>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Production support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville - fiber internet streaming TV home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at smithfield.com and from the Bloomington Health Foundation - partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation - improving health and well-being takes a community. More at bloomhf.org.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to a special edition of Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm Bob Zaltsberg from WFIU WTIU news along with Sara Wittmeyer the WFIU WTIU news director. We're coming to you from various different locations today. We're recording this show today to avoid the risk of spreading infection because of COVID-19 of course. And we are doing this special edition of the show because the governor on Friday went in to announce that the state could go into phase two of his plan to get Indiana back to work. Monroe County has decided to keep the status quo and keep the stay-at-home order in place. So we're going to talk about those things today with four guests that we have joining us. John Hamilton is the mayor of Bloomington. Julie Thomas is the president of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners. Dr. Tom Sharp is the Monroe County Health Officer and health commissioner. He's a physician from Monroe hospital and IU Bloomington health hospital. And also joining us is Erin Predmore from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce. She is the president and CEO. If you have questions today and we know that there might be a lot of questions about what all this means you can send us emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Twitter and contact us there @noonedition. Well thank you all for deciding to join us today on short notice on Monday. I know that you have all been working really hard on this. And I wanted to start I guess with the three people Mayor Hamilton Commissioner Thomas and Dr. Sharp to talk about what went into this decision. Why should Monroe County not just follow the state's order? So Dr. Sharp, if we could start with you please.
>>TOM SHARP: Just a moment.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Are you there Dr. Sharp?
>>TOM SHARP: Well...
>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: They can't hear you.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Let's go to Julie Thomas first and then we'll go back to Dr. Sharp. Julie?
>>JULIE THOMAS: OK. Yes. How is everyone? It's good to see everyone on this line or good to hear everyone. And thank you for organizing this really important message for us to get out. And we took our information from the Health Department. This is a data-driven science-forward decision. This is - it may seem like a political decision because there are political entities involved but this is a data-driven scientific decision. And we follow the lead of our great Monroe County Health Department in coming to this decision. So it would be great - I think we can hear Dr. Sharp now so...
>>TOM SHARP: Yeah.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Dr. Sharp please go ahead.
>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There you go.
>>TOM SHARP: Can you hear me now?
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yes sir.
>>TOM SHARP: We're having (laughter) technical difficulties there but I think we've worked it out. So the question was how did we arrive at the decision. The answer is there was a health order put out last Friday I believe that talked about what we needed to do which is a reduction of illnesses both COVID-like and other or similar reduction of cases for the last two weeks - 14 days. But we needed - and we didn't have that although we had flattening of the curve. And we need an increase following the testing because we have only tested - it's 1.6 effusers and not many more left - not that many - not enough in Monroe County. So all these numbers though it's hard to even interpret them because they're so incomplete. And they change all the time but we've flattened the curve. And that's part of - we're actually supposed to be trending down for two weeks before we go to stage two of the governor's plan which we want - let me say which we want to do as soon as possible. You know there are two parts to this - one is this actual illness and the other part is the financial disaster for so many people (unintelligible) work and mental emotional health as well as you mentioned financial health. So we are very acutely aware of how important this is to so many people. So the answer is we haven't - we don't have a two-week pattern that is down trending. We have flattening. And we also are kind of waiting over the next week or so - maybe as much as two - we're going to have a lot more testing. And we're going to have more information available to make a decision. We don't have to wait two weeks. It's as soon as we get this information we're going to - things are gonna change. And we plan to catch up with the governor's plan - his five steps - as soon as we can possibly do that. So that being said we did it because we weren't totally comfortable - well we were definitely not quite within the governor's pattern that we have to be fitting into. And secondly we - just for the health of the people in Monroe County we want to be as conservative as we possibly could be without belaboring the point. And hopefully people have - because of all this stuff going on and all this damage being done mentally emotionally financially et cetera et cetera and people dying hopefully people are tuned in enough that they'll be careful. Keep your hands away from your nose your mouth and your eyes because mucous membranes are where it gets in - and masking in public when you - certainly when you can't stay six feet away from everybody. So the more people pay attention to that the fewer cases we'll hopefully have and we'll be able to get back to the governor's pattern as soon as possible. And I feel really badly for what's going on in so many people's lives right now.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Dr. Sharp if I could just follow up. So there were I think the governor talked about four different criteria that he was looking at. And one of them was the downward trend. He talked about capacity for critical care beds and ventilators and...
