Rising cases of COVID-19 have pushed both Jefferson and Switzerland counties back into a “Red” advisory level on the Indiana Department of Health’s statewide metrics map — meaning community spread of the coronavirus is now considered “high” locally.
For the last week, Jefferson and Switzerland had both been at an “Orange” advisory, indicating medium to high virus spread, but with both local and statewide test results continuing to trend upward, the two local counties joined Jennings County and five others in the “Red” advisory designation.
Meanwhile in Kentucky, both Trimble and Carroll counties have incidence rates in the “Red” advisory level indicating high community spread there as well.
COVID-19 numbers are continuing to climb quickly in both Indiana and Kentucky.
On Tuesday, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear issued an executive action requiring indoor mask wearing by K-12 students and staff in Kentucky schools, regardless of COVID-19 vaccination status.
“We are in the midst of the fastest surge that we have ever seen during COVID right now,” Beshear said.
“This move is supported by medical organizations, local health department leaders, businesses and education leaders. It is also supported by the Kentucky Chamber, representing 3,800 member businesses across the commonwealth. This is a united front of saving lives, keeping our kids in school and keeping our economy and workforce going.
A week ago, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb told reporters he would not implement any new statewide restrictions related to COVID-19, and so far he has stuck with that plan.
The Associated Press reported that state Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box has said that specific actions “are local decisions now” and while health officials are providing “strong guidance” to schools and businesses, she said Indiana “is very much a state” that feels such control “should be in the hands of the elected officials.”
Jefferson County has had no group setting outbreaks in the county at this time. The county has reported cases of the Delta variant, which now accounts for 87.2% of Indiana samples being tested for variants. People infected with the Delta variant carry up to 1,000 times more virus in their nasal passages than other strains, resulting in higher transmissibility, even among the vaccinated.
Jefferson County has seen 44 breakthrough cases so far — positive test results among those previously vaccinated — which means 0.3% of the county’s vaccinated residents have experienced a breakthrough case, a number slightly higher than the 0.2% state average. However, breakthrough cases are experiencing less severe illness than those unvaccinated, according to the Jefferson County Health Department, which states that vaccinations prevent severe illness and hospitalizations.
In the last day, Jefferson County has 44 reported new positive cases of COVID-19 with 193 positive cases so far in August. Overall, Jefferson County has had 3,690 positive cases of COVID-19 during the pandemic. The county’s death toll during the pandemic remains at 87. The county’s 7-day positivity for all tests is 13.6% and the 7-day positivity for unique individuals in 22%.
Switzerland County has had eight new positive cases of COVID-19 in the last day, bringing the total for August to 32 with 29 of those cases involving residents who have not been vaccinated. Throughout the pandemic, Switzerland County has had 884 positive cases and eight deaths. The county’s 7-day positivity for all tests is 14.7% and the 7-day positivity for unique individuals in 29.3%.
There have been 2,507 positive cases of COVID-19 in the last day throughout Indiana for a total of 790,926 overall. There were 19 additional death for a total of 13,680.
In Kentucky, there were 2,500 new positive cases of COVID-19 with the state’s overall total now 502,712 and seven new deaths for a total death toll of 7,394.
Trimble County had six new cases of COVID-19 in the last day for 773 overall and eight deaths. Trimble’s incidence rate is now 43.8%
Carroll County had 13 news cases of COVID-19 in the last day for 1,116 overall and 21 deaths. Carroll’s incidence rate is now 45.7%.
Anyone who is sick should seek testing immediately and stay away from others until results are known. Free testing is available at the Jefferson County Community Testing Site located at King’s Daughters’ Hospital Convenient Care, 445 Clifty Drive, or schedule a COVID test by visiting www.coronavirus.in.gov
Jefferson County Health Department is accepting walk-ins at its office for COVID-19 vaccinations at its office at 715 Green Road, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Three vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are available. Individuals ages 12-17 must receive Pfizer vaccine and have an adult present.
Switzerland County Health Department continues to operate a vaccine clinic at 1190 West Main Street, Vevay. There will be a vaccine clinic today at Belterra Casino Resort & Spa in Florence, Indiana, from noon to 2 p.m.
“I still have my 502 area code, JD Shelburne proudly tells me, as I reach him by phone on the road. “My Nashville friends all kid me and say I should get a Nashville number, but I tell them my Taylorsville, Kentucky, roots are deep and I’m sticking with it forever.”
JD’s Madison roots are pretty strong too, as he explains.
“I was playing at Madison Regatta about 9 or 10 years ago, and Amy Bibb was on the music committee that booked me for the show. I’d actually seen her picture somewhere before I came to town, and I was anxious to meet her.
“Her dad is Danny Bibb, he works at Madison Precision, so some people might know him. He used to work the door at the Electric Lady back in the day, too. Anyway, Amy and I hit it off right away and started a sort of long distance relationship while I was on the road and living in Nashville.
“I guess you could say things worked out. Her name is Amy Shelburne now, and our son Jax is 10 months old. Since that first time I played at Regatta I guess I’ve been back to perform about once a year. This year I’m actually coming twice, first for the Music in the Park show on August 13, and then the Shawe Festival on September 10.”
