MONTICELLO — The high degree of concern and caution about the coronavirus has prompted many county, city and town offices in White County to close to the public until further notice.

The coronavirus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, has spread to dozens of countries globally, with more than 245,000 confirmed cases worldwide and at least 10,031 deaths so far, according to data Friday from Johns Hopkins University.

The Indiana State Department of Health reported that, as of 11:59 p.m. March 19, there are 79 total positive cases in 26 of the state’s 92 counties, with two reported deaths — one each in Marion and Johnson counties.

According to ISDH, there are no reports of the virus in White County. Still, local and county leaders are taking no chances and have opted to close facilities as a precaution.

White County

The White County Commissioners on March 18 closed all county government buildings to the public and restricted all non-essential business travel.

Also, the commissioners recommend all meetings of 10 or more people be postponed or canceled until alternative arrangements can be made, such as video conferencing.

All essential county business that cannot be conducted remotely will either be postponed or arranged at the department head’s discretion, the commissioners said.

The commissioners said people should conduct county business by phone if it doesn’t require a physical presence in the building. It includes online bill payment, permit applications and more.

Per Gov. Eric Holcomb’s state of emergency declaration, which he extended to May 5, penalties on property tax, paid after May 11, will be waived for 60 days.

City of Monticello

The city of Monticello and town of Wolcott each have closed all of its offices and buildings until further notice.

According to a press release from Mayor Cathy Gross, city business will still be conducted with “minimal to no personal contact.”

“Our offices are still staffed and our employees are happy to answer your questions or concerns by phone,” she said.

All meetings, she said, have been canceled until further notice. One exception is a special board of works meeting planned for 8 a.m. March 25 in which the board will consider disciplinary action against an unnamed public safety employee.

Wolcott town officials are encouraging payments by mail, online or via its drop box. Officials said they plan to restrict visitors to their council meetings to 10 people and are working on streaming meetings live on social media.

Bill payment

The Monticello Board of Public Works and Safety, and the Monticello Common Council, voted March 18 to suspend utility shutoffs for the next 30 days, but advise that it doesn’t mean bills are forgiven. Residents are still responsible for their utility bills.

The next day, Holcomb extended Indiana’s state of emergency to May 5, and per that order, no essential utility service may be disconnected while under a state of emergency.

Essential utilities include electric, gas, telecom, broadband, water and wastewater.

Carroll-White REMC also suspended disconnections for non-payment, and closed its lobbies in Monticello and Delphi until further notice.

Bill payments can be made through the drive-through window in Monticello, a kiosk in Delphi, as well as via online and phone.

Water and sewer

The city’s water and wastewater departments advise residents to flush only toilet paper as it is the only acceptable, non-organic material to go into the sewer system. With toilet paper shortages occurring all across the area, people have been using and flushing paper towels, wash cloths and wipes.

“Even if it says they are flushable, do not flush them,” officials said. “Dispose of those materials in the trash.”

Officials said the city’s drinking water is “safe” because COVID-19 is not water-borne.

Courts

Judge Jason Thompson said both White County circuit and superior courts will remain open during regular business hours, but have suspended all civil proceedings except for emergency motions and petitions, bond hearings, initial hearings, emergency hearings and any other criminal proceeding deemed urgent by the courts. These procedures will remain in place until at least April 3, Thompson said.

Emergency matters and filing may be presented to the White County Building security staff at the first floor north entrance. After consultation with the court and/or clerk staff, the security officer will determine whether the matter requires immediate court attention.

Peddlers Permits

White County Auditor Gayle Rogers said no new Peddlers Permits will be issued in White County, nor will previous issued permits be honored, until further notice.

Peddlers Permits are issued to companies that send employees door-to-door in residential neighborhoods to sell a product or a service.

“This activity is halted throughout White County until such time that officials determine it to be safe to resume,” Rogers stated in a press release.

People who see or suspect peddler activity should contact local law enforcement.

Hospitals

Indiana University Health White Memorial Hospital, as have other facilities, implemented a “no-visitor” restriction May 15. Hospital staff will consider exceptions as certain situations arise, such as end-of-life cases. A patient being directly admitted to the hospital — especially if the patient is a child — may also be allowed a visitor at the time of admission only.

On Friday, IU Health officials said the system now has the capability to test for SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19.

Officials said the number of people who can be tested is limited, with priority given to high-risk, seriously ill patients and health care workers who may have been exposed to the virus. Officials added that it will offer broader testing as additional testing capacity becomes available over the next two weeks.

Schools

Holcomb on Thursday extended his state of emergency declaration until May 5, following up on his announcement that all public and private schools in the state remain closed at least until May 1.

Elections

On Friday, Holcomb and Secretary of State Connie Lawson moved the May 5 primary election to June 2 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“My view on that fast-approaching primary election is it needed to be pushed back in order to again ensure the safety of our county employees, the poll workers, and the voters themselves,” Holcomb said.

Shanda Cortez, voter registration/election clerk for White County, said the office is still taking absentee and early voting by mail applications.

“There is a meeting next week to go over the absentee walk-in dates with the Election Commission/Division,” she said. “As of now those dates are unclear.”