>>TOM SHARP: We're OK on that one.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We're OK on that one?
>>TOM SHARP: Absolutely.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: And then the other two were testing and capacity for contact tracing.
>>TOM SHARP: Right. And that's coming up within the next two weeks. We'll have more testing and more contact tracing. That's through the state also. So they're taking over a lot of that. I mean that's a big job. I think it averages five or six with every person. You have to get in touch with them. With every COVID positive case you have to contact multiple people you know discuss their individual cases whether - and that's just locally. I mean statewide it's a monumental task. So it's just as you say - two things that - or well multiple things - but more testing and more ability of follow up.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Mayor Hamilton - so your input and your comfort level with this decision.
>>JOHN HAMILTON: Thanks. And it's nice to be with everybody. Thanks for doing this show too. You know we've said for some time that this response to the COVID crisis is a marathon not a sprint. Or technically it's a marathon that begins with a sprint (laughter) because I think everybody feels we've been in something of a sprint the last six weeks or so just trying to get responding to the infection that has hurt us so bad and hit us so hard. So we are in a marathon though. And I want to thank directly on behalf of everybody here in the community the health department and Dr. Sharp and administrator Caudill for their terrific leadership and focus and for all the people who've made the flattening of the curve successful here. We have protected the health care system. We have avoided thus far a crisis or a surge that overwhelms our health care workers - the heroes who are out there every day. So that's a really good thing and we need to acknowledge that and thank. And the things we do make a difference. I absolutely support the decision not to jump into this reopening. Even today we learn that there are some in the federal administration that are predicting there may be nearly a doubling of daily deaths in the United States by this reopening. And that's a huge concern. We have to manage the health care system and the health care crisis by trying to reduce deaths. And absolutely we need to focus on the economy. We've set up - and Erin Predmore is on it and doing great work - economic stabilization and recovery. And that's a hugely important effort and we can talk a lot about that. But I have to say I think the governor has - I respect that - let me say one thing. He let local governments do their own thing which is really important. And that was - I give him credit for recognizing that Lake County and Marion County and Cass County - and we decided in Monroe County that we're - we don't have the indicators it's time to reopen yet. I would say - anyway we can go into - one of his indicators - one of the governor's four indicators is the number of hospitalized patients decreasing for 14 days. That's not a CDC guideline - the hospitalization rates. Now we can talk about whether that's the right guideline or not. But I haven't seen the data statewide that shows that decrease. So we need to see that data. And we know we don't have that data locally. So absolutely we want to move forward as quickly as we can to let more things happen and to do the economic recovery. And we can talk about that. But essentially we must be sure we are paying attention to the data protecting the health of our people. And when national government says we may see a nearly a doubling of fatality rates daily in the United States by June 1 that really concerns me that we are not attending to the health first and foremost.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Julie Thomas, that's what you said at the beginning too that you wanted to look at the data. And the idea that the county the city and the town of Ellettsville all sort of agreed that this was the right thing to do are you surprised at that?
>>JULIE THOMAS: I'm not surprised at that. We have worked together incredibly well as a community. Every one of us is working and reaching out to others around us. And it's just been - in a way it mirrors what the community is doing - the way we've banded together as a community to flatten the curve and to do a great job. This is not to say that we failed. This is just to say we're just not ready yet. So I do want to thank as Mayor Hamilton did everybody who's had an impact. We've lost people in this community and that's sad. And people have become ill and businesses are struggling. And employees and independent workers - people in the gig economy - students K through 12 post-secondary - I mean the list goes on. And then we go to our health care workers and that's who we have to shield here. They have a lot on their shoulders and it's everyone from the person that prepares the food to the people that scrub the floors to everybody who provides direct health care in our community. We have to protect them and continue to do so. But our ability to work together mirrors exactly what our community is doing. We've been a thoughtful giving compassionate community. And we're mirroring that as government officials.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: It was just Friday that we did a show with some people talking about the economy. And we have Erin Predmore here. So Erin what are you hearing from Monroe County businesses? I know there were some that were probably geared up and ready to go today but others - I know I have heard from others that are like we're not ready. We don't want to open yet. What have you been hearing?
