City offices closed to the public • County officials activate emergency response plans

Debbie Biddle makes a container of food for Keirsten Sparks to take home to her children Monday at the Waynetown Fire Department. Free lunches can be picked up from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Waynetown, Wingate and New Richmond fire stations.
Debbie Biddle makes a container of food for Keirsten Sparks to take home to her children Monday at the Waynetown Fire Department. Free lunches can be picked up from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Waynetown, Wingate and New Richmond fire stations.
Nick Hedrick/Journal Review

Montgomery County declared a public health emergency Monday as Indiana’s first coronavirus death was announced and restaurants and bars statewide were ordered closed to dine-in customers.

No positive cases have been reported in Montgomery or Fountain counties, but tests have confirmed 24 COVID-19 illnesses in 13 other Indiana counties, according to the state health department. The patient who died was an Indianapolis resident who was over 60 and suffered other medical problems as well as the COVID-19, state health officials said.

The emergency declaration, which the board of the commissioners approved in a special meeting at the South Boulevard County Building and remains in effect until next Monday, activates the county’s emergency response plans. It gives the commissioners the authority to take certain actions in the event of a local government disruption.

No public gatherings were banned, but local health officers have power under the act to issue a ban “when considered necessary” to prevent or minimize spreading the virus. All public county government meetings have been canceled until further notice.

The City of Crawfordsville closed the City Building, Fusion 54, the Street Department and the Wastewater Department to the public beginning Monday. Employees will continue reporting to work and be available by phone.

In addition, the police and fire/EMS departments have made “operational changes” to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus, the city announced. That means public safety personnel may prioritize when to enter a caller’s home unless it’s an emergency.

Senior programs were canceled at the Crawfordsville Parks & Recreation Department and the community center will be closed beginning today, but offices remain staffed and available by phone. Sunshine Vans will run for medical trips only.

Trash and recycling pickup continues as normal, but other non-time sensitive operations may be disrupted. Each city department has a plan to continue essential business if staff is reduced due to illness, and all work-related out-of-state travel was suspended for employees.

Public meetings of city boards and commissions will only be held if there is a time-sensitive agenda. This week’s scheduled meetings of the redevelopment commission, board of zoning appeals and the plan commission were all cancelled. Barton’s monthly community forum was also called off for Tuesday.

“I know this is a total disruption to everybody’s life,” Mayor Todd Barton said. “Just stay home as much as you can. Just reduce your risk.”

Most people who come down with the disease have relatively mild symptoms, but it can be deadly for some, especially the elderly and those with underlying health problems. Most people infected with the virus recover in a matter of weeks.

With local schools closed this week, towns are stepping up to feed lunch to children who are learning online from home.

In Waynetown, New Richmond and Wingate, volunteers filled take-home containers with Coney dogs, macaroni and cheese, potato chips and desserts for children and parents who lined up at the fire stations.

“We wanted to do this so they’re able to walk here from across town,” said Robin Pirtle, who spearheaded the plan and cooks the food from her certified kitchen.

Crystal Bennett left the Waynetown fire station with two bags of food for her children, who are 17 and 5. One of her children has a chronic illness and is being “extra quarantined,” Bennett said.

“We weren’t planned for lunches and trying to grocery shop, there’s not a lot of options,” she added.

Each school district is providing pick-up breakfast and lunch to students at various buildings this week, as well.

Wabash College students returned from spring break to a shuttered campus. In-person classes are canceled through at least March 27, and the campus is closed to all but students and employees.

International students Dimitri Didmanidze, who is from Georgia, and Tashin Azad, of Bangladesh, said their classes are meeting virtually.

“If I were to go back home, I’d be quarantined for two weeks,” Didmanize said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment