Our community is facing a long-term challenge unlike any we've encountered as COVID-19 continues to evolve and spread throughout the United States, but we can get through this.
As I've said many times, Fort Wayne is a city like no other. We're a strong, caring community that believes in doing whatever is necessary to keep our city moving forward.
This time feels different because we're extremely anxious about how little we know about this brand-new virus, whether we'll have a mild or life-threatening case, how it might harm our loved ones and maybe even how we're going to continue to feed our families.
I want the public to know the city's divisions and departments stand ready to respond to any emergencies. Public safety (police/fire/animal care and control), water filtration plant operation, water pollution control (wastewater) plant operation, water and sewer maintenance field operations, street department functions, garbage and recycling collection, and finance are leading examples of critical areas of service operating at full capacity to serve the public – and those services continue.
In addition, 911 services and the City's 311 Call Center continue to operate.
I'm proud of how quickly and selflessly businesses, nonprofits and faith-based groups postponed events they probably had planned and worked on for months – all for the sake of our citizens' health. And so many of our residents are checking on their neighbors, providing food and child care for those in need, and figuring out resourceful ways to offer their help and services from a distance.
The Allen County Board of Commissioners and I recently announced the closure of Citizens Square to the public until April 1. The Rousseau Centre is also closed with limited access to certain areas. This has been done out of necessity as we want to help ensure the safety of the community.
The city's website, cityoffortwayne.org, has a lot of information about additional closures and how respective divisions and departments in local government are handling the COVID-19 situation to meet the needs of residents and customers and how residents and customers can continue to conduct business with city government.
But with all of these unknowns, one thing we can rely on is our very capable and proactive Allen County Department of Health.
They continuously update us with the latest information about this pandemic, including the social distancing measures (avoiding close contact with others) we need to take to keep our health care system up and running so all of our citizens facing health emergencies will be cared for. Not just patients suffering from the coronavirus, but those who have acute, chronic and emergent issues such as heart attacks, strokes and injuries from car accidents.
I'm sure you've heard that our goal in the city, and the entire United States, is to keep the number of critical coronavirus patients as low as possible for the longest period of time so we don't have a sudden surge of patients needing critical care. In other words, we're trying to “flatten the curve.”
Please follow these recommendations from the Allen County Department of Health. If you have a fever of 100 degrees Farenheit and a cough, call your health care provider to determine your next course of action. Wash your hands often with soap and water; use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when hand washing is not available. Avoid touching. Do not shake hands. Utilize alternative forms of greeting that do not require touching, such as a wave or head nod. Cover a cough or sneeze with tissue and throw away immediately. If tissue is unavailable, cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Stay at least 6 feet from others. Maintain at least 6 feet between yourself and anyone coughing or sneezing. If too close, virus droplets can be breathed in.
If you have general questions about COVID-19, the Indiana State Department of Health has set up a new, toll-free number for its call center. Dial 877-826-0011 and press 1 to speak to someone.
Finally, the guidelines are constantly changing, and will probably continue to change as more citizens are exposed to the virus. So please be patient and monitor the COVID-19 emergency situation at cityoffortwayne.org under “What's Hot” and remain vigilant with your social distancing.
Remember, we're all in this together, we'll get through it and life will eventually return to normal.
Tom Henry is mayor of Fort Wayne.