For those of you not familiar with JD’s career, he’s a rising star on the Nashville scene with numerous songs and videos charting on CMT. He’s also been recently honored with a display at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and garnered praise from Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear for his accomplishments.
“We’re really rolling right now,” JD continues, “probably we’ll do around 215 shows this year. We recently had the honor to open for ZZ Top over in Louisville, and as it happens we were the last band to open for the original trio, as bassist Dusty Hill passed away very soon after.”
At this point I asked JD if he had any advice for our aspiring young Madison musicians, especially those contemplating a move to Nashville.
“Yes I do. I can give several pieces of advice. First, before you even think about leaving your hometown, build up a strong local fan base. Then you have a foundation that will support you when you go off to Nashville and come back later.
“Secondly, I would say it’s crucial to have a good, professional website. Fans and booking agents will judge you based on how it looks and feels. Put the energy and resources into a good solid web presence.
“Thirdly, after you come to Nashville, you need to leverage that address in everything you do. Being a ‘Nashville artist’ carries a lot of weight with band bookers, and it can lead to better paychecks, too.
“And finally, if you are lucky enough to find some success, keep your humble roots in mind. I’ve met some big names who are just not fun to be around. And then I’ve met people like The Oakridge Boys and Steve Wariner who are just as friendly and courteous as you could want.
“That’s my goal in this business. I want to make it big, for sure, but I hope to never forget that 502 area code and the down-to-earth Kentucky home that I came from.”
Hot Tip of the Week
OK, this might be a record for the weekly music calendar. There are 21 live music events in the next seven days. TWENTY-ONE! You’d almost think we were a music town or something. Two of the classic summer events are happening this weekend, starting with Music in the Park on Friday, featuring JD Shelburne and then Music at the Mansion on Sunday with Ed “Sax” Thomas. Both of these events are super family friendly where you can bring your own chairs and cooler and just hang out. And both are free! On Saturday you have seven choices, starting in the morning at the Farmers Market, and ranging all the way across the river to Richwood. Oh, and check out the Doctor’s Band at Riverboat Inn, that should be a raucous good time.
Charlie Rohlfing is a retired advertising man and partner in The Red Bicycle Hall music venue. Look for his distinctive fedora bobbing above the crowd, anywhere live local music is happening.
Thursday, August 12
Mad Paddle Brewery — Tracy & Elaine
Broadway Tavern — Joe Perkinson & Deano Crafton
Grote Industries — Robert Reynolds & Darryl Hewitt (11 a.m.)
Friday, August 13
American Legion — Amy Noel
Mad Paddle Brewery — Shift Bit (after party 9:30 p.m.)
Red Bicycle Hall — Them Dirty Roses
Bicentennial Park — JD Shelburne
Riverboat Inn — Joe Perkinson & Deano Crafton
Off Broadway Taproom — Noah Smith & Brandon Gray
Central Hotel — Robby Cox
Saturday, August 14
Farmers Market at Broadway — Bob Adams & Brook Reindollar (10 a.m.)
Lighthouse — Jimmy Davis
Mad Paddle Brewery — Brooke Hall
Thomas Family Winery — Rivertown Ramblers
Riverboat Inn — Doctor’s Band
Richwood on the River — Zeb Haggerty & Friends
Central Hotel — Tyrone Cotton
Sunday, August 15
Stream Cliff Farm — Robby Cox
Lanier Mansion — Ed “Sax” Thomas
Mad Paddle Brewery — Acoustic Crossroads
Tuesday, Aug. 17
Off-Broadway Taproom — Open Mic Night
Madison’s Board of Zoning Appeals removed one hurdle to Madison landing an air medical transport service to operate out of Madison Municipal Airport by approving a conditional use permit allowing PHI Health to locate a modular structure on airport grounds.
According to Madison Airport Manager Brent Spry, Arizona-based PHI Health would use the structure as an office and base for an independent helicopter transport service with pilots, flight nurses and flight paramedics staying and sleeping on-site while on-call 24/7 to respond to emergency calls.
PHI Health, which has more than 65 bases in the United States including several in Indiana and Kentucky, operates air medical transports both in cooperation with hospitals and as an independent. The base proposed for Madison would be an independent and could transport accident victims and others in need of immediate medical care to the closest trauma centers available.
The company, which makes more than 30,000 transports annually nationwide, hopes to fill a void in Southern Indiana where the closest helicopter transport in Indiana is a cooperative base located in Seymour and the closest in Kentucky is Trimble County between Bedford and Milton operated by another company.
“We’ve been trying for years to get a paramedical helicopter in Madison,” Spry said. “This ads a level of care to Madison that we don’t currently have. It also gives the airport better on-site medical care because we’re going to have 24-hour medical staff on site so if we have an emergency they are already there.”
Spry said the company will invest about $200,000 for the base of operation out of about a $1 million startup that will include locating a helicopter in Madison and providing up to 14 jobs for pilots, mechanics, flight nurses and flight paramedics with a median salary of $80,000.
“Almost 50% of our people live in the county,” PHI’s Johnny Collins said. “You will not find another air transport within 50 miles like that.”
