Explaining to the public

By Cheri Shelhart

County Medical Director Dr. Marianne Nelson speaks to the public Tuesday night via Facebook Live regarding the county’s response to the pandemic. It was reported the live stream had 675 viewers.

RENSSELAER — Jasper County Commissioner Kendell Culp spoke live Tuesday via Facebook and to a room full of county officials, announcing that as of 6 a.m. March 18, all county offices would be closed to the public.

The offices will be closed through April 6, and the commissioners will review the situation if that needs to be extended.

Affected include all courthouse offices except for courts, Purdue Extension office, surveyor’s office, prosecuting attorney and probation offices — except by appointment — and animal control.

The courthouse will be open for court business, with a restriction on who will be allowed in the courtrooms. Those with court appointments must their temperature taken and sign in at the security desk. Courthouse employees will also go through the same check-in as visitors.

For those going to the courtrooms, the stairs are off-limits; they are required to take the elevator directly to the third floor, where courtrooms are located.

For individuals who need to pick up paperwork or pay a fine or fee, the superior court clerk’s office will be open on the first floor for those transactions.

The annex where the health department is housed will be closed to the public and immunizations are on hold, at least until children go back to school, according to the county’s emergency preparedness and communicable diseases health nurse, Debra Nagle, who also spoke at the meeting. There are no confirmed cases in Jasper County.

She said her office is getting updates on the situation with the coronavirus as they come in. She said her office has been getting many calls regarding testing for the virus, but as of yet, the county health departments are not administering those tests. She said if a person calls and gets a busy signal to try again. Her staff is working to answer all calls and questions from the public.

County Medical Director Dr. Marianne Nelson spoke about the ways people should behave to avoid the spread of the highly contagious disease. She reiterated the importance of hand-washing, as well as avoiding public spaces. She said the hospital in Rensselaer reported four people had been tested at their facility, and no postitive results have come in so far.

“Please avoid using medical resources for minor symptoms,” she said, adding that she has told people to stay calm and not to stockpile goods.

She advised the public to read reliable sources for information about the pandemic and not rely on social media. The local health department is one of those sources.

She asked that people check on the elderly by phone or social media as well and help them stay informed if they do not use the internet. If a person is working, “practice safe practices,” she said, which includes hand-washing and social distancing, as well as keeping work areas clean and disinfected.

Culp said the Jasper County Community Services will serve hot lunches as carry-out only, and will be closed for social events and inside meals at all of the sites. Next week, he said they will have frozen meals for seniors to take home and reheat as needed.

With three main events happening in May, Culp asked that people use other ways to pay property taxes due on May 10.

The Indiana primary election scheduled for May 5 has been moved to June 2, by order of Gov. Eric Holcomb. Voters are asked to apply for absentee voting ballots by calling the county clerk’s office and having an application mailed. One does not need to go to the courthouse for the forms.

The clerk’s office, which is on the second floor of the courthouse, will be closed to the public. The clerk will not be performing weddings during this time.

Culp said employees will be in their offices and will take phone calls. The main switchboard for county offices is 219-866-4930.

“We’re doing our best to balance service to the public and safety to the public,” he said.