By Ann Marie Shambaugh and Chis Bavender
With the coronavirus continuing to spread to additional states – including the first reported case March 6 in Indiana – and nations, City of Carmel officials are taking steps to be prepared if it were to show up here.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said the city has a plan in place to manage epidemics and that city employees go through emergency training on a regular basis. He also said he convened a committee of city employees – mostly department leaders – to discuss how they might be affected and what actions they can take if the coronavirus hits central Indiana.
The city has ordered supplies to ensure first responders will be protected and ready to provide assistance for people with the disease, also known as COVID-19.
“We knew there would be a run on those supplies, so several weeks ago we took precautions and made sure we got extra gloves and masks for public safety officials who deal directly with the public,” Brainard said.
At the same time, the mayor is urging residents to keep the situation in perspective.
“It’s important to recognize we’ve had over 10,000 flu deaths in the U.S. this year and just a handful of coronavirus deaths,” he said. “We should take it seriously. We need to focus on the things that would prevent both diseases from being transmitted, which is a lot of handwashing, not sneezing or coughing on other people and good hygiene in general.”
The coronavirus has led to a reduction in travel, especially in affected areas. Brainard said he’s doesn’t believe the situation will have much of an impact on Hotel Carmichael, set to open this spring.
“We’ll manage through it,” Brainard said. “Hopefully the weather warms up, and hopefully the virus calms down when the weather is warmer. We don’t know that yet, but I think a lot of people are hopeful that – like the flu – it will die down in the warmer months. The longer we can delay it in any particular part of the country gives the scientific community more time to develop a vaccine and learn how to treat it better.”
Carmel officials are working closely with the Hamilton County Health Dept. to prepare for a possible spread of the virus. The county is taking steps to educate health care providers and the public.
“Staff are participating in weekly (Indiana State Dept. of Health) conference calls, and implementing recommendations from ISDH, CDC and the WHO,” Christian Walker, emergency preparedness coordinator for HCHD, stated in an email. “Additionally, the department’s public health preparedness coordinators have been monitoring multiple sources (ISDH, CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), etc.), and this information is being passed on to partner agencies and healthcare providers to ensure they are prepared to handle any cases which may present within the county.”
The virus emerged in China in December 2019 and has since spread to dozens of nations. The virus causes illness with symptoms similar to influenza, including fever, headache and difficulty breathing. However, influenza also includes a sore throat, stuffy nose and fatigue.
While the department’s efforts are focused on emergency medical services and health care providers, it’s also overhauling the entire county website and is in the process of adding additional communicable disease information to the health department page, including information on COVID-19. Video messages also have been sent via social media.
Walker stated that the department doesn’t report on specific cases or specific diseases until a certain threshold is reached as outlined by local, state and federal law. That’s done to help protect the identities of those affected.