dec. 16: Indiana’s death toll rises above 8,000.
  • Dec. 20: The Indianapolis Colts allows up to 10,000 attendees at Lucas Oil Stadium for the team’s game against the Houston Texans.
  • Dec. 22: NBA starts league’s 75th season, delayed and shortened to a 72-game schedule because of the pandemic.
  • Dec. 23: In response to the high volume of unemployment claims, Holcomb extends the suspension of certain requirements to expedite the hiring and training of temporary workers to more quickly resolve unemployment issues. Indiana Pacers to host first home game against New York Knicks with no fans present.
  • Dec. 27: Indiana’s death toll rises above 9,000.
  • Dec. 29: Indiana records more than 500,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • Dec. 31: Indiana’s death toll for 2020 is 9,459 (as recorded through March 4, 2021).
  • Jan. 1, 2021: Indiana’s death toll rises above 9,500.
  • Jan. 3: The Indianapolis Colts allow 10,000 attendees at Lucas Oil Stadium for the team’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • Jan. 4: Grades 1-12 schools in Marion County are allowed reopen to in-person learning. Perry Township Schools is the only district to reopen to in-person learning.
  • Jan. 5: Purdue and Nebraska postpone a men’s basketball game over health and safety concerns.
  • Jan. 7: Indiana’s death toll rises above 10,000.
  • Jan. 8: Hoosiers 80 and older start receiving the coronavirus vaccine.
  • Jan. 13: Hoosiers 70 and older can get the coronavirus vaccine.
  • Jan. 18: NFL announces the scouting combine will not happen in Indianapolis in February.
  • Jan. 20: Indiana records more than 601,000 positive coronavirus tests. Indiana Pacers host up to 1,000 at a game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the first fans since the pandemic began.
  • Jan. 21: Indiana’s death toll rises above 11,000.
  • Feb. 1: Hoosiers 65 and older can get the coronavirus vaccine. The Indianapolis St. Patrick’s Day parade is canceled for the second year in a row.
  • Feb. 4: More than 1,500 coronavirus deaths were added to the Indiana State Department of Health’s dashboard after an audit found they were not recorded. News 8 learns all games for the Big Ten men’s basketball tourney will move from Chicago to Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.
  • Feb. 7: Indiana to change school protocols for classroom quarantine and contact tracing.
  • Feb. 14: Indiana’s death toll rises above 12,000. Indiana records more than 650,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • Feb. 17: Indiana officials announced plans for a $448 million program to give housing assistance to Hoosiers.
  • Feb. 19: The NCAA says up to 25% capacity will be allowed for all rounds of the men’s basketball tourney including the Final Four. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announces the May 30 Indianapolis 500 will have fans.
  • Feb. 19: Indiana’s death toll rises above 12,100.
  • Feb. 23: Hoosiers 60 and older can get the coronavirus vaccine.
  • Feb. 25: Indiana records more than 660,000 positive coronavirus tests. Capacity limits at bars, restaurants, gyms, and music venues in Marion County were adjusted after a consistent trend in the community’s COVID-19 positivity rate.
  • Feb. 25: Indiana’s death toll rises to 12,200.
  • Feb. 28: Indiana National Guardsmen to end assistance to long-term care facilities.
  • March 1: The 500 Festival Mini-Marathon says it will be virtual for the second year in a row.
  • March 2: Hoosiers 55 and older start receiving the coronavirus vaccine.
  • March 3: Hoosiers 50 and older start receiving the coronavirus vaccine.
  • March 4: News 8 learns up 8,000 fans will be allowed in Lucas Oil Stadium for Big Ten men’s basketball tournament games. Indiana records more than 665,000 positive coronavirus tests.
  • March 5: A three-day, drive-thru, mass-vaccination clinic opens at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 16,800 Hoosiers.
  • March 12: A two-day, drive-thru, mass-vaccination clinic was set for Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg.
  • March 18: NCAA men’s March Madness games, all of them at venues in Indiana, to start with First Four games in Bloomington and West Lafayette.
  • March 26: A two-day, drive-thru, mass-vaccination clinic was set for Compton Family Ice Arena at the University of Notre Dame.
  • March 31: Holcomb’s emergency declaration with county-based restrictions and a mask mandate set to end at 11:59 p.m.
  • May 4: Indianapolis Indians set to begin delayed season with away game against Iowa Cubs.

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