Mayor Fischer says he won’t rush to reopen as neighboring states begin to ease COVID-19 restrictions
Mayor Greg Fischer today continued his call for a measured, science-based approach to reopening the Louisville economy amidst a rush in neighboring states to ease restrictions on businesses and allow people to shop and dine out.
The State of Indiana this week began relaxing restrictions despite the fact that COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise there. The Mayor has called for a regional approach to reopening the economy, a concern he says he voiced during a phone call with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb today.
“I emphasized the importance of taking a regional approach so we can find a way to reopen that helps us move forward as a region as safely as possible,” said Mayor Fischer, who also spoke with government leaders in Southern Indiana. “Our community has worked very hard over the last two months to implement social distancing, and that’s why our case rates and death rates are lower and why we’ve been able to flatten the curve.”
To the south, Tennessee has also begun reopening its economy, while to the east West Virginia is in the midst of a similar rush to get back to business.
“What makes this a challenge is that we really are one economic community. And I love and appreciate our friends and neighbors in Southern Indiana,” Mayor Fischer said. “I spent many years of my career there, and as Mayor, I’ve seen every day how the connections between our city and the communities across the river are deep and permanent – personally, economically and in every way there is. But the data shows clearly that we’re on different tracks when it comes to COVID-19.”
Although Indiana only has 1½-times Kentucky’s population, it has four times the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. Despite this, the Hoosier State has lifted travel restrictions and is allowing gatherings of up to 25 people. Non-essential businesses like retail stores and malls are reopening at reduced capacity, with plans to allow restaurants, nail salons, and hair salons to resume operation next week.
Although Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has announced that some restrictions will be eased beginning May 11, it will be a slow and cautious process that will depend heavily on the ability to increase testing capacity and conduct contract tracing on people who do test positive.
“What we’re experiencing reflects what’s happening around the country as some people and some elected officials seem eager to participate in what’s really an enormous experiment to see what happens when you start opening stores, businesses and restaurants during a pandemic,” the Mayor said. “That’s what it is – an experiment, because we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’ll see in a week or so what the results are from Georgia and other states that moved more aggressively.”
Health experts have warned that states that are reopening without first containing the spread of the virus are risking a spike in infections that would undue the intense and unprecedented effort to protect hospitals and first responders from being overwhelmed by a surge in sick patients.
“I’m very concerned about this tug-a-war that we’re seeing, because as much as I want to get our economy moving, I don’t want more people to die from COVID-19,” the Mayor said. “I’d love to be wrong, but the reality is that those are the stakes. When and how we reopen – these are life-and-death decisions.”
A study released earlier this week warned that it is too soon to ease Louisville’s social distancing strategy, which is working to slow the spread of the disease and “flatten the curve” of infection. The study was co-authored by Dr. Sarah Moyer, Metro Louisville’s chief health strategist, who said Indiana’s rush to reopen is far too risky at this point.
“Quite frankly, it scares me,” Dr. Moyer said. “In Kentucky, we’re opening up more slowly. We have fewer cases and deaths. We need to keep it that way.”
Mayor Fischer again urged his fellow Louisvillians to avoid the temptation to cross the Ohio River to dine out at a reopened restaurant or visit a barber for a haircut in Southern Indiana.
“The data tell us that it's just too soon to do things like go to restaurants and malls. Don’t get me wrong, I love our local restaurants. I get carry-out almost every day. But the truth is that even at reduced capacity, an indoor dining area is like a buffet for the virus,” the Mayor said.
As of Wednesday, there have been 37 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Louisville, bringing the total to 1,513 with 863 recoveries. There have been no additional deaths since Tuesday. The confirmed Louisville total remains at 108.
Currently, 65 members of LMPD, Louisville Fire, Metro EMS, Metro Corrections and the Sheriff’s Office are off-duty due to COVID-19:
- 23 are off with positive tests and in self-isolation.
- 33 are off and quarantined due to exposure to someone with a positive test.
