Indiana News

Federal executions at Terre Haute likely a COVID superspreader, analysis finds

This Aug. 28, 2020, photo shows the federal prison complex in Terre Haute, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — As the Trump administration was nearing the end of an unprecedented string of executions, 70% of death row inmates were sick with COVID-19. Guards were ill. Traveling prisons staff on the execution team had the virus. So did media witnesses, who may have unknowingly infected others when they returned home because they were never told about the spreading cases.

Records obtained by The Associated Press show employees at the Indiana prison complex where the 13 executions were carried out over six months had contact with inmates and other people infected with the coronavirus, but were able to refuse testing and declined to participate in contact tracing efforts and were still permitted to return to their work assignments.

Other staff members, including those brought in to help with executions, also spread tips to their colleagues about how they could avoid quarantines and skirt public health guidance from the federal government and Indiana health officials.

The executions at the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, completed in a short window over a few weeks, likely acted as a superspreader event, according to the records reviewed by AP. It was something health experts warned could happen when the Justice Department insisted on resuming executions during a pandemic.

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It’s impossible to know precisely who introduced the infections and how they started to spread, in part because prisons officials didn’t consistently do contact tracing and haven’t been fully transparent about the number of cases. But medical experts say it’s likely the executioners and support staff, many of whom traveled from prisons in other states with their own virus outbreaks, triggered or contributed both in the Terre Haute penitentiary and beyond the prison walls.

Of the 47 people on death row, 33 tested positive between Dec. 16 and Dec. 20, becoming infected soon after the executions of Alfred Bourgeois on Dec. 11 and Brandon Bernard on Dec. 10, according to Colorado-based attorney Madeline Cohen, who compiled the names of those who tested positive by reaching out to other federal death row lawyers. Other lawyers, as well as activists in contact with death row inmates, also told AP they were told a large numbers of death row inmates tested positive in mid-December.

In addition, at least a dozen other people, including execution team members, media witnesses and a spiritual adviser, tested positive within the incubation period of the virus, meeting the criteria of a superspreader event, in which one or more individuals trigger an outbreak that spreads to many others outside their circle of acquaintances. The tally could be far higher, but without contact tracing it’s impossible to be sure.

Active inmate cases at the Indiana penitentiary also spiked from just three on Nov. 19 — the day Orlando Cordia Hall was put to death — to 406 on Dec. 29, which was 18 days after Bourgeois’ execution, according to Bureau of Prisons data. The data includes the inmates at the high-security penitentiary, though the Bureau of Prisons has never said whether it included death row inmates in that count.

In all, 726 of the approximately 1,200 inmates at the United States Penitentiary at Terre Haute have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to Bureau of Prisons data. Of them, 692 have recovered.

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Advocates and lawyers for the inmates, a Zen Buddhist priest who was a spiritual adviser for one prisoner, and even the families of some of the victims fought to delay the executions until after the pandemic. Their requests were rebuffed repeatedly and their litigation failed. And some got sick.

Witnesses, who were required to wear masks, watched from behind glass in small rooms where it often wasn’t possible to stand six feet apart. They were taken to and from the death-chamber building in vans, where proper social distancing often wasn’t possible. Passengers frequently had to wait in the vans for an hour or more, with windows rolled up and little ventilation, before being permitted to enter the execution-chamber building. And in at least one case, the witnesses were locked inside the execution chamber for more than four hours with little ventilation and no social distancing.

Prison staff told their colleagues they should first get on planes, go back to their homes and then they could take a test, according to two people familiar with the matter. If they were positive, they said, they could just quarantine and wouldn’t be stuck in Terre Haute for two weeks, said the people, who could not publicly discuss the private conversations and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

Following Hall’s execution in November, only six members of the execution team opted to get coronavirus tests before they left Terre Haute, the Justice Department said in a court filing. The agency said they all tested negative. But days later, eight members of the team tested positive for the virus. Five of the staff members who had tested positive were brought back to Terre Haute for more executions a few weeks later.

Yusuf Ahmed Nur, the spiritual adviser for Hall, stood just feet away inside the execution chamber when Hall was executed on Nov. 19. He tested positive for the virus days later.