Collins said PHI has already started to hire locally and relocate employees from other areas to staff the facility. He said two of the company’s pilots will move in from other states, relocating with their families to Madison.
The property proposed for the base is currently zoned residential/agriculture so a conditional use permit is needed to proceed. Spry said the company is also in the process of going through the Federal Aviation Administration’s permit process to locate the service and base on airport property.
“We’re hoping for a soft opening in October,” Spry said.
Spry asked the BZA to grant the company a 5-year permit for conditional use, a point which some board members questioned when the majority of permits are issued for one year until a company has a proven track record in the community. Spry said the company has signed a five-year lease on the land with that deal scheduled to auto renew and, while the FAA permit is open ended, if the company should close operation in Madison, FAA regulations would require the building to be removed from airport property.
Another concern board members had is the potential for additional emergency traffic on the narrow side roads around the airport like Borcherding and Chicken Run roads. BZA member Rick Ferris lives on Borcherding and said the road is too narrow for wide traffic now and meeting an ambulance rushing to meet the helicopter could prove dangerous. “There’s a couple of places on the road where you could encounter traffic issues,” Ferris said.
Spry said having the air transport on-site might improve the area’s case for the county to widen Borcherding, an improvement that is already needed by the fuel trucks that deliver to the airport as well as others.
“I put that in the Field of Dreams category,” Ferris said. “If you build it, it will come.”
The BZA voted 4-1 in favor of the application with Ferris opposing based on the 5-year permit as opposed to one-year approval.
After two full days of meetings with various governmental departments on Jefferson County’s 2022 budget, the County Council met Tuesday evening, mostly hearing more funding requests by non-profits and civic organizations.
More budget meetings are planned throughout the fall leading up to adoption in late October before the budget is submitted to the state in November.
County Council president Pam Crozier noted the budget is a “long process.”
“The council takes two days each year to meet with each department within the county to discuss their entire budget whether there are any changes or not made to those budgets. After our two days of meeting with each department, we will continue to meet until we finalize the budget to submit to the state,” Crozier said. “It is a long process. We are meeting again on three scheduled evening meetings, which we hope will be enough to finalize the budget.”
Throughout that process, there are requests for funding from non-profit organizations for money Jefferson County receives from the riverboat gaming fund through Belterra Casino Resort in Switzerland County, but the amount available depends on the revenues the county receives.
Two of the requests at Tuesday’s meeting were previously made bvefore the County Commissioners, too — the Town of Hanover seeking $10,000 for its Parks Department and $7,500 for its Senior Citizens program, and Lifetime Resources’ request for $20,000. The other request came from Scott Hubbard, president of the Jefferson County Fair Board, who is seeking $20,000 for the county’s 4-H programs and the fairgrounds.
“We’re a youth development organization that provides a great return back for the rest of their lives,” said Hubbard. Even through COVID-19, participation numbers have remained high as 4-H has retained all 18 clubs with roughly 500 youth involved. Hubbard expects “even more next year.”
Despite wet weather for most of the week during this year’s Jefferson County 4-H Fair, Hubbard said the board “had a good fair and an exciting week.” Since the 2020 fair was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were fewer animals when the fair returned as an in-person event this year, yet he said record dollars were raised for the youth at the 2021 livestock auction, along with additional money for scholarships.
Hubbard said 16% of the fair board’s funding comes from the county budget and that makes an impact in the work 4-H is able to do for the youth in the county. “We appreciate your support,” said Hubbard.
Kenny Garrett, president of the Hanover Town Council, described the work that is being done to enhance Hanover Community Park in his request. “We’ve really started to get things rolling in Hanover, and we’d like to keep it going,” said Garrett. In particular, he cited improvements in the park, and more that are coming. “It’s all going in a good direction,” he said.
Council member Heather Foy said she was recently at the park for a musical concert, and she “was bragging on the park. It’s amazing. The changes there have been outstanding.” However, she questioned Garrett about indequate parking; that with all the activities now at the park it’s often difficult to find a place to park. Garrett said there are already plans in place to address that issue with more parking to be added in the next couple of years.
Garrett also talked about the town’s senior citizens program in which he said 50 to 60 residents are participating two days per week with plans to expand activities for senior citizens in the future.
Erin Thomas, executive director of LifeTime Resources, said the $20,000 request is a significant increase from the $8,000 that was previously allocated, “but it still represents the need represented in the county.” She noted that LifeTime’s services in Jefferson County are valued at $1.2 million, and $20,000 is less than 2% of that.
Council members asked Thomas about other funding that LifeTime Resource receives, and she noted that United Way supports LifeTime, along with other governmental entities in the county in which LifeTime is requesting funding for 2022. Much of LifeTime’s work focuses on providing services to help people maintain their independence — mostly geared toward senior citizens — but the Catch-a-Ride public transportation program is available to anyone.
In other business, the council:
• Approved an additional appropriation of $5,600 towards a vehicle purchase for the Jefferson County Health Department. The vehicle, originally priced at $33,000, increased when a four-door unit was received.
• Approved transfers totaling $3,608 for part-time pay to allow for on-the-job training for a new employee in the County Auditor’s office.