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Local Response To The Novel Coronavirus

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Welcome to Noon Edition on WFIU. I'm Bob Zaltsberg from the WFIU WTI news team. We're doing our show remotely today. I'll get into that a little bit more in a few minutes but we're being joined - we're talking about coronavirus and we're going to be joined by Mayor John Hamilton from Bloomington and Julie Thomas the president of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners as well as Dr. Tom Hrisomalos M.D. from IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians. He specializes in infectious disease. Sara Wittmeyer is joining me as a co-host today from her home. I'm stuck at my home and all three of the other guests are stuck where they are. They're doing their jobs - they're all doing things remotely so thank goodness for Google Hangouts and for Zoom and for the great minds at WFIU who put this out on the air for you all today. So thank you all and thanks for joining us. If you have questions or comments today you can't call us but you can get ahold of us by sending us a note on Twitter @noonedition or you can also send questions for the show at So I want to ask Dr. Tom Hrisomalos first. He was on the show with us a few weeks ago. And I just wanted to get an update on where you think this disease is at this point, Dr. Hrisomalos, you know how it's progressed. Has it progressed the way that you thought it would the last time we talked? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: Well I think that it has as much as people could predict. The epidemic that started in China and then spread to other countries most notably South Korea and Italy and so forth certainly has continued to spread in most other countries throughout the world. I was looking on the website this morning and I think there are over five hundred thousand cases worldwide and we've surpassed here in the United States eighty five thousand which is quite a bit. And certainly some areas in the country being especially hard hit - especially the large metropolitan areas in New York on the East Coast, in New Orleans and so forth. I think those areas are really bearing the brunt of this right at the present time. Here in Indiana as of this morning I believe we were at nine hundred and eighty one cases statewide. And if you look most of those are in the Marion County area. I mean four hundred and eighty somewhere in Marion County and another hundred and fifty cases in the counties surrounding it. Here in Bloomington in Monroe County from the State Board of Health website that is all published, we've had eight confirmed cases here in Monroe County but several cases also in the surrounding counties that we help take care of. I think there are five down in Orange County and a couple over in Brown County and down to Orange County and so forth. And so we're seeing an increased number of cases but certainly not like what's being seen in large cities throughout the rest of United States. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right so your advice I assume remains the same that people should be social distancing and washing their hands - all those things you've talked about before? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: Yeah. I think so. It's interesting that I believe that we were - because of our location in the country we were somewhat late in getting the coronavirus to spread to our location. And we were a little bit earlier therefore on the curve earlier on the curve in starting some of the social isolation, stay at home orders. And I think that will probably serve us well in terms of blunting our number of cases, so-called flattening the curve at least here in Indiana. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Well I want to bring in Mayor John Hamilton and county commissioners president Julie Thomas. I want to ask you to talk about, you know, some of the steps that you've taken for government to address this. But first before I do, I want to ask you I mean do each of you have a Dr. Fauci who you're talking to every day - the physicians that you're relying on to make your judgments and your decisions? John? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Well, thanks. Good to be with you all virtually. Dr. Tom, good to hear from you. And Sara, Bob, Julie. Well, we really have a health commissioner Penny Cottle who of course works for the county structure and Penny Cottle and her team along with IU Health. Ryan Shokney and his team are the key health advisers here. And they've been leading the kind of the science and health medical side of this for quite some time. And thank goodness for that. As Tom mentioned you know we haven't seen some of the impacts of some of the larger cities. But we know the virus is here. We know the numbers are way smaller than people infected because we're just not testing people. So those testing numbers can often just reflect - the confirmed cases can often just reflect where the testings happened and where the disease has caused people to get to the hospital. But we know there's a lot of coronavirus here in Monroe County and so these efforts to socially distance or physical distance are so important. And there we can talk a lot about what's happening with that. But protecting our community and our health system by the physical distancing is so important. And it's - anyway I was walking yesterday and you know it's going to be really important for everybody to understand that even our young people - some of whom are back now from being away from spring break - and to understand even if you don't feel it yourself it's so important that you protect the whole community by that physical distancing. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Julie, what's (inaudible) county up to? 

