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COVID numbers continue surge
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Jefferson County reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 Sunday with more to come from the weekend as the incidence rate statewide and nationwide continues to climb.

The county has added nearly 200 cases in the past week, in line with the surge of COVID cases in Indiana. The Indiana State Department of Health reported 608 cases in its Monday report, with 297 of those considered active. Statewide positive cases, meanwhile, are hovering at just over 210,000 since March with a death count of 4,418.

Saturday brought the highest total count for new cases in Jefferson County, 45, around the same time students and teachers at local schools were waiting on their test results. A handful of cases among teachers and a shortage of substitutes at Madison Consolidated High School forced the high school to use an online learning day Monday, while students at Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School and Pope John Elementary will not return until at least Nov. 17 due to an outbreak in that small student population.

Health department officials continued to urge residents to social distance from those outside their household and mask up at indoor public spaces regardless of social distancing and wear masks at outdoor public spaces if social distancing cannot be achieved. In addition, you should avoid large crowds (indoors or outdoors), stay home if you are sick and practice good hand washing and hand sanitizing. One of the bonuses to wearing a face mask and practicing good hand washing is that it also helps protect against acquiring the more common seasonal influenza.

Those who have been in contact with an infected person should stay home for 14 days after their last exposure, try to maintain a 6-foot distance from other household members and use separate restrooms if possible. In addition, they should avoid travel, wash hands frequently, wear a face mask when around others, monitor for symptoms and seek testing.

Testing in Jefferson County is available at the following locations:

• King’s Daughters’ Hospital Convenient Care, 443 E Clifty Drive, Madison (Call 812 273-5372). Preregister online for your test at https://scheduling.coronavirus.in.gov/

• Optum/LHI testing site, 208 W Main Street, Madison (Call 888-634-1116). Preregister online at https://lhi.care/covidtesting

• King’s Daughters’ Hospital Isolation Clinic, 1373 E St. Rd. 62 Madison (Call 812 801-8010)

• PMC Urgent Care, 311 Clifty Drive, Madison (Call 812 274-2742)

• CVS Pharmacy, 500 Clifty Drive, Madison (Call 812 273-2117)

Nearby Switzerland County has reported only 156 cases since March — out of just over 2,000 residents tested — but a county-high 19 new cases were reported Friday and an adult care facility there is currently dealing with an outbreak.

Meanwhile, Trimble County had four new and 18 overall active cases as of the North Central District Health Department’s report on Friday. Trimble has only had 124 total cases since March and one death, but an average of more than 25 cases per day over the past week has pushed the county into the red “critical” category, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health’s report on Sunday.

Trimble County Public Schools decided to proceed with in-person classes this week, promising to monitor COVID numbers while enacting stricter guidelines at last Friday’s football game and saying it would most likely cancel middle school basketball games for this week.

Anyone wishing to be tested for COVID-19 in Trimble County can call the local health department at 502-255-7701 to schedule an appointment.

The Three Rivers District Health Department’s report on Friday announced seven new cases in Carroll County, bringing the active count to 22. Carroll is currently rated as “accelerated” by the Kentucky Department for Public Health with an incidence rate of 22.8 cases per 100,000 people.

A recent outbreak among a few staff members at Carroll County Middle School forced the school to take three non-traditional instruction days last week, but students at the junior high returned Monday. So far, the district is also moving forward with plans to continue in-person instruction while still possible.

“To date, our other schools are not dealing with COVID-19 to this degree,” Superintendent Danny Osborne said in an online statement about the middle school last week. “However, we will continue to closely monitor the situation at all of our schools and will be in close communication with our health department and other authorities.”

To schedule an appointment for COVID testing in Carroll County, call the Carroll County Health Center at (859) 962-8506.

A crew from Sedam Contracting works to repair a water main break in the College Hill section of Hanover Monday. The break left about 60 customers without water and under a boil advisory.

Water Break

A crew from Sedam Contracting works to repair a water main break in the College Hill section of Hanover Monday. The break left about 60 customers without water and under a boil advisory.

Veterans Day observances Wednesday
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The Madison Elk’s Lodge 524 and VFW Post 1969 in Madison will honor all veterans with free meals on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

Veterans and a guest will eat free at the Elks Lodge, 1251 W. Main St., Madison, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Veterans and their family members will eat free at the VFW Post, located at 3100 North Michigan Road, Madison, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The free meals are provide regardless of the veteran’s membership in either organizations.