>>ERIN PREDMORE: I've been hearing the same things Bob. So it's been very much that there have been businesses that are interested. And I mean I think it's just fair to recognize that businesses are in a very difficult situation where they're seeing this thing that they've built over many years - the business owners their employees their staff all the way that they're woven into the community together - it's dissolving before their eyes. And so they're very anxious and worried about that. They want to get back to work. They want to get back to feeling less stressed and worried about their own personal futures. But they're also scared themselves. And they don't want to harm the community by reopening. They want to be able to do it safely and they want to do it intentionally with - using scientific data to inform the best safest way for them to reopen. So that's what we've been hearing from our members. Some people were angry. I will say that we did hear from some members that were very frustrated. Most of the people we've heard from have been very balanced and appreciating the nuances of the situation and wanting to take the time that they have right now in the next couple of weeks to really understand what reopening means be able to plan for it to do so safely. And then also to build confidence - they want to make sure their customers are able to be comfortable in their space whether it's a restaurant or retail or office or something like that and also make sure that their employees feel safe and are able to return to work. So it's - I've been very impressed by the business owners and their staff. And everyone that's engaged with the chamber right now are very much committed to the health and well-being of our overall community.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I think Julie Thomas wants to add something. So let's go Julie. Julie go ahead.
>>JULIE THOMAS: Yes thank you so much. I'm so glad you raised that. And we do understand that anxiety and the financial loss is huge and that makes a big difference in everyone's lives. County government is continuing - just like the city has a program there's a program available for assistance for businesses in the county who are tourism related because we're using food and beverage money - because the order at the state level has been extended to some extent. The emergency is phasing. So we're able to take - to ask - we're going to the food and beverage tax advisory commission for additional funds. We've given out over one hundred fifty thousand dollars in grants to area businesses outside the city of Bloomington in tourism-related business. And we're going to meet with the tax advisory commission and then the council appropriation. But we're conducting interviews right now. So if somebody has a business and they want to apply please go to co.monroe.in.us - our main website. And you will find the application right on our home page. And we are also working on the reopening plan as well. And it takes a lot to do. Different offices are set up different ways. We've been open but just not public facing. We've been available by email and phone - various departments. And we are working through how do we provide supplies? How do we provide enough protective equipment? How do we protect the public and our employees? That is a huge undertaking and we have a lot of offices to deal with and a lot of different situations. And so we're working on that right now. And we've been working on it. So it is a difficult process but such an important one.
>>SARA WITTMEYER: We've got a question from Colin and I'm going to paraphrase this a little bit. It's long. But he's saying you know eight people have died in Monroe County from the virus. Obviously it's too many but yet there are lots of other things that people are dying from. He mentioned suicide kidney liver disease lung related diseases heart disease. He says we also know that people locked in their homes are more likely to be depressed sedentary eat poorly smoke tobacco drink alcohol. In other words extending the stay at home order also extends conditions which promote these leading causes of death. To what extent should public officials be held responsible if the stay-at-home order causes more people to die overall in the county? Dr. Sharp do you want to speak to that and some of these other health conditions and compare that...
>>TOM SHARP: I'm in total sympathy with that. As I mentioned earlier there's a real balance between opening up and having some more risk and not opening up and risk the mental emotional health of the drinking the drugs the depression - on and on and on. There's a real - there's a price to pay either way. So the question ends up being somewhere down the line not yet - somewhere down the line do we totally destroy everybody's living or - cause we're going to lose people either way. They're going to lose - we're going to lose people doing that as you all know. And there's no perfect way to handle this. I do want to say something about social distancing. The six feet thing - face covering is a big deal. But it's OK to use common sense. So for instance if you drive to a golf course and the pro tells you you have to ride in two separate carts because of distancing and then say husband and wife you get back in the car and go back home and live together. I mean that's overkill. You don't have to do that. And people who see other people being close be careful about being too critical about that. They may live together. They may have total exposure. And they may understand the mutual risk to them which is either one of them is gonna give it to the other. So try not to be too critical cause sometimes there's a good reason. And then it doesn't make sense for a married couple playing golf to have to have two golf carts. That's just an example. But six feet is a reasonable thing to do. Wearing a mask is a very reasonable thing to do when you're - especially when you're in checkout lines and in places where you just can't avoid the six foot problem - the six foot distance problem. So But again the goal is to get everybody to do all this so that our numbers look better so we can get - so we can move on because we know what a disaster this is. Everybody knows what a disaster it is to continue all these restrictions. And it's a disaster to let them go.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Dr. Sharp I'm going to go on to Mayor Hamilton in a minute but I want you to get ready because I want to ask for some numbers if you've got some data and some numbers because we've had some questions about - you know what are the numbers that we're working off of? But I'll give you time to find all that stuff. Mayor Hamilton?