>>JULIE THOMAS: Well yes, indeed. Thank you for inviting us to be here. We are relying on Kenny Caudle and we're relying on IU Health to continue to give us these important updates. We do have calls every day with not only Miss Caldwell but also Allison Moore our emergency manager. And so that's been the source of our ongoing and most up-to-date information. And I would encourage anybody who's looking for valid and fact-checked information to check in with the Monroe County Health Department website. Just go to We know there's a lot of information out there on social media that's not always accurate. And I know people are really hungry for information but we don't have it for a lot of the questions that are coming up especially about what the future holds. We're just doing our best. But everything that's on that website has been verified. And also you can check in with the CDC and the Indiana State Department of Health as well for updated information. That way you know it's accurate and not relying on your well-meaning friends on Twitter and Facebook. But for Monroe County government we went ahead with our continuity of government plan and we closed down our buildings to the public on - we started that on St. Patrick's Day. So it's been - it feels like it was five years ago but it was just a very short time ago. And what we're doing is working to ensure that essential government functions are operating without endangering our staff and without endangering the public as well. So we've maintained that social distancing that way as best as we can. So that's what we have been doing. And then some work to try to help serve the needs of the people in our community. We can talk about that later. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. I want to just get to that. I mean so what have - I know county government and city government both have taken some steps to provide for people that are going to hit some really difficult economic times. So could you outline some of those things and Julie let's just keep going with you. 

>>JULIE THOMAS: Sure. So one of the things that occurred very early on was the United Way helped form a coalition that included the (unintelligible) economic development corporation and of course the United Way. But it involves the school system and county government and city government has been involved. And we've all been on these calls every week. And what happens for us is that we decided that we didn't want to - they've got themselves up and running. We decided we want to do what we could to support them. So we have given them some initial funding to help them and that was twenty five thousand dollars. And we also gave a direct funding - responded to a direct funding request from the Hoosier Hills Food Bank because they were in a position where they could buy some emergency food products and they had a very short window in which to do it. So we responded immediately to that. So by declaring an emergency in the county we have the ability to respond immediately to those bigger asks. And we've also worked with the food and beverage tax advisory commission to free up some of the food and beverage tax revenue that came into the county outside the city to help businesses and their employees. These are businesses related to tourism. And so we have on our website now the information and a rolling application that we're using just to get funding requests in. And you can go to the Monroe County website and find that information very quickly. It's also on the commissioner's page as well. So we encourage those businesses that are really struggling with the short term financial loss to contact us and let us know what help they need. And we're going to be continuing to assess those needs and responding to them on a rolling basis. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Sara, do you have something that you want to add? 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We have a question from Sarah and this fits into what Julie was talking about. Sarah asks what plan does the city have to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable? And then she goes onto say not including what social services are doing. I really want to know what the city itself is going to do? 

