Move will make it easier to get federal money

As cases of COVID-19 increased by nine across the state on Wednesday, Knox County elected officials declared a state of emergency, paving the way to accept federal funding and make emergency resolutions in the event the virus makes its way here.

Commission president Kellie Streeter encouraged members of the public and media gathered at a press conference at the courthouse inside Circuit Court not to panic; declaring a state of emergency merely lays the groundwork for things that could come later, she said, not the least of which is “opening up portals for federal revenue” should the county need it.

“I know it sounds really scary,” she told the crowd, many of them trying to stay at least 6 feet away from the person next to them per recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “But we are merely resolving, asking people to be diligent. Just assist us, comply with all emergency measures.

“We are not reactionary in doing this,” she said. “We're doing everything we can to protect ourselves ahead of time.”

Knox County isn't the first, officials said, to declare a state of emergency before it actually has a confirmed case of the coronavirus. There have been 39 confirmed cases in 15 Hoosier counties, but Knox isn't one of them.

There have been 7,038 cases confirmed in the U.S. so far and 97 deaths.

County health officer Dr. Alan Stewart said they have tested some patients for COVID-19 and sent those swabs off to private labs, but it will be days before they get the results.

In the meantime, he said county officials were doing “the wisest thing” by passing the measure now.

County officials also said the courthouse will remain open to the public, at least for now. They are, however, asking people to come in only for “necessary” business.

“We are trying to do what is best, we're trying to make sure our staff and the public remains healthy,” Streeter said. “But essential government services must continue.”

She asked that people “heed the recommendations” offered by both the state and CDC that encourage social distancing.

People with courthouse business should call first — a list of numbers is available at knoxcounty.in.gov — to see if their needs can be addressed over the phone or through email.

“Call ahead, see if it's essential, see if it can be postponed,” Streeter said.

“If we continue to isolate from one another, we will (facilitate) the stop of this illness,” she urged.

Streeter added that beginning today — and these measures were pending anyway amid an ongoing security upgraded — all visitors to the courthouse will be funneled to the Seventh Street entrance where they will be met by a police officer who will both do a quick health screening and ascertain whether your business is absolutely necessary.

“We want to continue government, and this is the best way we see to do it,” she said.

All currently scheduled court hearings will also continue, officials added, although only attorneys and litigants will be allowed inside the courtrooms.

Families will be asked to wait outside, Streeter said, and it's possible judges will ask the same of witnesses until they are called to deliver testimony.

Judges, too, will begin staggering hearings and jury trials so as to keep from having large gatherings of people, and any inmate at the Knox County Jail who must appear for a hearing will do so remotely via video-conferencing.

“This is about protecting one another,” Streeter said. “Stay safe and stay home if you are sick so we can continue on as normal.”

Stewart, too, encouraged people to stay the course in terms of social distancing. As doctors continue to learn about COVID-19, what they're finding is that, although less fatal than global viruses of the past, it does spread more rapidly.

Social distancing, if practiced correctly, will help prevent the spread of the virus until there is a vaccine.

“This is extremely important,” he said. “And we're not doing it too soon. The goal is to keep (COVID-19) out of Knox County, but we at least need to be doing everything we can to prevent the spread if it doesn't.

“Eliminate being in groups, don't be out and about if you don't have to be, and be considerate of your neighbors,” Stewart said. “Don't (hoard necessities) and help those at most risk.”

The commissioners also said they plan to meet as planned Tuesday evening, although they are discouraging the public from attending. Instead, they will offer live feed via the county's website.

And they will make it quick, Streeter said, only conducting essential business, like paying claims and approving payroll.

“If you want to watch out of curiosity, please stay home,” said commissioner Trent Hinkle. “Watch online.”

John Streeter, director of the Knox County Emergency Management Agency, also encouraged people to sign up for Code Red, which will alert residents to changes local officials are making in terms of the ongoing pandemic.

A link to sign up for Code Red can be found at the bottom of the county's website.

UPDATED CLOSURES AND CANCELLATIONS

Cancelations and closings due to the coronavirus:

• The Sun-Commercial customer service counter is closed until further notice.

• Vincennes University's Donald G. Bell Student Recreation Center, P.E. Complex, and Aquatic Center will close at 5 p.m. today. The VU Bowling Center is closed. The facilities will stay closed for two weeks.

