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Page last updated on September 7, 2021 at 1:31 pm

Hi, this is Mayor John Hamilton giving another update. It's Monday, May 18th, and thanks for listening and for all you're doing. We've obviously had some major changes here in town, as over the last weekend, under a new health order from the county, we have moved into stage two of the Indiana outline. We had held back a couple of weeks for that. I just want to give you an update on that, what's going on and what may come next, and some thoughts about that.

So first, recognize there is a balance going on between our first priority, collectively, to protect health and safety. That's number one, and the balance then on trying to do what we can to open up the economy, let more things happen, let jobs return, et cetera. And that balance is a difficult and dynamic one, and it has been struck lately over the weekend, by loosening up and allowing more activities to take place, confident that under the health department's judgment that we can move forward and still protect health and safety.

Data drives that decision. It has driven the decision, and it needs to drive the decision. It was the data that did not show a reduction in hospitalizations that meant we didn't move when the state moved. The data did show reduction in hospitalizations and lower incidents of the disease based on the testing that is happening that led us, and the health department advised, we could move forward into stage two, and that data will continue to drive the decision making. We need to look at a bunch of different sources of data, from gating criteria, from the CDC and others, to more localized criteria about what's happening. It's a dynamic situation. You may know we did some prevalence testing in the state, the state and Fairbanks Institute, and found out that 2.8% of those they tested, randomly selected, had had exposure to COVID. Either directly or through antibody testing, they found that out.

That means that for about, in the state of Indiana, for every person we know has COVID, there are 10 people that we don't know that had COVID. And another significant thing that came out of that was probably 45% or so of the people who had been infected with COVID and were likely infectious did not know they had it. They had no symptoms. So those kinds of data are really important to remind us the challenge we're facing to keep track of what's going on to protect each other. Most people who get sick do not get tested and do not know. And we have 10 or 11 times as many cases as we have tested and know about in the state. So we have a lot of work to do on getting better data.

But while the data will help drive our decisions, it is our behavior that will decide our future, our behavior as individuals and as institutions, how we behave during this crisis, and as we open up into stage two, as well as the behavior of the virus, which of course we can't control, we can only try to affect through our own behavior. I will note that I am concerned that we not move too fast. We have opened up to stage two, which means restaurants can be open at 50%, social gatherings are allowed up to 25 people as opposed to 10, a number of other changes. Retail stores, general stores can operate with plans at 50% capacity, as well, the mall, et cetera, et cetera. They all need to have plans on how to operate.

But even more important than that, I would emphasize is just because you can do something does not mean you should do something. Again, our behavior will drive the future path we have. Many of us, I did a hand check on cabinet folks who were planning to go out to eat when the restaurants first opened up. Only one out of 20 raised their hand and said they plan to, because many people, not just those at risk, who might be of an age or have certain disabilities or other infirmities that make them at risk, but many people are making the judgment to say, let's be careful. Let's be cautious. That kind of behavior will help. Avoiding large crowds will help, as faith institutions open up and others.

So data will drive the decision. Our behaviors will drive what happens on the ground. And I encourage everybody to behave safely. Take the pledge, in fact. There's a health department pledge that I've signed and we put out. It's in the media. You can go to our website or health department website. It pledges five things that you will do to help keep our infection rate low. Number one is physical distancing. Continue to physical distance, six feet from anybody that's not in your own household that you're close to. Number two, wash hands frequently with soap. Number three, wear a face-covering whenever you are out in public, particularly if you're not physical distance from somebody. You must really have a face cloth on to protect them because you don't know when you're infectious and they don't know when you're infectious. Fourth is to, if you are sick, don't go to work, stay home. And fifth, if you do have symptoms, get tested.

I encourage you to sign that pledge. I'm going to be urging that we take the time to see the data that will tell us whether our behaviors will allow us to continue to follow a steady and incremental opening up. So our behaviors are going to drive this, and I encourage you to be prudent, be careful so that the data can help us see how we go forward. We'll continue to watch that. We know we're in this current status at least through the 31st of May and would not be surprised if it's longer. Thanks for all you do. That's an update. Contact my office if you need any more information. Again, I hope you'll sign that pledge and you all have a good week. Take care.