As Hoosiers wait to hear if Gov. Eric Holcomb will lift the state’s stay-at-home order on May 1, Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard believes different areas of the state may need to reopen their economies at different times.
Brainard said he suggested to a state official that counties or regions be allowed to loosen social distancing restrictions as they meet certain benchmarks, which will likely take longer in some areas than others.
“Two hours away from here there may be a lot less infections, so it’s safer to reopen,” Brainard said. “That’s why I’m suggesting set standards, because then we take emotion out of it, we take politics out of it and it’s based solely on data.”
After researching medical advice from national experts, Brainard said regions should consider reopening once they are certain their hospitals are not operating at more than 70 percent capacity so they can handle a surge if necessary, less than 5 percent of the population has an active COVID-19 case and they have seen 14 days of declining COVID-19 hospital admissions.
Brainard said local hospitals are operating below 70 percent capacity, but the region hasn’t yet seen 14 days of declining new cases. He said there isn’t enough data available to know how much of the population has an active COVID-19 case.
The City of Carmel’s 1,400 tests of its employees and others covered through the city’s insurance plan showed approximately 2.3 percent of them actively battling COVID-19 without symptoms. A few other employees had the disease with symptoms. But Brainard said the sample size is too small to compare it to the region’s population.
Brainard said he’d consider keeping the local economy shut down once the state’s stay-at-home order is lifted only if Carmel’s neighbors do the same thing. He believes cities and counties in the Indianapolis metropolitan area should coordinate their reopening efforts.
“It doesn’t make sense for us to be an outlier (and not reopen) if Indianapolis and Fishers and Westfield aren’t doing the same thing,” he said. “It wouldn’t cut down on the spread of the virus. All it would do would hurt our local businesses.”
Whenever the economy starts to reopen, Brainard believes it should be done in phases.
“That makes a lot of sense. If it gets really bad again we can draw back,” he said. “It’s going to require a lot of public education. We have to assume that I’m carrying (COVID-19) and the person I’m talking to is carrying it and physically distance.”