>>JOHN HAMILTON: Thanks and I appreciate the question from the caller. I would make a couple of points. Absolutely we do need to pay attention to everything going on in society. I know county government and city government and the business community and all are concerned about the overall quality of life and welfare of our people and in our community. But a couple of things. One - absolutely I don't want to get into a blame game where we start saying you know somebody is responsible for this happening or that happening or this death or that death. We all I think are working very closely together to try to manage a pretty complicated situation and challenging one. And we are in a global pandemic. This is not normal times. These are - this is an extraordinary global challenge that is killing hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. And it is going to keep killing Americans including Monroe County residents. And it requires - as I've sometimes said facts are stubborn things. The facts of this virus are they're not going to change if we wish they would be different or hoped they would be different. We have to address it directly. And again I want to thank the health professionals absolutely while we're doing this focus on the health challenges. We have stood up a group locally that is focused on social services to make sure we're getting shelter and getting child care and getting food security and getting the kind of health counseling that is so important during this. But we - it's not a finger pointing time. One of the things I really liked - a doctor said a while back was nobody who's sick is the enemy. The virus is the enemy. None of us - it was sometimes we kind of get mad about somebody who got sick or hey they infected somebody else. We are all victims fighting against the virus which is the enemy. And we are moving forward well. But we have a lot of work to do and we have to stick together to try to manage this to minimize the damage over all. And I think that's what your governments and your partners in the health systems and others are working very closely to do.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: You're listening to a special edition of Noon Edition today on WFIU. We're talking with folks from Monroe County about the decision to maintain the status quo and not follow the governor's lead in going to stage two of reopening Indiana. If you have questions or comments we certainly will take them from you. But we have to take them by email - email@example.com. You can also follow us on Twitter @noonedition. Sara?
>>SARA WITTMEYER: We've got a question from Aleya and she says my employer is a nonessential business and they did open today despite the extension of the order. What should I do? Who best can handle that one? Maybe Julie?
>>JULIE THOMAS: There are protocols for businesses that are open that are not following a local order or a state order - in this case a local order. And those typically go through - if they're food or restaurant-oriented they go through the local health department. But otherwise the health department can give a better answer about this. But otherwise the reporting has to go back to the state.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Erin do you have any insights into this? What should people do if some of your businesses are open and they're not supposed to be?
>>ERIN PREDMORE: Well I believe the governor has a hotline that I remember hearing about on one of his press conferences where people can call to ask those kind of questions. I mean it's difficult right now not knowing the exact situation to know why the business may be open today and have an employee think that they don't meet the criteria. I will say that there are a lot of businesses that may be in that kind of middle gray area depending on the activities they're doing at this time whether or not they're considered essential or nonessential. And they may fall into different categories depending on that whatever they're producing or whatever they're doing. So that would be my recommendation to her is if she's got questions about that. I want to say IOSHA is the one that's going to follow up with those kind of questions and complaints from the state. So that would be the direction I would send her at this point.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Mayor?
>>JOHN HAMILTON: I would just note you're welcome to call the mayor's office. It is a little confusing and complicated. But it is helpful if people see or believe that they see an unsafe situation or a situation that's not consistent with the health orders we do appreciate hearing about it. There can be some confusion about it. There can be some perceptions that need to be explored but - and the enforcement is complicated. But basically this is a health order in our county. So it may not apply to the state. In our county we have a health order that says you need to behave in certain ways as individuals and as businesses. And you know as we've often said you don't want to push that into the legal system. It can be pushed into the legal system. But typically reaching out to a business or an establishment that may not be complying with the order through health contact through police contact through public official contact can help resolve that. But we do want to hear about it. So contact - you're welcome to contact the mayor's office or the health department to notify us if you see something that concerns you.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. I think this gets into one of those complicated issues where you've got an employee that you have the workplace is saying you can go back to work and the employee is saying but I don't think we're supposed to and I don't feel very safe. So it's you've got various voices to be heard on this. So Dr. Sharp I want to get back to you because here's a actual question that came in that I wanted to - that I was referencing before. It says would like to see the data as it relates to Monroe County - am unable to determine what statistics led to keeping the status quo.
>>TOM SHARP: I would like to turn this over to - the answer to this to - it's going to be Caudill but the front page of The Herald Times today. There's an article about that. The news media has - that's just rampant. It's available everywhere. But we don't get too hung up on that except over a week or two-week period because it changes so rapidly. You know what I - my first comment at my first conference was well we don't want to get too locked in because - to any particular point of view because it may change in an hour. And sure enough two hours later after I said that IU closed. So you know - but Penny has some numbers but also again front page in The Herald Times or state org help...
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Penny Caudill from the Health Department?
>>PENNY CAUDILL: Yeah sure. Thanks Dr. Sharp. So we do kind of look at the influenza-like illnesses and the COVID-like illnesses that are reported and that not reported as much locally as it is state and nationally. But we see some of those numbers and trying to watch those. We know that influenza for example is going down and that's a good thing. When we look at our numbers for testing like right now we have one hundred and thirty - one hundred and thirty one cases confirmed in Monroe County. And that means people that have actually been tested. So when we look at that overall trend line - Dr. Sharp mentioned this earlier - there's a flattening but we haven't actually seen the decline that we're looking. For along with that we're looking at a percentage of positives. And those numbers appear to be good but in relation to are we testing enough people? And so what we're hopeful is that in the next week or so when we have additional testing that it will become clear that we're doing adequate testing and the percentage of positives is low. So even if we're seeing that flattening of the curve it's slightly dipping but that would be more hopeful and give us a clearer picture that we are actually on that right path. So we definitely need to have that increased testing. We're thankful I've said this before for Indiana University Health Hospital for the testing that they've provided to our community and will continue to provide. But we need additional testing. And this will just open it up to more people in our community and then to have that additional capacity for contact tracing is also an essential piece of that. So we feel like once we get all of those things in play and the numbers are continuing to look good then we can make some better decisions about reducing those restrictions.
>>TOM SHARP: From the paper today Monroe County point nine percent has been tested. That's thirteen hundred and twenty seven patients. So that's less than 1 percent of them have been tested. It's really hard to come to massive conclusions about that. But we're ramping up the testing ramping up the follow up and within the next two weeks we're going to be in a better position to comment on this.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah and I saw that. And we've been tracking that too. I know one point six percent of the state I think has been tested. Monroe County is a little bit behind. What kind of a number would you be looking for to feel a little bit comfortable about the kind of data you're seeing?
>>TOM SHARP: We are mostly looking for a trend. We have flattening but we want to see some decreasing numbers before we get started on - and you know we're starting on step two not step five. So it's not like everything's opening up. Step two is if you read it it's a lot more places open with all kinds of restrictions on everybody has to pay attention to what they're doing. As I said earlier I think now the population is - including everybody - is more cognizant of what we have to do - you know the social distancing the masks the washing your hands the don't touch your eyes. Don't touch your nose. Don't touch your mouth because - so if everybody will do that it'll be easier to get to decreasing numbers. And we'll feel really comfortable then. So it's not so much the numbers. It is - well it is the number because we have previous ones. But the big deal is a decreasing incidence.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I want to clarify a little something you said earlier today to - not clarify but just get a little bit more information on it. You said that we could join these different stages at various times. So what I hear you saying is if we raise this on the 15 let's say - that you go ahead and say OK we're gonna go onto stage two that the state's stage three starts on May 23. So Monroe County could be back in sort of lockstep with the state quicker rather - I mean you don't have to stay two weeks behind the state at every step, right?
>>TOM SHARP: That's correct. And you know we - the state is estimating. So they threw out the date and that's really good. But we can't say a hundred percent that that's going to be the date anymore than we can say - predict the future here in the county. It all depends on how people behave. And so if people will do all the things I just mentioned in the last statement - if everybody will do that we'll be way ahead and we'll be able to approach further steps. And the state thing is a guideline. And we want to be so good with our numbers that we can stay up with that because we - you know again it's the incidence of disease and the disasters that ensue are really bad. And the fallout from the financial - no job thing - that's really bad too. I want to mention also I read recently about a nurse from Peru Indiana who went to New York to help out. And she is working 12 hours a day seven days a week. So if anybody thinks we're overdoing anything - I mean we're all putting in more time but nothing like that young lady. I mean wow. What a woman. She's a hero.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I think the mayor said earlier the virus isn't going to change. It's going to be people's behaviors that are going to have to change.
>>TOM SHARP: I couldn't agree more.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Right. OK. Mayor do you have something you want to add?
>>JOHN HAMILTON: Well I just - I agree. I wanted to just note that Indiana - we know the United States hasn't had enough testing. And as Dr. Sharp said we're less than 1 percent being tested here. And even in the United States Indiana is among the lowest states in terms of the testing that we've seen. So a lot of this - we have a lot more disease than we know about going on. We're pretty confident. And I just want to note about kind of the governor's rhythm. Setting a July 4 is a pretty artificial kind of date that he put out there. It has to be driven by the data. The governor has chosen hospitalization rate which is not what the CDC recommends. So we have to really pay attention locally to the science and making sure we're following the data. We don't actually - as far as I know we don't actually have - the actual statewide hospitalization rate is not on the state website. We certainly track that locally with IU Health and others. And watching those downward trend is important. But I want to note that stage to stage as we move forward we have to keep seeing that decline. That is when you stage - first stage of relaxation you need to see even with that relaxation that you're continuing to decline. Because if you're not you shouldn't move forward because you know this is - again this is a marathon. And we really are trying to protect against the spread of this virus. For example I would say I think it's quite unlikely that Monroe County we are going to want to say on May 24 that you can start having gatherings of 100 people socially. I think that's very unlikely to be safe and recommended from the data approach. But that's what the governor's calendar says. So we're going to pay attention locally to doing the right thing. And I do appreciate the governor acknowledging that locales should be able to do their own approaches because not all governors in the country have done that. I want to give him credit for that. But I just think we can't artificially try to accelerate in ways that are going to put more people at risk and put our health care system at risk. And I know locally we're working together very well to try to manage that - move us forward as quickly as we can but we've got to be responsible.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I want to go next to Erin Predmore from the chamber and then to Julie Thomas from the commissioners and then Sara's got more questions. So Erin?
>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah. Thanks Bob. I just wanted to - one of the things as we were talking about the data is - I mean so much of this is just unknown right? So we don't know when we're gonna have you know the right amount of testing and testing to be available to anyone all the time to be able to check and track the viruses we need to - the vaccine's development whether or not there's going to be a second wave all those sort of things. And so when we think about kind of the recovery overall it's going to be very long. It's not going to be u-shaped right? We're not just going to open right back up and everything just go right back to economically at the same level that we were before the virus. I mean the job gains have - that we made since the recession in '09 have all been lost. So we just have all these economic indicators that show us that this is going to take a while. And so it really behooves us as a community to be safe to be intentional about our reopening and to take this time that we have to be able to do what needs to happen to be able to open safely and effectively so that customers can get the products that they want whether it's shifting online or doing that. We've had a lot of businesses in our community that are doing new things to be able to be competitive and to still be active. And I just wanted to share a couple of things that we're doing at the chamber with help from others in the community as well to be able to help businesses throughout the community be able to open regardless of their chamber status. So we are opening all this up for everyone. We're gonna start a conference - a virtual conference this Wednesday called the Back to Business Conference and registration is available on our website. It's opening up this afternoon. But we'll have usually two or three sessions every day. They'll last about an hour covering different topics that people will need to know. The health department's gonna be helping us kick some things off with some information around testing availability and instructions for the community. We've got an infectious disease nurse that's gonna be able to help us with PPE and telling people how to use that - all that kind of information - H.R. stuff legal issues. So that'll be going on the next couple of weeks. We've also got - a tiger team is gonna be available for individuals for businesses that want some help. So Tiger Teams are kind of ad hoc groups that can come in and help solve a problem by using their particular expertise to bring to bear at that moment. So for any business that's struggling or trying to figure out about their reopening plans we'll have ability to request that on our website as well so that we can have teams. Cook has stepped up and offered to volunteer with many of their executives and we have lots of other business leaders and individuals with lots of information and experience and expertise to bring that are volunteering to help businesses open back up safely for the community. And then the last thing I was just going to tell you too going back to the virus and increasing customer confidence - we've got a place on our website the monroecountycovid-19.org where we're gonna have a place if businesses would like to be able to post their reopening plans online. We really want to encourage transparency so that the community overall will be able to know what's going on at the different locations. And people can check those out before maybe they go out once that's an opportunity to do so. So as the open - the plans are developed if businesses want to submit those they can be there online. And then we'll be able to link those as well in our search boxes so that people can find them easily and be able to determine you know if they feel safe and comfortable going into the different businesses that we have here in Bloomington and in Monroe County.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Julie?
>>JULIE THOMAS: I just wanted to piggyback off of something that was said a little bit earlier about changing how we respond to new data. And that's something that we've all been committed to doing locally is we're going to keep an eye on that data. And you will see restrictions loosened. And you may see them tighten. Just bear with us and just be flexible. But be aware of what we're doing locally because it is science and data driven. I do recommend folks get onto our alert sign-up page. This is typically used for weather events - tornado warnings and things like that. But you can go to co.monroe.in.us and when a new health order is issued we send that entire health order out. So you can get it by phone text or you can get called or email. You have a lot of choices. You just go to the emergency management department and sign up. And I highly recommend folks do that. But we are going to be seeing probably an increase in the Fall. And so one of the things we're going to do when we come back is prepare for the next wave. And businesses are going to be doing that as well. So we're not out of the woods just opening things up gradually. And we know this is going to be phased statewide and also locally. Just remember that this is something where we're going to be responding to data. And it could be more restrictive for a short time. It could be much less restrictive for a short time. We don't know. But the data will lead us and I'm grateful for our health department and our great staff and the great work of Bloomington Hospital to help us guide this process.
>>SARA WITTMEYER: We got a couple more data questions for the health department here. One is about ventilators and the person says NPR reported that New York City had 80 percent mortality rate once a patient was put on a ventilator. What's the Monroe County rate and the Indiana rate? Do you have any information on Monroe County Dr. Sharp?
>>TOM SHARP: Again that changes daily and that should be directed to IU health. I don't have that. I mean two-weeks'-ago data doesn't mean anything. So the people that have that information would be IU Health.
>>SARA WITTMEYER: And the other question had to do with recovery rates. What have you seen in terms of people recovering from the virus here?
>>TOM SHARP: I think - I don't think...
>>PENNY CAUDILL: Yeah. The recovery rate is really a very difficult thing to report back on. There's more information perhaps on the number of people who have been hospitalized and released. But once they go home you don't necessarily know how quickly you know they've recovered or if they've fully recovered yet. And that is very difficult really to get. So locally we don't necessarily have that information. I know it's been a struggle for even the state or nationally. I know that there are reported numbers of those recovered but it's kind of difficult to really pull that information together unless you're just looking at the number of people for instance released from the hospital.
>>SARA WITTMEYER: OK.
>>TOM SHARP: (Unintelligible) number really doesn't tell you much. This is really a complicated problem because there are so many asymptomatic people. Oh my gosh. So there is a numerator denominator though. That's the denominator. We have no idea what the denominator is of the number of people who have actually have it or have had it because sometimes it's virtually no - there are virtually no symptoms. And to check point nine percent of our population in this county and come to any great conclusion is that's difficult. To determine death rates and recovery rates - all that stuff - sometimes there are no symptoms so there's nothing to recover from. So it's really a complicated problem.
>>SARA WITTMEYER: Yeah. I want to shift gears a little bit and ask the mayor a question because you've talked a lot about just changing behaviors and habits, Mayor. And this is a question from Richard. And he's talking about why can't we make it make near universal or mandatory compliance in patrons and staff wearing masks at grocery stores for example? Why can't we just make it that people have to do that? What are the problems with those kind of things?
