Eyewitness News Brad Byrd talked to Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke about coronavirus and his city.
BB: Welcome to InDEPTH: It seems our lives are changing by the hour. Something we cannot see is impacting what many of us take for granted- going out for dinner, shopping, meeting with friends to unwind after a long week, taking our kids to school. Coronavirus has broken the mold and has apparently tossed it out the window for now. But this is not about us as individuals but for those around us. For government leaders…it brings a new tough challenge and joining us tonight is Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. Mayor, thank you for being here.
Before we start, let’s take an aerial view of our studio. This is what you call social distancing, and we added a few feet to it. And Mayor, I’m going to wave at you first, it’s great to see you. This blew up last week. The city has tried get ahead of this, but are you surprised how much of an impact this is having in such a short period of time on our city?
LW: You know, I don’t think I’m really surprised by the timing at all. About three weeks or so ago, more or less I got together, pulled together the leaders from the health department and our two local hospitals and we had just a wide open news conference in the mayor’s office and I had a briefing prior to that and I really got a good indication of where the healthcare professionals thought this was heading, so I’m not surprised. This is gone as they have predicted.
BB: And you’re telling people to remain calm. What are people you talk to telling you?
LW: Well, people are trying to stay calm, they’re trying to adjust to a new normal. I’ve encouraged people to be calm and be flexible. The changes that are going on are dramatic in many cases and sometimes those changes are difficult to adapt to but we need to do that, we need to support our local restaurants that are offering takeout and delivery services. I had lunch carried out and picked up carryout tonight for dinner so to the extent that we can do that, we should do that, but people are adapting the best they can and again we have to support each other.
BB: And you told me you have a concern about volunteers. Many of them are elderly and Evansville is a community that has a very strong volunteer base but we still need more.
LW: We do need more. I would encourage people if you are young and healthy, that is below the 60-year-old threshold, we encourage you to be in touch to identify ways that you can volunteer in our community. We know the Salvation Army needs volunteers, we know the Tri-State Food Bank needs volunteers, there are other food pantries around the community that need volunteers but we need to be smart about how we volunteer. The health professionals say that social distancing is the best way we can slow the growth of this virus and we need to adhere to that to the greatest extent possible.
BB: And mayor, a lot of health experts say it’s just a matter of time that we have the virus right here in our area right now but the tests are still out there. Do we have the capacity to handle a potential onslaught of people who may test positive right here in our community?
LW: It all depends on what an onslaught is and what that looks like. What the healthcare professionals believe and I have great confidence in what they are telling us is the more we can flatten the curve, that is slow the growth of the virus, the better it is. What we don’t want is our hospitals and healthcare institutions around not only here but around the country to be hit at one time. We know the virus is in the country, we believe with all we know that it’s in our communities. We need to slow the growth so healthcare facilities are not overrun and overwhelmed at one time, so the best thing we can do is to adhere to social distancing.
BB: Our city and those across the country really depending on a lot of help from the federal government.
LW: We’re very resourceful. A lot of cities and counties are very resourceful, but the level of assistance that our city will need and every city around the country is far beyond the capacity of just about every municipality. So what the federal government can do to help our city and others will be very paramount in this effort.
BB: And just about every conversation in our town right now, coronavirus is at right at the top of that. The question seems to be there’s a lot of mystery here going on with exactly how much and how much longer this is going to affect our lives. How long can we sustain this type of change in a city like evansville?
LW: We’re resourceful, I think we will sustain, we’ll do whatever it takes to sustain what’s thrown at us. No one has a crystal ball, what the healthcare professionals that I talk to on a daily basis tell me they’re following what’s going on in Italy, elsewhere in Europe, in Asia and they see how we can best stem the tide and that’s by social distancing. How long will all these changes be in effect? It is anyone’s guess, that’s why I think it’s very important to remain calm, be flexible, look for good sources of reliable information- the CDC website, the Indiana State Department of Health website and the Vanderburgh County Health Department website. All three good, very reliable sources of information.
BB: You talk about neighbors right in our own neighborhood. What do you say to that elderly man who is downright worried right now, frightened or to perhaps an individual who is living on a low income to begin with and has lost his or her job. What do you tell them now on how this can turn out?
LW: I think you have to tell them you’re there for them. as a friend, whether it’s a friend or a neighbor or a loved one. We have to stand together with our fellow man. These are crazy times as we discussed earlier times that we never thought we’d see so the best thing that we can do is be a friend and be a resource. Whether it’s going to get groceries for someone, whether it’s just checking on someone’s welfare. What I have seen in the last two or three weeks, I think, is an increased level of compassion and empathy in our city and we’ll all need that.
BB: Mayor Winnecke, I know we’ll be talking about this for some time but hopefully not too much longer but we appreciate you coming out tonight and please share any updates with us. I assume the daily briefings or the weekly briefings are going to continue as needed?
LW: I get the daily briefings from healthcare providers and those will definitely continue and we’re certainly making ourselves available to the media and releasing as much information as quickly as we can to help the community understand what’s going on.
BB: Mayor Winnecke, thank you for joining us.
LW: My pleasure.