EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — A new zip code map released by the Vanderburgh County Health Department says the highest number of COVID-19 cases is in a southeast part of Evansville.
Eyewitness News spoke with Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer about what he thinks about this new map and the latest on the task force to reopen the city.
Brandon Bartlett: Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer, thanks for being with us tonight. I want to start off by asking you about that new map that’s out that says that the zip code 47714 is the epicenter of COVID-19 in Vanderburgh County. Is that true? And what are your thoughts on that?
Steve Schaefer: Well, we have to remember that that’s a snapshot in time. You know, there can be another day or another week where there are more cases, that are prevalent in terms of individuals that test positive. The good news is that there’s a low number of individuals within our county, in our area that have tested positive and a high number that have recovered. So I wouldn’t take a snapshot in time of a map to not go to a certain part of the city. It’s important for everybody to adhere to good hygiene, wearing a mask while out in public and making sure social distancing is a part of your daily routine.
Brandon Bartlett: But by narrowing this down to a zip code, is there fear that some people might say that they don’t want to go to that area now because of that?
Steve Schaefer: I think it created a false sense of panic. I currently live in 47714 and I have neighbors and individuals calling and worried, people didn’t want to go outside their home because of the story that ran so I think we all need to take it in context and realize that numbers are low in this area, numbers are high in terms of people that have recovered so that is good news.
Brandon Bartlett: Is that the highest area, though? And should there be any concern about going there?
Steve Schaefer: Well, those numbers have changed throughout this pandemic. You know, there was a point in time where [the] northeast part of the city had higher numbers. So I think it’s all in terms of looking at the data, but also taking it in the context. There’s a hospital, there are some nursing homes within the 47714 zip code. So it’s not really about the zip code. It’s about maintaining good hygiene, wearing a mask and adhering to social distancing.
Brandon Bartlett: Let’s talk about businesses. Many have reopened now in Indiana, and tonight there’s some news about some new assistance for small businesses.
Steve Schaefer: Right. Mayor Winnecke decided to use some federal funds and existing funds to help out our social service agencies and also provide more assistance to small businesses in the term of grants and loans. So a lot more resources that our small businesses and our organizations that provide services to the most vulnerable in the community will now receive some additional funds.
Brandon Bartlett: Will businesses need to apply for this?
Steve Schaefer: Yes, and it’ll be in certain parts of the community that are designated by HUD in terms of low income or specialized districts within the city.
Brandon Bartlett: What about restaurants? I know that some areas are looking to expand their outdoor seating. Is that being considered here as well?
Steve Schaefer: Yes, absolutely. The Chamber of Commerce has done a great job in terms of holding workshops, answering questions, providing resources and connecting those business owners with the PPE and other types of resources that are available. Outdoor seating was something that had come up in terms of trying to help out those restaurants that have reduced capacity during this time. So you know, the city, the mayor, we’ve asked our legal team and our APC folks to look if it can be done, and if so we want to help out restaurants as much as we can.
Brandon Bartlett: You are the head of this new task force and one of the roles of the task force is to oversee the reopening of the Civic Center. What is being done with that and what do people need to know before going to the Civic Center?
Steve Schaefer: I actually just finished a walkthrough, where we’re going to be putting floor marking, signage, where we’re going to have the screeners because May 26 employees will be coming back to the Civic Center. June 15 will be when the general public, when the Civic Center will be back open. There’ll be temperature screening outside, you’ll have to wear a mask. And we have lots of other precautionary items throughout the building such as hand sanitizer, plexiglass shields for some of the counters where employees deal with the public. So we’re taking all that into consideration, but making sure that the building is safe not only for our employees, but for customers and taxpayers that come in and want to do business with the city.
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