>>JULIE THOMAS: All right. 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Sure. Thanks for the question. Yeah, there's - these are unusual times and the health lane, if you will, that active effort is front and center to try to make sure we're doing everything we can to help the medical response and the health focused response to diminish the overall impact and potential death and sickness from the coronavirus. But absolutely there - we've actually from the city, as Julie mentioned, there's been a number of emerging efforts and from the city. We've felt it really important to try to get those efforts aligned both in the social service side and the economic side. So if you think about the health being the front and center, there're really at least two areas where we need to pay very close attention and have interventions ready for the social safety net and the economy side with so many people out of work and so many institutions, businesses in serious threat. So the city has stood up a couple of work groups to really try to align all that work. And I'll just mention briefly on the social service side. And I'll be talking more about this afternoon and next week too. But the social service side kind of the leading philanthropies have come together and are developing an intervention plan that will really look at housing needs. We know we need to help people who have housing problems - whether they don't have a home, they're homeless or whether they have a home that's not safe to isolate in if they're sick or need to be isolated. So figuring out how as a whole community we can integrate our services on that, the issue of food security, Julie mentioned, you know Hoosier Hills. There is of course a number of food security institutions and kind of trying to line up services for that. And then the third area is child care. We have a lot of workers - essential workers in the health field and public safety and others who with schools out, with a lot of child care centers closed, trying to make sure they can do their jobs on behalf of all of us. So that group is working. The city is providing some staffing to them and I'll get to money in just a second. And then on the economic development side similarly you know we know there's a lot of federal and state help on the way both for people who've lost jobs, who have lost income (unintelligible) businesses and nonprofits that face the same. And we've stood up a group of folks locally to really develop an aligned coordinated response to that. The city - just Wednesday night the city council asked for two million dollars of food and beverage tax. And the economic group is looking at other city sources as well as other governmental sources and private sources for that on the economic side and on the social service side. We too contributed to the first round of those emergency grants and I think you're going to see requests coming to government from that coordinated group that will ask county, city, others, private sector to contribute to a coordinated effort on the social service. And I don't doubt this community will come together and help support that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Thanks. I want to give our listeners ways to contact us today. You can send us questions at or you can follow us on Twitter @noonedition. We're not taking phone calls. We've had lots of technology involved in getting everybody together today to answer questions about coronavirus. We have Julie Thomas the president of the Monroe County commissioners with us as well as Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton and Dr. Tom Hrisomalos from the IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians. He is a specialist in infectious disease. Dr. Hrisomalos we've had lots and lots of questions from people about health related issues and I'm going to probably ask you - I'm going to ask you three or four now and then we'll sprinkle them in as the show goes along. Some of these you may be able to answer. Some of these you may be able to direct people to where they can get an answer. One person asked us what are the true symptoms of the coronavirus? I have had dry cough and I have coughing fits now and then until I actually vomited. So I know you can't diagnose this person. 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: Certainly but from the standpoint of symptoms, the initial symptoms that we were screening for were the presence of fever, the presence of a dry cough and symptoms of shortness of breath. It fairly quickly became apparent that there were people who had atypical symptoms, who had other symptoms than just those - particularly much milder symptoms or even being asymptomatic. So the other symptoms that are particularly worrisome would be diffuse myalgias - sore throat, nausea, diarrhea, those atypical symptoms also may be due to coronavirus. And so it does make it hard to diagnose it. And so you get into sort of a clinical judgment syndrome. You know what is coronavirus and what is something else? Interestingly country-wide if you look at the tests that are done on symptomatic patients, the vast majority of them do not show coronavirus. They show you know you might be able to identify some other illness. But not knowing without easily frequently available testing with rapid results, we're left with the best we can do would be to make clinical judgments based on how close those symptoms match. I guess I would say to most people who have a stuffy nose or runny nose or things of that sort, you likely have a cold not the coronavirus, the COVID-19. But it's not easy to make the distinction and I understand that creates a lot of anxiety. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. So I want to ask a couple more specifics and your answer might be the same. But I just want to see if that strikes anything different. So since late December had a pain in the chest and back getting hard to breathe, running temp one hundred to one hundred point seven. I'm 76 years old. Should I get tested? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: Well I think you mentioned in that scenario that the symptoms have been going on for quite a while since maybe late December. Is that what you said? 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Right. Yeah. 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: So that would not be so worrisome because most people would develop other symptoms or would resolve and be better by then. You know let me say a few words about the testing because I know you know that's what a lot of this is directed to you and why - you know if we could test people we wouldn't have a lot of these people wondering about that. And the issue there is just simply availability. The initial test that was available to the State Board of Health was very limited and they had limited capacity. And we just couldn't get it done. Thanks very much to Indiana University and Eli Lilly with the development of their own tests which have now allowed us to test at least specific groups of people. So anyone who's hospitalized, we can test. The reason for doing that really relates to one making a diagnosis so you know whether - how to treat them but also relates to the supply issue. You know you've heard all about shortage of masks or shortage of equipment and shortages of things of that sort. Before we had readily available testing for the people who were ill in the hospital, we were isolating a lot of people because they had suspicious symptoms. And it would turn out the vast majority of those did not have coronavirus. And yet we were using up a lot of supplies to take care of them. So testing in-patients who are ill was sort of the first priority. And then the second priority is testing health care workers so we don't spread the infection unawares to vulnerable populations. And that's available now too. So symptomatic health care workers can be tested. And of course the third and fourth steps in this which we all hope come around soon is testing ill people who are outpatient who are not sick enough to be in the hospital, and then just doing more type of screening to know how extensive this is in the community. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So OK - and just along those lines - I mean that's all very great information people have. Now every individual it seems like has some kind of question. Here's another one about health specifically. I have asthma. I'm over 60 years old. Should I be going to work? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: Those are good questions. There are certain risk factors that put people at increased risk of having more serious infection including elderly age, immunosuppressive condition, chronic lung disease and so forth. And so if you have those conditions that might place you at increased risk, as much as is possible you would want to especially maintain this social distancing and protect yourself from doing a lot of face-to-face work you know with other colleagues and so forth - that those people would be at increased risk. You know this social distancing and the stay at home orders, they work only if everyone is doing it. You know if you have half the population not doing it, it's not going to be effective. There are studies out there that suggest you really need you know 80 percent plus of the population really being diligent about those things in order to stop transmission. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. I'll be back to you soon with a whole bunch more questions but I want to go back to Commissioner Thomas and Mayor Hamilton. And we had one question come in. It was from somebody from another county that said their county had put a stay at home order in place until sometime in May. The state came around put its order in place sometime in March. And the states stay at home our order goes until April 7. The question was does the state's order supersede any orders like that that the city or the county might put into place? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: The short answer is yes. The state overrides and you know if we did not have a stay at home order the state order would apply to us. We can - of course the state may extend it. I would not be surprised if they do. We can - we could extend it locally even if the state does not. And that's something to think about. Not being a doctor, I don't want to respond to the individual requests about the person with asthma but under the stay at home order you know generally the order is do not go to work unless you're part of an essential business like health care, pharmacies, grocery stores, police, fire, etc. and there's numbers of others. But generally you should not be going to work if at all possible at this time. And those orders could be extended either by the state for the whole state or by locales for our own jurisdictions. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Julie, do you have anything you want to add? 