• Vincennes University is cancelling all face-to-face commencements scheduled through May 16. 

• The Grow City Garden 2020 Spring Workshops at the Knox County Public Library have been suspended.

• Good Samaritan Hospital has canceled its Community Health Services for the month.

• The George Rogers Clark Memorial has closed; the visitor center and park grounds remain open.

• The Decker Chapel Alumni banquet has been canceled. For more information contact Linda Fox at 812-890-2353.

• The Samaritan Center has canceled its drop-in program and Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

• The Catholic Diocese of Evansville has suspended public masses.

• Indiana Military Museum will be closed to the public beginning Thursday and until further notice. Museum officials have also canceled the upcoming World War I event, originally scheduled for this weekend.

• The Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy will be closed until March 31.

• The Vincennes Visitors Bureau will be closed until March 30.

• Kite Day at the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, originally scheduled for March 28, has been postponed. Park rangers have not said if it will be rescheduled.

• City Hall is now closed to walk-in visitors. This includes all city departments, including the animal shelter at 1128 River Road. The lobby at Vincennes Police Department, 501 Busseron St., is still OPEN. For more information, contact city officials at 812-882-7285.

• Vincennes Community School Corp., South Knox School Corp., North Knox School Corp. and Vincennes Catholic Schools are out until April 6. Arrangements are being made for meal pickup; those details are forthcoming.

• State Historic Sites and Grouseland are now closed to visitors.

• KCARC’s 1972 community center is closed indefinitely as is KCARC’s Civitan Children’s Center.

• Pace Community Action Agency Inc.is closed but managers are available to help clients via a call center that can be accessed at 812-882-7927.

• YMCA of Vincennes as well as the nearby Bettye J. McCormick Senior Center are closed until further notice. VanGo is operating with limited service. For information on rides, call 812-886-3381.

• The Knox County Public Library will be closed at least until April 6.

• Monroe City Town Hall is closed, but payments can be made via the drive-up window.

• Vincennes Water Utilities is closed to walk-in traffic; payments can be made via the drive-up window.

• Old Town Players has canceled its April production of “Godspell.”

• The Decker High School Alumni Banquet scheduled for April 4 has been canceled.

• The Monroe City High School alumni banquet scheduled April 4 has been canceled for this year.

• The Fritchton High School Alumni Banquet scheduled for April 18 has been canceled

• Vincennes Cub League practices have been suspended through April 5. This year’s season is scheduled to begin on April 11.

IF YOU’RE HUNGRY...

Bill Bobe’s Pizzeria, 1651 N. Sixth St.: delivery and carry-out available

Buffalo Wild Wings, 2407 N. Sixth St: take-out orders only

Charlie’s Caramel & Candy Shop, 427 N. Second St: open

Denny’s, 2728 N. Sixth St.: closed

Fossmeyer’s Bakery, 1500 Willow St.: carry-out and drive-thru available

Graze 1885, 116 Main St.: take-out orders only

Heritage Farms Crafted Meats, 1290 Ind. 67,: curbside pickup

Pop Around the Clock, 1731 Hart St.: curbside pickup

Heroes Bar & Grill, Bicknell: carry-out only

McAlister’s Deli, 2720 N. Sixth St.: carry-out only

Swirls, 2017 N. Sixth St: closed

Monical’s Pizza, 1813 Willow St.: drive-thru and delivery

Vincennes Brewing Company, 124 Main St.: carry-out details forthcoming

The Cafe Moonlight, 512 Main St.: carry-out only

Gilbert’s Restaurant & Pub, 1350 Willow St.

Jenna’s Bakehouse, 213 Main St.: carry-out and curbside service

Olde Thyme Diner, 331 Main St.: carry-out only today; delivery and carryout options available beginning Monday

Procopio’s Pizza & Pasta, 127 N. Second St.: offering carry-out, curbside service and delivery

Vincennes Pub & Grub, 15 S. Fourth St.: carry-out orders available

Pea-Fections, 323 Main St., offering pickup and delivery

Gracie’s, 711 Main St., oake-out, curbside pickup and delivery

Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom, 529 Main St., take-out and delivery available

The Melon Patch, 9423 N. U.S. 41, Oaktown, carry-out deli only

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