Writing about the experience, Nur said he knew he would be putting himself at risk, but that Hall had asked him to be at his side when he was put to death. He, and Hall’s family, felt obliged to be there.

“I could not say no to a man who would soon be killed,” Nur wrote. “That I contracted COVID-19 in the process was collateral damage” of executions during a pandemic.

Later, two journalists tested positive for the virus after witnessing other executions in January, then had contact with activists and their own loved ones, who later tested positive as well. Despite being informed of the diagnoses, the Bureau of Prisons knowingly withheld the information from other media witnesses and decided not to initiate any contact tracing efforts.

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By mid-December, prison officials said that both Corey Johnson and Dustin Higgs were sick. They were the last two prisoners to be executed, just days before President Joe Biden took office.

Death row was put on lockdown after their results, inmates told Ashley Kincaid Eve, a lawyer and anti-death penalty activist. But even though they had also tested positive, she said Higgs and Johnson were still moved around the prison — potentially infecting guards accompanying them — so they could use phones and email to speak with their lawyers and families as their execution dates approached. Eve said prisons officials may have worried a court would delay the executions on constitutional ground if that access was denied.

In response to questions from the AP, the Bureau of Prisons said staff members who don’t experience symptoms “are clear to work” and that they have their temperatures taken and are asked about symptoms before reporting for duty. (The AP has previously reported that staff members at other prisons were cleared with normal temperatures even when thermometers showed hypothermic readings.)

The agency said it also conducts contact training in accordance with federal guidance and that “if staff are circumventing this guidance, we are not aware.”

Officials said staff members were required to participate in contact tracing “if they met the criteria for it” and agency officials couldn’t compel employees to be tested.

“We cannot force staff members to take tests, nor does the CDC recommend testing of asymptomatic individuals,” an agency spokesperson said, referring to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The union for Terre Haute employees declined to comment, saying it did not want to “get into the public fray of this whole issue.”

Elsewhere, union officials have long complained about the spread of the coronavirus through the federal prison system, as well as a lack of personal protective equipment and room to isolate infected inmates. Some of those issues have been alleviated, but containing the virus continues to be a concern at many facilities.

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No more executions have yet been scheduled under Biden. The Bureau of Prisons has repeatedly refused to say how many other people have tested positive for the coronavirus after the last several executions. And the agency would not answer questions about the specific reasoning for withholding the information from the public, instead directing the AP to file a public records request.

The Bureau of Prisons said it also “took extensive efforts to mitigate the transmission” of the virus, including limiting the number of media witnesses and adding an extra van for the witnesses to space them out.

It has argued witnesses were informed social distancing may not be possible in the execution chamber and that witnesses and others were required to wear masks and were offered additional protective equipment, like gowns and face shields. The agency also refused to answer questions about whether Director Michael Carvajal or any other senior leaders raised concerns about executing 13 people during a worldwide pandemic that has killed more than 450,000 in the U.S.

Still, it appears their own protocols weren’t followed. After a federal judge ordered the Bureau of Prisons to ensure masks were worn during executions in January, the executioner and U.S. marshal in the death chamber removed their masks during one of the executions, appearing to violate the judge’s order. The agency argued they needed to do so to communicate clearly and that they only removed their masks for a short time and disputes that it violated the order.

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In a Nov. 24 court filing on the spread of COVID at Terre Haute, Joe Goldenson, a public health expert on the spread of disease behind bars, said hundreds of staff participated in one way or another at each execution, including around 40 people on execution teams and those on 50-person specialized security teams who traveled from other prisons nationwide. He said he had warned earlier that executions were likely to become a superspreader.

Medical and public health experts repeatedly called on the Justice Department to delay executions, arguing the setup at prisons made them especially vulnerable to outbreaks, including because social distancing was impossible and health care substandard.

“These are the type of high-risk superspreader events that the (American Medical Association) and (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) have been warning against throughout the pandemic,” James L. Madara, the executive vice president of the AMA, wrote to the Department of Justice on Jan. 11, just before the last three federal executions were carried out.

Tarm reported from Chicago and Sisak reported from New York.

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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