>>JULIE THOMAS: Sure. Yes. And the mayor is absolutely right. That's exactly how it works. And the governor's orders are all listed on the state website if you're interested in that. And it lists out what are considered essential businesses as well for those who are curious. But we have our own local emergency order in place and it ran through April 1st and we just extended it this week to run through April 16th. There's no magic in these dates. We're just guessing. We can always rescind an order if you know the skies opened up and there was some wonderful miracle. But we can always extend it as we need to as well. And we are all just guessing. And I can appreciate the sense of confusion because there are a lot of different dates floating around. But just take it week by week is my advice. And if you're not sure, you can always just check at the state's website or the county's website to see where we're at at any given time. And that goes for any county in the state of Indiana. 


>>SARA WITTMEYER: I feel like we've gotten a lot of specific questions about activities and whether people are allowed to do them. I think this one is probably for you, Julie, just somebody wondering if they're still allowed to go fishing. Do they have to go to a place where no one else is fishing or do they just have to stay a great distance away from the other person? Or are they even allowed to travel to go fishing? 

>>JULIE THOMAS: That is such an interesting question and one of the essential areas of business relates to food and food manufacturing. So if you are fishing in order to eat, I imagine - this is just my rough guess here because I'm not an attorney and I didn't write the governor's order - but my guess is that if you are fishing in order to supply food for you and your family that you can do so. But yes, please be in the boat alone. And definitely please go to the dock alone. And please practice social distancing all along the way. There are a number of businesses that are listed as essential businesses that may surprise you. For example, auto repair and office supplies and computer and audio sales. But all of those things have to do with working at home or ensuring that your vehicle can get you to groceries, to get groceries or medicine. So the list is long but it is on the Indiana website and you can see the order and you can see the whole list there if anybody is curious. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I want to second that as well just because I've looked at that too. Mayor you're probably going to talk about it as well. I know you have it there in front of you. But it's a very thorough list although it can't cover everything. So there's still going to be questions. 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: But here's the thing I would say and the governor - like many governors though not all governors - the main message is to stay at home unless you were working for an essential business. And that's a big list. But that's to work for that business or you are doing an essential activity. And yes, getting food and getting medicines and such things are essential activities and getting exercise. We are not discouraging people from staying healthy but you're not - you really should be staying home except for those purposes. So I would - I don't want to underestimate as the good doctor said getting the significant majority of people just not to interact is the real key to helping tamp down the spread of this virus. So rather than look for an excuse to say whether I can fit this under a guideline, I think it would be a lot better to just listen to us saying unless you're working for an essential business or you are doing an essential activity, it's really good to stay home during this period because that's what's going to help us overall. Anyway so I'd just leave it at that I think. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Do you think our... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK Sara, go ahead. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: ...List of essential businesses is too big - I mean as we're looking at it even compared to just other states? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Well, I - they are - it is really tricky to name these things. And I know the governor has thought I'm sure hard and looked at other states. And that may change over time the precise definition of it. But you can check that. I think what we're trying to do is let the economy continue so that we don't have a complete freezing of any economic activity and wages and such but also major tamp down of the interactions. And so I'm not going to second guess every little definition of a business, but I think if we all try to stay at home as much as we can except for those who are working. And I'll thank right here the 700 plus city workers doing so many essential services. We appreciate them, like health care workers, like grocery store clerks, like pharmacies and delivery people who need to be out there to help us all get what we need. But the rest of us, if we can, really staying home is really helpful for the community's future. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Mayor, I have a follow up on that because one of the things that's in the governor's order, it talks about the fact that people can walk, ride their bikes, hike and run at will. And they can go to parks. Can't go to playgrounds. They're shut down. But they can go to parks. You know it doesn't mention golf courses but I know that the golf course is open - Cascades golf course. And we did have one question from somebody wondering if that was a good idea because even though there are guidelines in place this person said I haven't been out there to verify it that people do stand around together and they do ride more than one in a cart. Can you respond? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Sure. I know there are protocols. I haven't been out to the golf course myself either. I've been sequestered at home or taking walks and getting exercise where I can appropriately. There are major new protocols - one to a cart, physical distancing protocols in the clubhouse et cetera. And that's a work in progress but you know we're trying to balance - it is important for people to get out, get fresh air, not all of us go crazy in our homes. And we will continue to evaluate that. But each, you know, the playgrounds are closed as are the fitness stations. But trails are open. Parks are open. The outdoor space is open but each of those we look at frankly on a daily basis. And we're in touch with parks in California and parks departments around the country to try to identify the best way to keep people healthy but also manage to protect our resources that we have. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I want to turn back to Dr. Hrisomalos and ask a couple more of these medically related questions that we have. One is how is COVID-19 being treated as far as medication? I mean is there a treatment to try to lessen the effects? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: So there's no FDA approved treatment but there is data from China and Europe and in some data locally as well suggesting medicines which might be effective. Some of this is in vitro laboratory data. And there is some data from patients that have been published as well. So yes there are some medicines that seem to be effective in treatment. We don't know that for sure because the studies haven't been done. But the medicines that are most commonly being cited are the medicines that have been used for malaria like hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine. There are some investigational drugs, Remdesivir which is a investigational compound. And so yes those are being investigated. The anti-malarial drugs are FDA approved for the treatment of other conditions including malaria as well as autoimmune conditions like lupus and so forth. So those drugs are already FDA approved for those indications and are available for treatment. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So as far as - there's another question here that has to do with different types of people that seem to be testing positive for it. And I guess other than what's been said all along that people who are above the age of 60, people who have pre-existing conditions, have there been any other things that have come out after testing has ramped up to determine - this one question for instance says are there any of the positive COVID-19 cases marijuana users? That was the specific question. Are there subsets of people that are being identified? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: I don't know about marijuana. In general people who smoke cigarettes, there appears to be some increased risk. But with respect to all those at-risk groups and so forth, I think as people have seen from watching national news and so forth when they talk about NBA basketball players, when they talk about other individuals there are plenty of people who have tested positive in certain areas of the country who have minimal or no symptoms at all. So we don't know why some people outside the described groups - the elderly and the immune impaired and people with chronic lung disease and hypertension and heart disease - why do some people outside those risk factors some of them might get more severe disease. There may be genetic component or maybe other things, but we really don't know at the moment. 


