As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Indiana, county health officials have asked local elected leaders to consider working together on measures to slow the spread in the region.
Hamilton County Health Dept. Health Officer Charles Harris and HCHD Administrator Barry McNulty sent a letter Oct. 29 to elected officials in the county urging collaboration, even if state officials don’t take additional steps to curb the pandemic.
“While Governor (Eric) Holcomb has not explicitly stated as much, we as a county in conjunction with our municipal partners need to be prepared to act in the best interests of Hamilton County residents without the intervention of state authorities,” the letter states.
The letter does not suggest specific steps to slow the spread beyond recommending a meeting of Hamilton County commissioners and mayors and possible collaboration with Marion County officials. Last week, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett called for regional collaboration in addressing the pandemic.
Harris and McNulty did not respond to a request for comment on the letter, but HCHD Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Christian Walker addressed it in a video released by the HCHD on Nov. 2.
“We understand that a lot of our residents work in Marion County and the surrounding counties and reside here, so we are interconnected,” Walker said in the video. “That’s what this letter was, saying, ‘Let’s sit down with the elected officials from the municipalities. Let’s start looking at, ‘Do we need to take a more proactive approach from a governmental stance or do we continue down the path we’re going down right now?’’”
In recent weeks, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have risen in Hamilton County. The HCHD letter states that the county saw its average daily case count go from 19 in Stage 1 of the state’s reopening plan to eight in Stage 3.
“While these measures slowed the spread of COVID-19, it is safe to say those measures were unsustainable for our economy and our residents,” the letter states.
The county saw 13 average cases per day in Stage 4, 40 cases per day in Stage 4.5 and 52 new cases per day in Stage 5, with more than 113 cases per day since the letter was sent. The highest total in the county was 161 cases on Oct. 28.
“We’re breaking our daily record virtually every day at this point, and it’s very sad and very disheartening to see,” Walker said in the video. “We need to start making some proactive individual choices I think to really get this going again and heading back in the right direction.”
Hamilton County had 16 COVID-19 deaths from June 1 to Sept. 30 but had 17 COVID-19 deaths in October, with deaths reported on five consecutive days the last week in October. That hadn’t happened since early May.
Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard said he expects to meet with other leaders in the county within a week to discuss next steps. He said local government leaders should continue consulting with health and medical experts when creating strategies and policies to stop the spread of the virus.
“It has to be a balance between being careful, using common sense and keeping our economy going,” Brainard said. “It’s a fine balance.”
He said contact tracing has shown that the spread is mostly happening at private gatherings rather than in schools, restaurants or other public places.
“It doesn’t mean we can’t go see people,” he said. “It just means we need to be more careful when we do.”
Watch the HCHD video above or at youtu.be/u02uDzTcVkU.