A1 A1

Christian Academy senior Clay Carter.

Dattilo proposes bringing back VMI executive director
  • Updated

For most of this year, Visit Madison Inc., has operated without an executive director as a cost-cutting measure, but at Monday’s meeting, VMI board president Lucy Dattilo suggested plans to include the position in the agency’s 2022 budget.

“I did add an executive director’s salary in the budget,” said Dattilo.

In February when there was uncertainty about VMI’s contract with the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, which provides operations and marketing funding for VMI from the county’s innkeepers tax, the VMI board agreed to lay off executive director Tawana Thomas for what it cited as financial reasons when revenue dropped during the COVID pandemic.

During Monday’s meeting, Dattilo talked about upcoming board appointments, and ensuring VMI has quality people to lead the organization, noting the group needs the “right people in the right place in order for VMI to be successful.”

“We have to have a great staff, a great board and we have to have a leader,” Dattilo said, noting that she and VMI executive marketing director Sarah Prasil have worked to provide that leadership. “As hard as Sarah and I have tried, and I think we’ve done a good job because a year ago from where we at, and where we are now, it just didn’t happen by chance. And a lot of people have been a part of that; not just the two of us.”

However, Dattilo said Prasil “needs to work on marketing and I need to build my life back.”

Dattilo said she plans to take a step back from her leadership role at VMI. “I will offer to come back but I would prefer someone else step up to be president,” she said, noting that will depend on whether City Council reappoints her to the board.

“Be thinking about who appointed you and how you got here, and if you’re going to be returning, and if you’re not going to be returning who your replacement might be,” she said. “The best people to find the next people are the ones that are already at the table. It’s all about having the right people in the right place at the right time.”

VMI’s contract with the Jefferson County Board of Tourism ends March 31, but Dattilo said she has already begun work on the next contract and budget in an effort to ensure that continues with no gap in funding for VMI’s operations and marketing. “I don’t want there to not be a contract and still be providing services, and no guarantee of income. It’s just not a good way to conduct business.” Dattilo said the budget will be submitted to the VMI board for approval in December and then sent on to JCBT.

Dattilo also mentioned finding other revenue sources for VMI. She said the county appropriated $1,500 from its budget to VMI, which she noted may be confused as being part of the innkeepers tax that’s received from JCBT, but it is not. She said the City of Madison also provides $10,000.

“When I was on the board 10 years ago, the city gave us $9,000, so a $1,000 increase in a decade isn’t a whole lot of money.” She noted the “tourism industry brings in $40 million and I’d like to think VMI plays a big part of that, so hopefully we can work with our governments to get stronger support for tourism.”

In particular, she Dattilo said it is wise for VMI to not depend on so much of its financial support coming through the innkeepers tax. “To have diversity in our income and our support would help” in providing more financial stability for VMI, she said.

In other business:

• Prasil announced that the Indiana Bass Federation will be hosting a tournament in Madison during the weekend of June 11-12 and again for the IBF Classic Oct. 29-30. At the last JCBT meeting, the board approved $5,000 toward the tourneys in which Dattilo noted Indiana Bass Federation pays about 90% of the cost. “With that $5,000 investment, there’s the potential to bring in $50,000 to $100,000,” said Dattilo.

• Prasil said efforts are underway to create a motorcyle/motor trail, which she said is a vision of Curt Jacobs Sr., who “being an avid rider has identified seven trails that start in Madison and go out to different places” providing safe, well-paved roads. Prasil said Jacobs pitched the idea to Dattilo and Madison Mayor Bob Courtney, who brought the idea to VMI. She is also working with Ron Bateman on motor road clubs for the same trails with hopes of appealing to more than just motorcyclists.

• Plans are being finalized for the Nights Before Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes, scheduled for the last weekend of November and first weekend of December. Additionally, Prasil said VMI is working to promote Merry Madison events along with the Hanover Tinsel Twinkle Trail.

Members of the Hensley family (from left) Ed, Brice and Morgan were busy Friday evening filling holiday food kits to be distributed Saturday morning to food-challenged families in the Southwestern School Corporation. Morgan Hensley, a teacher at the school, runs the program out of the school’s food pantry so that no Southwestern students go without a meal during the holiday break. Her family members, staff and other local volunteers help provide the manpower and local businesses, industries and individuals provide donations of cash and food including a turkey and all the holiday fixings.

