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Ask The Mayor: Columbus Lienhoop On Coronavirus Testing Numbers, Restrictions

Jim Lienhoop in an IU mask

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop sports an IU mask during Tuesday's Zoom interview. (Zoom)

Lienhoop says the number of people tested for the coronavirus is much higher than the state is reporting. Columbus is following the state guidelines for reopening, and a state testing site opens Wednesday.

On this week’s installment of Ask The Mayor, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop addresses these issues and more. Listen to the full conversation with Indiana Newsdesk anchor Joe Hren by clicking on the play button above, or read some of the questions and answers below. A portion of this segment airs 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday on WFIU.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

Hren: What's the current situation on restrictions in Columbus and Bartholomew County?

Lienhoop: We're going to follow the governor's plan until we have data that indicates we should do something different. So we will not move faster than the Governor's plan. But if some of the statistics we get from the Columbus Regional Health System, some of those indicate that we're not doing so well, then we may slow things down.

There was a heavy expectation that he would do something to sort of push us towards a reopening. And so, I expected that. And I expected it to be gradual, as we looked around at other states and other cities, they had all come forward and most of them had come forward with some kind of phased reopening approach.

READ MORE: Governor Holcomb Outlines How – And Why – The State Will Reopen

Hren: Do you know if medical services such as ventilators and ICU beds are being used there for other counties?

Lienhoop: Not that I'm aware of. As far as I know, the last time I talked and this was late last week to the folks at Columbus Regional, they had people in the ICU units, but none for COVID related issues. So, we we feel like we're at the moment you, knock on wood, we feel like we're in good shape. But we understand that that can change quickly. And so that's why we need to keep an eye on our numbers.

Hren: And that's how you're determining loosening restrictions, by the availability of medical facilities?

Lienhoop: Yeah, that's one of the things, there are four characteristics. I can't remember all off the top of my head that the governor came forward with in terms of how we ought to manage one phase to the next. And one of the ones that we talked about was the availability and within the healthcare system. It's pretty inexact science. Not a very easy thing to do. But we will make our efforts to try to stay away from 100% capacity.

Hren: Looking at the numbers today 297 total tested positive in Bartholomew County, 17 deaths, 662 tested. Those numbers seem high?

Lienhoop: The number tested is higher than that. I don't know. I mean, I saw that number as well, on the state's site. And the number that CRH tells me has been tested is well over 2,000. Then the number of positives begins to make some sense, you know, that number seems right to me.

Compared to some of the other counties, Marion and some down south along the river that get a little bit more traffic than we might, and I feel like our numbers are, are within range or within the realm of what's reasonable again, for us. It can be difficult sometimes to tell whether the positives are people who live here and work in other counties or whether they live in other counties and work here and so you get inconsistency. But we really are going to follow what the what the healthcare system tells us because at the end of the day, if you're in Bartholomew County, that's where you're going to go if you need some assistance.

READ MORE: State's Online Map Of COVID-19 Testing Sites

Hren: I see the state's testing sites includes Columbus, do you have more information on where it will be?

Lienhoop: My understanding is it will be at the armory, which is on the airport grounds. It's a fairly nondescript building except for the tank that's out front. The hospital has got access now to the one hour test results that come come from Abbott Labs, I believe. And so they now test everybody who comes into the facility. And that is also accounting for a significant increase in the number of people tested. If you test positive, we'd like to know who you've been in contact with so that we can check to see whether or not they have whether they also test positive. And then from that point, try to identify all the others who who may need to be put in isolation.

Hren: I did have one email come with a question. They were notified they had to return to work in a Columbus factory May 4. They're 66 and have diabetes. Should they return to work? Do you have any advice?

Lienhoop: It's a tough spot to be in, by definition, has two of the risk factors, diabetes or a pre-existing condition as well as age. And it's going to be a difficult time, so perhaps they could find a way to work from home or find a way to work some other arrangement with their employer.

Hren: What's your message to people who are frustrated about things not opening soon enough. You've seen some protests, in Indianapolis and other places.

Lienhoop: We're trying to keep people alive and healthy. I mean, it's just it is a little frustrating. I understand, the whole notion is that we'd like to be able to get out and do what we want to do. I mean, in the United States here, we're individualist or we think we are and we got a lot of civil or personal liberties, and we want to be able to exercise those and I get that.

But at the same time, you don't live in this country by yourself. And many of them are your family or your friends, who, as I mentioned just a moment ago, either have some pre existing conditions, or age, and puts them a little bit greater risk to this virus. But when you fail to take precautions, you put them at risk in addition to yourself. So you just need to keep that in mind. And all we're trying to do, like I said earlier is just keep people alive and healthy. And in time, this this too shall pass. Yeah, but but we need to be patient and allow that to allow that to take its course. 

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here

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