Indiana marked the anniversary of its first confirmed COVID-19 death March 16, 2021. The coronavirus is still spreading across the world, country and state. With the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval of three COVID-19 vaccines, there is hope for herd immunity later this year.
Here's a look at some significant coronavirus events on and off Ball State's campus from March 2020 through today.
March 6, 2020: Indiana’s first confirmed COVID-19 case
Indiana state health officials said the man with the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the state was in isolation after going to an Indianapolis hospital with mild symptoms. State Health Commissioner Kris Box said the man had likely contracted COVID-19 from a conference in Boston.
March 11: Ball State cancels in-person classes
Ball State administrators made the decision to suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring 2020 semester amid coronavirus concerns. Classes began full online instruction March 16, with university buildings and residence halls still open at the time. University events of 100 or more people were also suspended.
March 11: WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic. This came after COVID-19 cases were rising worldwide with slow national responses. In March, Italy was fighting 10,000 cases — the largest outbreak outside of China. The United States had passed 1,000 cases with outbreaks on both the East and West Coasts.
March 23: Indiana governor issues ‘stay-at-home’ order
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered Hoosiers to stay home from March 25 through April 7 during a statewide address. The order closed nonessential businesses and asked citizens to remain at home unless they were at work or participating in permitted activities, such as caring for others or obtaining supplies for health and safety. The “stay-at-home” order was later extended through May 1.
March 29: On-campus residence halls close
Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns announced in an email March 16, 2020, that on-campus students would be required to move out of residence halls by 5 p.m. March 29. If students didn’t have a safe home to return to or were limited by travel restrictions, they could file a petition to stay on campus with housing and residence life staff.
May 27: Ball State’s plan to return to campus
The Board of Trustees voted to approve face-to-face instruction beginning Aug. 24 for the fall 2020 semester. The board voted to cancel fall break and hold classes during Labor Day to provide 13 weeks of in-person instruction before Thanksgiving break. Mearns also said the university would adjust room assignments in residence halls to reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19.
July 22: Indiana governor imposes statewide mask order
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a statewide face mask mandate would take effect July 27, joining many other states in measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. The order applies to anyone age 8 or older in all indoor public areas as well as outdoors where social distancing cannot be maintained.
July 27: Ball State releases fall 2020 COVID-19 protocols
In a campus-wide email, Mearns said returning students living in on-campus residence halls would be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result or prove a 14-day self-quarantine before returning to campus. Off-campus students were encouraged to follow the same protocols but were not required.
Aug. 28: Ball State president issues COVID-19 warning
Ending the first week of classes for the fall 2020 semester, Mearns sent a campus-wide email that said the rising coronavirus case count was primarily the result of irresponsible actions by students. Mearns said he may temporarily suspend in-person instruction for fall 2020 classes if student behavior didn’t improve.
Sept. 2: Coronavirus visitation policy modified
Ball State Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Housing and Residence Life Alan Hargrave announced in an email to Ball State’s residence hall population that students living in residence halls were now allowed to visit their friends in other residence halls while properly masked and socially distant. This was a reversal of a previous policy that said students were only allowed to visit people in their own residence hall.
Sept. 26: Indiana begins stage 5 of reopening plan
The state of Indiana moved on to the fifth and final stage of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s “Back on Track Indiana” COVID-19 reopening plan. Stage 5 lifted restrictions on restaurants, bars, night clubs and gyms, allowing them to operate at full capacity but to continue to observe social distancing. All size limitations on indoor and outdoor gatherings were also lifted under stage 5.
Nov. 16: Spring 2021 COVID-19 testing requirements
Ball State Vice President for Student Affairs Ro-Anne Royer Engle announced in a campus-wide email that all students taking at least one on-campus class in the spring 2021 semester would be required to submit negative COVID-19 test results administered within seven days of returning to campus.
Dec. 11: FDA approves Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use
Dec. 12: President Mearns tests positive for COVID-19
Mearns received a positive COVID-19 test result from a rapid-result PCR test, according to a Twitter statement from Ball State University. The statement said Mearns was experiencing no symptoms and quarantining with his wife, Jennifer Mearns, at their home.
Dec. 14: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to frontline health care workers, long-term care facility residents and first-responders
Dec. 18: FDA approves Moderna vaccine for emergency use
Jan. 8, 2021: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to ages 80+
Jan. 13: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to ages 70+
Feb. 1: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to ages 65+
Feb. 4: Ball State expands COVID-19 testing options
Royer Engle announced via email that Ball State would include rapid-result antigen tests in its COVID-19 testing options for students and faculty. Rapid-result tests are administered at Worthen Arena each Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday through a partnership with Passport Health.
Feb. 10: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to ages 60+
Feb. 27: FDA approves Johnson & Johnson vaccine for emergency use
March 2: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to ages 55+
March 3: In-person commencement ceremonies announced
Mearns announced the schedule for in-person commencement ceremonies spread out through May 7, 8 and 15. Ceremonies will be small with outdoor gatherings held at Scheumann Stadium. Mearns said all graduates wishing to participate in commencement must register by March 29 and will receive four complimentary guest tickets.
March 3: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to ages 50+
March 11: Biden encourages states to open eligibility May 1
In his first prime-time address as president, Joe Biden encouraged all states to open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all adults by May 1. If most people are fully vaccinated by July 4, Biden suggested small gatherings without face masks might be safe by then.
March 13: Ball State continues to enforce code of conduct
A tweet from Ball State’s profile said university officials will continue to enforce the student code of conduct during the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. Though the code of conduct doesn’t explicitly mention COVID-19 protocols, its prohibition of actions that cause or threaten harm to the health or safety of another person has been referenced in other university documents to enforce pandemic protocols.
March 15: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to K-12 teachers and school employees
March 16: Indiana opens vaccine eligibility to ages 45+
March 16: Off-campus organization social events suspended
In a campus-wide email, Royer Engle said student organizations won’t be approved for in-person social events for off-campus locations until further notice, including fraternity houses. This was in response to reports of large off-campus social gatherings with no physical distancing or face masks the previous weekend.