>>SARA WITTMEYER: Not sure if this is a question that's best meant for you, Dr. Hrisomalos - or even for Julie, but after somebody has tested positive for the virus, what is the process for locating everyone who could have come into contact with that person? And say if this happened in Monroe County. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Doctor, can you get that? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: They - the - initially, then, the public health folks will identify a case and try and identify who might else be at risk. The difficulty is when you start to get a lot of community transmission - let's say up in Marion County - as you can imagine, that gets to be very difficult. How can you track down - how can you trace who the folks are? And even in Monroe County, we're having situations where we suspect there are lots more cases than we have detected because we haven't been testing the community members. So it makes it doubly difficult. And with limited testing ability, then what do you do with that information? If you can't go out and test, you know, a lot of contacts or acquaintances or things like that, what do you do? So it is problematic. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I wanted to ask you, doctor, about - there was a report yesterday that several of the leading health organizations had come up with some new evidence about how long the virus can live, and I think - in this evidence it said something about it living for up to three - 30 minutes to three hours in the air. Can you address that and say - you know, should that make people nervous? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: I don't think so in the sense that a lot of these studies are done in an artificial fashion - so they aerosolized a virus into the air and then see how long they can detect it. And the level - how long you might be able to detect it doesn't necessarily correlate to how long it is infectious. It looks like the majority of transmission occurs by respiratory droplets, which are things that don't hang in the air for long periods of time. The exception would be when a patient has an aerosol - an aerosol-generating procedure. Let's say they have - you know, need to get intubated or they - in a critical care unit. That might generate aerosols that last longer in the air, but most individuals are coughing droplets that don't hang in the air for any appreciable period of time and don't travel more than so many feet. The aerosol issue is always a concern and that's why, in the hospital, for most typical patients regular sort of surgical masks are used and then, if aerosolized procedures are being done, a higher level of protection is used. And then along with that goes - is the issue with how long these viruses may survive on surfaces. There was some data published that suggested on dry surfaces, like cardboard, the half life was in the matter of a few hours and it could be detected for as long as a day but after that it would not be detectable. On harder surfaces - on plastic and so forth - it could survive for longer time. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: So - but it doesn't appear that that is the major route of transmission. We want to sanitize. We want to be clean. We want to wash your hands and all that because it can be transmitted that way. But the respiratory route seems to be the major route of transmission. 


>>SARA WITTMEYER: This is another question for you, Dr. Hrisomalos. This is from Don. He says we are a couple staying at home only going into town about every two weeks for groceries or the pharmacy where only one of us goes into the store. But at home do we need to be practicing social distancing? Which, frankly, seems impossible unless you have a very large house. 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: Yeah. It seems like they're doing a very good job. And in that kind of a situation, it would be unlikely for one individual to spread it to the other inside the same household. And just what you said is an issue. You know, how many people have homes large enough where, you know, one person could be here and one person can be there? We've run into that issue when we've had people with suspected coronavirus who we've recommended that they go home and self-isolate and, you know, sometimes their homes are not really adequate to separate themselves from other family members. But in the situation that you describe, I don't think I would be worried about that. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So I want to go back to our government officials, Julie Thomas and Mayor John Hamilton. I'd like for you to talk about the role that some of the local business community has played in trying to help people, you know, get through this very difficult time. John, want to go first? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Sure. Sure. Thanks. Yeah, it's really encouraging in these challenging times to see the way people come together and step up. We've seen places from the largest places like Indiana University and Cooke who have taken on major roles in terms of some of the science and health challenges. Cooke is, I understand, trying to figure out how to re-sanitize some of the personal protective equipment to multiply its value and its usability. IU is continuing to do research on testing and making facilities available. I know, for example, there are some health care workers that are looking at - maybe they don't want to drive home after a long shift to a county or two away and IU's looking at how they can help them stay in town. That's something - they actually happen to have a lot of dorm space available right now. And then, to smaller local companies, I know in the food business there's an extraordinary amount of the restaurants and caterers and others who are hard at work trying to make sure they help support not only the paying customers who they want to help with food but also the - some of the folks - households that are in real need in the community to make food available at low cost or no cost using their expertise and their facilities to do that. From businesses that are offering to figure out how to meet needs every day - and again, as Julie mentioned, this has been going on for a number of weeks and we encourage folks - there's a volunteer network. You can do that on the city website. I'm sure there are others where people can step up to want to be a direct volunteer either as an individual or as an institution. We really welcome that and it's great to see the community doing so. I know - I just saw the other day the Cardinals doing a - every noontime, they do an online cabaret where they'll give you a little entertainment just each day because it's sometimes hard to keep normal rhythms and keep our perspective on things, so we really appreciate the way people step up in so many different ways. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. Julie, anything to add? 

>>JULIE THOMAS: I would agree with all of that. It's amazing to see how our community comes together and it is inspiring to see this response from our business community, from individuals in our community who are stepping up and volunteering in new ways. And I would recommend that if anyone has - knows folks in the community that are older that should not be out, especially anybody who's immunocompromised, that you reach out to them by phone, see how they are, and see if you can help them in some way to make their life a little bit better - a little bit easier. But we are all together in this. We're - and it's really ironic because we're all together while we're social distancing. So we don't we don't visually see us all together, but I do know that there is some great stuff going on in this community. And I applaud all the restauranteurs who are making sure that they have food available for carry out, who have changed their business plan over and over and over again. It seems like every day of the week they have to meet new challenges, and they're doing all they can to keep their staffs employed. But that's not always possible, and that's why we're trying to help with that short-term solution until the longer-term, long-range help become becomes available from the SBA, from the state and from the federal government. So - but I really appreciate what everybody's doing to look out for one another in our community. And that's going to be - that's going to have to continue for quite some time. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. We don't have a lot of time left. I want to give - I want to give our phone - or our ways to contact us again in case there's a last minute question that comes in. or @noonedition on Twitter. John, did you have something to add? 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: I was just going to say, I do encourage people to apply for unemployment insurance. That has substantially changed. It's available to part time workers. It's available to recent workers. It's available to self-employed and gig economy. And it's really important to go ahead and try to get that application in. If you're anybody who's lost wages or diminished wages, please do file because that's important to get that help flowing into our community. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We've had some questions about the most - one of the most vulnerable populations - people who are in homelessness. What - I know that there are certain things that the city and the county are doing, but one of the questions that we got had to do with - you know, do you have some facilities that could be put to use? And the one specific one that was mentioned in one question was the Banneker Center. 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Sure. You know, there empty facilities all over our community now, whether it's a place like Banneker or Twin Lakes or IU recreational facilities or the convention center, and we have a lot of space - dormitories, et cetera. And absolutely we are working day and night to identify how to create safe isolation and living conditions quarters - areas for folks that - we need to do it safely, but it is a huge and pressing need. It's front and center for the social services workgroup to know that, whether you're at Wheeler Mission or you're at Shalom or another - or couch surfing, it's really important for all of us and for that person, if they have health issues - if they may feel sick, get sick - that we have a place to to take them, and we're working very hard on that with our social service folks. You know, there are a lot of empty hotels in town too, for goodness sake. There are not many people moving around to private hotels. So that is an imminent and very important and very timely question, and we're working very hard on that to identify the right places to help people who need their own home to be. We continue to - you know, continue to try to build more housing for folks, but in this short immediate term that is a front and center question that's getting addressed every day. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. All right. Sara? 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Another question that we've got about construction - and I think what the person is really asking about is is that something that is essential right now? And they cite the speed bump in front of Mother Hubbard's Cupboard that's being installed this week as just one construction project going on around Bloomington. 