Madison Iron Works Inc. will dedicate a new flag pole to veterans at 3 p.m. on Wednesday. Veterans and other residents are invited to attend the ceremony which will include music and the raising of an American Flag at the foundry, located at 1108 W. Main St. in downtown Madison.

Meanwhile, The Jefferson County Courthouse, Madison City Hall, Hanover Town Hall and the City of Madison Waste Transfer Station all will be closed Wednesday, Nov. 11, in observance of Veterans Day.

Wednesday and Thursday garbage, recycle and compost pick up in Madison will be delayed by one day. All city offices and services at the transfer station will reopen on Thursday, Nov. 12.

Prince of Peace Schools, currently on a live virtual learning program due to coronavirus cases in the school, has rescheduled its Veterans Day Parade for 2 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 24.

Due to COVID guidelines the schools will offer a mobile Veterans Day Program honoring all veterans — past and present — with a parade starting at the schools. Coffee and cookies will be served starting at 1:30 p.m. in the parking lot of St. Patrick’s Church. The parade starts at 2 p.m. with the Shawe Band of Gold honoring veterans with an Armed Forces medley. The parade to be broadcast live on the school’s Facebook page. All veterans are invited to participate and the community is invited to attend. For information, call 812-273-2150 or 812-273-3957.

Lack of subs amid COVID-19 forces MCHS to online leaning
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Madison Consolidated High School was forced to use a virtual learning day Monday due to a lack of available substitute teachers after several full-time staff members missed work due to possible COVID-19 exposure or other reasons.

Superintendent Jeff Studebaker said the entire district was down around five teachers as of 9:15 p.m. Sunday night and administrators were developing a plan to offset the losses when a sixth came in. Lacking enough regular substitutes to make up that difference, administrators decided it made more sense to have a virtual learning day for students while the staff Monday to plan for the coming weeks.

Studebaker said two teachers had called in after testing positive, another called in because their child’s classroom had been quarantined for exposure and they were staying home to monitor them. The rest were for non-coronavirus reasons.

At the moment, 100 students and/or staff — including three entire classrooms — in the district are quarantined due to exposure. Studebaker said those classrooms have been quarantined both for safety reasons and the fact that it makes it easier on those teachers to have every student learning on the same platform.

While COVID-19 cases are increasing in each building, the spread doesn’t seem to be school-related, but due to exposure to over family members who are infected or exposed as well as other points of exposure outside the district, Studebaker said. Last week another school system in the county, Prince of Peace Catholic Schools, announced it would move to live virtual learning until Nov. 17 due to several students testing positive. Only the system’s preschool will meet in the classroom.

Canaan Community Academy also announced it would not have classes on Monday or Tuesday, but attempts to speak to a school representative were unsuccessful on Monday.

Studebaker said the lack of substitute teachers helped steer Madison toward using Monday for planning.

He said upper administrators spent Monday discussing a course of action going forward because “it doesn’t look like that situation’s going to get much better,” Studebaker said. He noted it was already hard to get subs before COVID-19, but the pandemic has made it even worse.

“There aren’t subs out there to hire, is the problem. We added a few at the beginning of the year, but there are some people out there who would not work,” he said.

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine looking 90% effective
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Pfizer Inc. said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be a remarkable 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results that nevertheless brought a big burst of optimism to a world desperate for the means to finally bring the catastrophic outbreak under control.

The announcement came less than a week after an election seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s handling of the scourge, which has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide, including almost a quarter-million in the United States alone.

“We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of clinical development, told The Associated Press. “We’re very encouraged.”

Pfizer, which is developing the vaccine with its German partner BioNTech, now is on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, once it has the necessary safety information in hand.

Even if all goes well, authorities have stressed it is unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and the limited initial supplies will be rationed.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, said the results suggesting 90% effectiveness are “just extraordinary,” adding: “Not very many people expected it would be as high as that.”

“It’s going to have a major impact on everything we do with respect to COVID,” Fauci said as Pfizer appeared to take the lead in the all-out global race by pharmaceutical companies and various countries to develop a well-tested vaccine against the virus.

Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization’s senior adviser, said Pfizer’s vaccine could “fundamentally change the direction of this crisis” by March, when the U.N. agency hopes to start vaccinating high-risk groups.

Global markets, already buoyed by the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, rocketed on the news from Pfizer. The S&P 500 was up 3.3% in afternoon trading, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 1,300 points. Pfizer jumped more than 11%. Other vaccine stocks were up as well.

Still, Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean for certain that a vaccine is imminent: This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries.