>>JOHN HAMILTON: Yeah. You know I was walking - I've been quarantined myself. We've had family with COVID and I've been quarantined. But I've finally now met the guidelines that let me go out. I went and walked a bit on Switchyard and Cascades trail. And I use a mask when I go out and a lot of people do not. I take the point. Some do. We have encouraged mask use in public. We could have a health order that required it. We could have orders that require particular employers to do it. Of course many employers do impose them themselves. But this is an example where we're really asking the public - just like we ask people to physical distance we ask people to use masks. And we remind you that look you don't know when you are infectious. You can feel OK and you can still be infectious. And using a mask - particularly the nonmedical ones that we encourage most of us to use - does not so much protect you as it protects everyone around you if you happen to be infectious. And it's really important to remind people that you have to approach this as if you could be infectious even though you feel fine. And so anybody you're with could be infectious even if they feel fine. So the masks are meant to just diminish the expelling of the droplets and the aerosolization that can hurt other people and infect other people. We don't - I think the short answer is we are not in a situation where we feel like that mandatory order would be needed. It would require enforcement. It would mean police. It would mean (laughter) a lot of ramping up of government activities that could be very difficult. But we do strongly encourage people to do this. And we have thousands of homemade cloth masks that are available. So please do it. And that way we won't have to take more drastic measures to make sure we protect the public.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We only have about four minutes to go. I have a couple other questions I want to make sure and get to and we may have some time for some closing comments. But one question came to us from Twitter. Sam on Twitter asks how many people does Monroe County have doing contact tracing? And how many of the recent cases in the county have come from a known source? So can - maybe Dr. Sharp can you talk about contact tracing a little bit and what - I know you said it's really complicated - are we doing it now?
>>TOM SHARP: We have three part time nurses that are working on contact follow up. But the State Board of Health is sending a lot more help for everybody - all the counties - soon. And that's part of what we're kind of waiting on to advance our stage of going back to normal. So - but again numbers change all the time. So we have three part time nurses right now that are doing follow ups.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK.
>>TOM SHARP: And was there another part of that question?
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Just how - has it told us anything like is there a particular known source?
>>TOM SHARP: Oh you'll never be able to come up with a known source. Oh my gosh. There are so many known - there's everybody that - I read a number recently one time that it is estimated that everybody that has it is passing it on to more than five people. So - and but there are so many that we don't we even know they have it. So how can - there's no way to tell where the source is because we don't even know who has it.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Right.
>>TOM SHARP: It's impossible. It's like chasing a shadow or chasing a balloon. Just it's a tough situation - tough to nail down.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Another question that's come in. How much of the Monroe County's decision is based on people from other counties using the hospital here? Was that - did that come into part of your thought process at all?
>>TOM SHARP: Oh absolutely. In fact our first case in this county was actually from Rowan County. And it got reported a little prematurely but it was shortly after that we had actual cases from the county. But they are reported separately. The cases go to the county of origin not to - because obviously we have a regional hospital. So we get patients from other adjoining counties and elsewhere that don't count in our citizens of having it here or a death here.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I'm gonna ask Mayor Hamilton this first but some of you may have the answer. So we've just gotten a lot of questions that are more like comments with a question that involves like what about our constitutional rights? How can the city or the county take away constitutional rights to assemble or just to gather?
>>JOHN HAMILTON: Right.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: What does the law say?
>>JOHN HAMILTON: Yeah. I'll just make a couple of points. Generally one - most of what is happening now is not enforced at the point of law or being subject to the full force of the government like a criminal statute or something like that. Most of what we're talking about happening is done more voluntarily now. The second point I'd make is absolutely under our constitution and our laws governments - state and local and basically local governments are a function of state government - so it's the power of the state government has the ability to set rules in place to protect public health. You can imagine a cholera outbreak or you can imagine a tornado that the government has the ability to step in and say you can't drive on the road. It's not safe or we have to change the water usage or other things. And that's what this is part of. And it is complicated. And we welcome people suggesting ways to respond. But those are the two points I'd make.
>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. We're out of time. I want to really thank you again for taking time out of your day. I know you guys are all busy - Mayor John Hamilton, County Commissioner Julie Thomas, Chamber of Commerce President Erin Predmore and Dr. Tom Sharp from the Monroe County Health Department. Thank you all for being here as well as Penny Caudill. For my co-host Sara Wittmeyer for producers Bente Bouthier Kathy Knapp and John Bailey and for engineers Matt Stonecipher and Mike Paskash, I'm Bob Zaltsberg. Thanks for listening to Noon Edition.
>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Noon Edition is a production of WFIU public radio. A podcast of this program is available at wfiu.org. Production Support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville - fiber internet streaming TV home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at smithfield.com and from the Bloomington health foundation - partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington health foundation - improving health and well-being takes a community. More at bloomhf.org.