>>JOHN HAMILTON: Yes. I'll take that. The governor's order at the state explicitly identifies construction projects as essential services, primarily I think because those projects - as they can be done with appropriate physical distancing - are one of the ways we can keep payrolls going, keep the economy going. And the city has several construction projects underway - public construction projects. And whether we do that ourselves with our own employees or whether they are contracts being done, particularly those - that part of the economy is deemed an essential service just to keep some of the economy going. Now, you know, that could change, but you'll look around town and you'll see the IU Hospital - the new site - they're continuing construction on the new hospital. And the number of new buildings and road projects - the Department of Transportation and the state is continuing it's efforts. And so we are part of that public and private construction trying to keep as many people working safely as we can in those essential businesses. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Just a couple more health questions for Dr. Hrisomalos. One - and these are things we have covered before, but I just want to get your take on it because we keep getting questions. Restaurant deliveries, restaurant pickups - I mean, how safe is it? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: You know, everyone worries about, you know, my - you know, what might I touch? What might I pick up? You know? And not only restaurant deliveries, they worry about the mail or packages that come and so forth. The chance of getting it from any of those mechanisms would be very low - very, very low - and so I don't think that there should be a problem with restaurant pickups. What I would encourage you to do would be to wash your hands and, you know, be sanitary in that fashion. I think the risk of getting infected via that mechanism - if you're clean, you wash your hands, you should be OK. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. And then one other that's very similar. Can the virus be transmitted through foods like lettuce, a food that would be very difficult to wash with soap for 20 seconds? 

>>TOM HRISOMALOS: It should not be. You know, lettuce would be, obviously, ingested and the virus receptors that - to - for something like that to happen, you'd have to have somebody contaminate the lettuce and then, you know, it be a certain duration of time. These get to be very, very remote, remote unlikely possibilities. So... 


>>TOM HRISOMALOS: ...I would not be concerned about it. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Thank you so much. We're going to have to leave it at that. I think we - our hour went by very quickly today. I want to thank Dr. Tom Hrisomalos, Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, Monroe County - the president of the Monroe County public - Board of Commissioners Julie Thomas. We've had a lot of help on this program today. First of all, my co-host Sarah Whitmire. Producers Bente Bouthier and John Bailey, bunch of engineers who helped - Mike Paskash, Matt Stonecipher, George Hofstetter and Kate Crumb. I'm Bob Zaltsberg, thanks for listening. 

>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Noon Edition is a production of WFIU public radio. A podcast of this program is available at Production support for Noon Edition comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security and automation in southern Indiana. More information at 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 

>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Support for WFIU comes from Oliver Winery - featuring Indiana-grown estate-bottled wines such as the dry red crimson cabernet or semi-sweet pink catawba. The Creekbend collection available online at

empty kirkwood

(Emma Atkinson, WFIU/WTIU News)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

The number of positive coronavirus cases in Indiana is rising quickly.

Monday, March 23, the Indiana State Department of Health reported 259 cases of the coronavirus in Indiana.

That number rose to 365 reported positive cases the next day.

At the start of the week, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a statewide Stay-At-Home executive order to stop the spread of the virus, limiting businesses and restaurants to essential operations only.

As the situation with COVID-19 continues to unfold, local businesses and government make efforts to adapt.

The novel coronavirus has put stresses on local food pantries as they try to meet the increased demands from people who are out of work or have reduced hours.

Restaurants have adapted to a new take-out only business model, many expressing concerns of how they will stay in business during this time.

The Food and Beverage Tax Advisory Committee approved a resolution Tuesday to take $200,000 from the county's food and beverage tax fund, and give it to restaurants and businesses that promote tourism.

But this will only be available to businesses outside Bloomington City limits. Bloomington City Council will propose its own plan, which would pull money from the same food and beverage tax fund.

Bloomington closed the indoor waiting area of the Downtown Transit Center. Transit services will operate at no cost to commuters starting this week.

Join us this week as we discuss local responses to the coronavirus.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Our Guests

Dr. Tom Hrisomalos, MD IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians provider, specializing in infectious disease

Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton

Julie Thomas, President of the Monroe County Board of Commissioners

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

Producer's note- This week all of our guests will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air.

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