Some participants got the vaccine, while others got dummy shots. Pfizer released no specific breakdowns, but for the vaccine to be 90% effective, nearly all the infections must have occurred in placebo recipients. The study is continuing, and Pfizer cautioned that the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 cases are added to the calculations.

Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, former chief of the FDA’s vaccine division, called the partial results “extremely promising” but ticked off many questions still to be answered, including how long the vaccine’s effects last and whether it protects older people as well as younger ones.

Trump, who had suggested repeatedly during the presidential campaign that a vaccine could be ready by Election Day, tweeted: “STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!”

Biden, for his part, welcomed the news but cautioned that it could be many months before vaccinations become widespread in the U.S., and he warned Americans to rely on masks and social distancing in the meantime. He said the country still faces a “dark winter.”

Confirmed infections in the U.S. eclipsed 10 million on Monday, the highest in the world. New cases are running at all-time highs of more than 100,000 per day. And tens of thousands more deaths are feared in the coming months, with the onset of cold weather and the holidays.

Pfizer’s vaccine is among four candidates already in huge studies in the U.S., with still more being tested in other countries. Another U.S. company, Moderna Inc., also hopes to file an application with the FDA late this month.

Both companies’ shots are made with a brand-new technology. These “mRNA vaccines” aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

The timing of Pfizer’s announcement is likely to feed unsubstantiated suspicions from Trump supporters that the pharmaceutical industry was withholding the news until after the election. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted: “The timing of this is pretty amazing. Nothing nefarious about the timing of this at all right?”

Pfizer has insisted that its work is not influenced by politics and that it was “moving at the speed of science.” Its independent data monitors met on Sunday, analyzing the COVID-19 test results so far and notifying Pfizer.

Pfizer initially opted not to join the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed, which helped fund a half-dozen vaccine makers’ research and manufacturing scale-up. Pfizer instead said it has invested $2 billion of its own money in testing and expanding manufacturing capacity. But in July, Pfizer signed a contract to supply the U.S. with 100 million doses for $1.95 billion, assuming the vaccine is cleared by the FDA.

Pfizer said its only involvement in Operation Warp Speed is that those doses are part of the administration’s goal to have 300 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines ready sometime next year.

The strong results were a surprise. Scientists have warned for months that any COVID-19 shot may be only as good as flu vaccines, which are about 50% effective and require yearly immunizations. Earlier this year, Fauci said he would be happy with a COVID-19 vaccine that was 60% effective.

Whatever the ultimate level of protection, no one knows if people will need regular vaccinations.

Also, volunteers in the study received a coronavirus test only if they developed symptoms, leaving unanswered whether vaccinated people could get infected but show no symptoms and unknowingly spread the virus.

Pfizer has estimated it could have 50 million doses available globally by the end of 2020, enough for 25 million people.

Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, called the release of the preliminary and incomplete data “bad science” and said that any enthusiasm over the results “must be tempered” until they are reviewed by the FDA and its independent experts.

“Crucial information absent from the companies’ announcement is any evidence that the vaccine prevents serious COVID-19 cases or reduces hospitalizations and deaths due to the disease,” the organization said.

MPD makes second drug bust in 5 months at residence
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Madison Police Department’s Crime Suppression Team served a search warrant at the residence of a known offender Friday that resulted in felony charges for possession and distribution of methamphetamine.

Carol J. Weaver 58, of Madison, was charged with manufacturing/dealing methamphetamine, a Level 5 felony; possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; possession of paraphernalia, a Class A misdemeanor; and possession of marijuana, hash oil, hashish or salvia, a Class B misdemeanor.

The arrest came after the CST served a search warrant on Weaver’s Blackmore Street residence. Officer located and seized methamphetamine, marijuana, and paraphanailia associated with the use of narcotics.

The Nov. 6 search warrant was the second search warrant served on Weaver’s residence this year. On June 1, the CST executed a warrant to search Weaver’s home and seven people were arrested on various narcotic related charges. At that time Weaver was charged with possession of methamphetamine and maintaining a common nuisance.

According to an MPD release, the charges against Weaver are alleged and she has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The investigation was led by Detectives Kyle Cutshaw, Ricky Harris, Shawn Scudder and Patrol Officer Nicole Midgett.

Weaver was lodged in the Jefferson County Jail where she was being held without bond.

MPD asked anyone who suspects drug activity, to contact the department’s drug tip hotline at 812-265-2121. Callers remain anonymous.