- 9 are “screened off” with symptoms and tested, or due to be tested, but have not received test results.
Positive test numbers for first responders/public safety since the incident began:
- 35 positive tests.
- 12 have fully recovered and returned to duty.
Metro Corrections inmate data for May 6:
- 164 inmates have been tested.
- 1 test is pending.
In response to an uptick in cases of COVID-19 among Metro Corrections employees, Mayor Fischer today said that testing will be ramped up at Louisville’s Jail to ensure the disease does not get a foothold in the facility.
Seventeen Metro Corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19, while another seven are awaiting test results. Thirty-one employees are in self-quarantine due to possible exposure to the virus.
“Over the last week, we’ve seen a troubling increase in positive tests among our corrections officers,” the Mayor said. “So, we’re increasing testing and taking additional steps to halt the spread of the virus in our jail.”
Fortunately, no inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, although the jail has housed inmates who were known to have the virus. There will now be broader testing to include asymptomatic employees and inmates, with plans to do 200 more tests later this week.
To mark National Nurses Day, Mayor Fischer expressed his gratitude to Louisville’s dedicated corps of nurses who have been on the job 24/7 during the COVID-19 crisis.
“Thank you to all of the nurses who are part of our team of healthcare heroes providing incredible care for patients during this crisis. Many of them are risking their own lives and health. Some of them are also staying away from their families in order to protect their loved ones from potential exposure,” the Mayor said. “On behalf of the people of Louisville, thank you to all nurses. You have our gratitude and respect – forever for the incredible work you do.”
Mayor Fischer is calling upon Louisville’s tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs, and creative problem solvers to help address the challenges local organizations are facing due to COVID-19. The group will unite for Louisville’s first virtual hackathon, sponsored by the Future of Work Initiative and Humana, who are organizing the event in partnership with Metro Government, KentuckianaWorks, and Louisville Entrepreneurship Acceleration Partnership (LEAP).
“As a former entrepreneur, I know how lucky we are as a city to have some of the most innovative minds in the world who continually rise to the occasion of creative and innovative problem solving,” the Mayor said. “Now, more than ever, we need to rise to the challenge to show this virus that we are prepared to fight back. How can we help our small businesses, our places of worship or our kids? These are just some of the issues we need to tackle.”
Starting today, any local organization can submit a problem they are encountering as a result of COVID-19 with a description of its impact. Those problems will be shared publicly on www.LiftUpLou.com and through social media @LiftUpLou, and community members will have the opportunity to lend their unique ideas and talents to solve them. Hackathon volunteers will work in small groups to develop their solutions over five days and will then present them via a live Facebook event on Saturday, May 30, at 1 p.m.
“Building a culture of connectivity, inclusion, and community support are at the core of what LEAP provides,” said Larry Horn, LEAP’s Executive Director. “We are excited about coming together with the other great community partners to support non-profit organizations that are being devastated by COVID-19. We’re confident that the founders and innovators of our community will continue to rise to the challenge of providing unique solutions to complicated issues that will benefit our city.”
The virtual hackathon is not limited to software programmers or tech experts. Any community member with a strong desire to work with others to help solve problems is encouraged to participate.
To get involved, visit www.LiftUpLou.com.
Organizations can submit a problem or project idea at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdEhYfrag2eO1iNwm4rHfUNBJmjexBw....
Problem-solving volunteers can sign-up to help at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSf7xYi2FaxNE_zYLrQNQoV0ulQe_r4H...
Thursday tele town hall
Mayor Fischer will host a Facebook Live tele town hall on Thursday morning focused on issues affecting our aging population during the COVID-19 response, including efforts to stop the spread of the virus in senior-living communities and long-term care facilities.
His guests will be Tihisha Rawlings of AARP; Dr. Christian Furman, a geriatric medicine specialist; and Sarah Teeters of the Metro Office for Aging and Disabled Citizens.
To participate, go to www.facebook.com/MayorGregFischer at 10 a.m. Thursday.