As most of Indiana prepares to enter Stage 4 of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s plan to reopen the economy, the Reconnecting Carmel Task Force met June 3 to discuss what that might look like locally.
The task force is comprised of representatives from the medical, business, religious, arts, government and hotel sectors, and most said they are on track for Stage 4 to begin as scheduled June 14, although some will continue operating as they have in Stage 3.
In Stage 4, social gatherings of up to 250 people are permitted; offices and retailers may open at full capacity; dining room service may open at 75 percent capacity; and bars and movie theaters may open at 50 percent capacity. Cultural and tourism sites are also permitted to open.
Task force members said they will continue to recommend face masks be worn in public places during Stage 4.
“If we let our guard down too much, we could continue to see an increase in the number of active infections,” said Michael Kaufman, medical director of the State of Indiana’s Emergency Medical Services Division. “(Physically distancing) 6 feet is helpful. Wearing a mask helps to protect others, not necessarily yourself. I am still practicing both, and I would still encourage both, because I think that’s one of our responsible obligations as we start to reopen things and continue to move to the next phase.”
The following is a summary of reports from various sectors of the community.
Testing site to move
Kaufman said the number of patients seeking emergency treatment for COVID-19 or influenza-like symptoms has continued to drop locally and statewide.
He said emergency rooms saw a 50 percent decrease in non-COVID cases at the peak of the pandemic, but those visits have started to rise with parts of the economy reopening.
Hamilton County Health Dept. Public Health Preparedness Coordinator Christian Walker said a COVID-19 testing site at Grand Park will shut down June 12 as the park begins to reopen for youth sports. The testing site will reopen on June 15 in Noblesville at 400 Lafayette Rd., immediately north of Riverview Health.
Walker said the testing site at Grand Park has been operating at capacity, but with cases and testing starting to decline it has begun accepting unscheduled visits.
Venues like ‘brand new buildings’
The Center for the Performing Arts is preparing to restart in-person programming in July. Shows have been canceled since March 12.
CPAC President/CEO Jeffrey McDermott said the center’s three venues will reopen at approximately one-third capacity when shows resume, which is expected to result in the center losing money for some performances.
“We are part of what we view as the spirit of the community,” he said. “Part of the process of opening is also an emotional process, and getting people really thinking about getting back to whatever our new normal is going to be, so we’re taking that very seriously. We know we’re a driver economically for restaurants, shops, hotels.”
During the unscheduled hiatus, the centers’ venues have been thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
“I think when people walk back in, they’re going to think they’re brand new buildings again,” McDermott said.
Home sales rising
Carrie Holle of Highgarden Real Estate said showings, listings and pended sales continue to rise approximately 10 percent each week.
She said her office is still conducting closings virtually and not allowing home showings to overlap to promote physical distancing.
Prices in the area have not depreciated as a result of the pandemic, she said, and she’s expecting home sales to be stronger in June and July than they were in April and May.
“Things are looking good for us,” she said.
Hotel awaits opening
Jamie Hopwood, general manager of Hotel Carmichael, said the 122-room boutique hotel will likely open in early August. It had been scheduled to open in early May before the pandemic began.
Although Hotel Carmichael is yet to host a guest, Hopwood said the industry — one of the hardest hit by the pandemic — is starting to see some recovery.
“That speaks to some additional infused travel coming back into the area,” he said. “You’re seeing more on the leisure side than the corporate travel side and increased inquiries on the wedding side.”