Feed the Need

3 more COVID deaths recorded locally
  • Updated

While two local counties — both in Kentucky — are reporting three additional deaths in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana lawmakers are making plans to convene in an effort to consider legislation forcing an end to Indiana’s current public health state of emergency.

Trimble County reported two new deaths — bringing the death toll there to 21 — and Carroll County reported one — giving that community 30 deaths for the pandemic — as the overall number of dead has now reached 165 dead in the Courier area out fo 10,285 residents who tested positive for the virus.

Indiana Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, and House Speaker Todd Huston, R-Fishers, said lawmakers will return to the Statehouse for a one-day session on Nov. 29.

Indiana’s statewide mask mandate and business or crowd restrictions were lifted in March, but the Associated Press reports many conservatives have criticized Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb for continuing to extend the monthly public health order which he has renewed 20 times. Holcomb has signaled that the 30-day renewal he signed in late October might be the last.

The governor faces a Dec. 1 deadline for extending the health emergency order and an accompanying executive order, which, among a handful of provisions, has allowed the state health commissioner to issue a standing doctor’s order allowing pharmacists to administer COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11.

Holcomb said last Tuesday that he was talking with legislative leaders about allowing the public health emergency to expire if lawmakers approved steps that would allow the state to keep receiving enhanced federal funding for Medicaid expenses and food assistance programs, and also maintain the childhood vaccination authorization.

Holcomb said such actions “would allow us to wind it down responsibly.”

Bray and Huston said in a joint statement that lawmakers would consider those concerns during their one-day session, which will come more than a month ahead of the Jan. 4 scheduled start of the Legislature’s new session.

“There are only a few key components of the executive order that remain in place, including measures that help vulnerable Hoosiers. Before the emergency expires, we’ll return for a one-day session to pass legislation addressing these issues,” Huston said in the statement.

Public testimony on the legislation will be heard on Tuesday in the House Chamber starting at 10:30 a.m.

On Friday, in a phone interview, Indiana State Representative Randy Frye, R-Greensburg, spoke out against vaccination mandates, stating they are “an overreach of government.”

“I got vaccinated, but it was my choice,” Frye said. “There’s no exceptions for someone that has a medical condition, or if they’ve had COVID and they have their own anti-bodies, and there are no provisions for religious exemptions.”

On Monday, the Indiana Department of Health reported 1,914 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the state, bringing the overall total to 1,077,372, along with three newly reported deaths for an overall total of 16,737.

In Kentucky, there were 2,101 new cases of COVID-19 to lift the state’s overall total to 769,732, and 212 new deaths for an overall total of 10,606.

Along with the three new deaths — two in Trimble and one in Carroll — Carroll surpassed the 2,000 threshold in positive COVID-19 case by adding 10 new cases since Friday. Trimble County also had 10 more cases of COVID-19, lifting its overall total of 1,305. Both counties remain in the “Red” metric for incidence rates reflecting high spread. Trimble’s positivity rate is 11.83% while Carroll’s is 5.36%.

In Jefferson County, the total positive cases of COVID-19 is now 5,565, an increase of 49 since Friday. The county’s death count remains at 102 with a 13% positivity rate. Jefferson County’s metric remains “Orange” for moderate to high spread.

Switzerland County’s positivity case count is now 1,428 for an increase of seven since Friday. The county’s death count remains at 12 with a 9.3% positivity rate. Switzerland County’s metric is “Yellow” for moderate spread. In information released last week by the Switzerland County Health Department, 75% of the county’s 32 positive cases were unvaccinated, showing a pattern of decline each month since July where 97% were unvaccinated to October when 88% were unvaccinated.

How COVID shots for kids help prevent dangerous new variants
  • Updated

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Cadell Walker rushed to get her 9-year-old daughter Solome vaccinated against COVID-19 — not just to protect her but to help stop the coronavirus from spreading and spawning even more dangerous variants.

“Love thy neighbor is something that we really do believe, and we want to be good community members and want to model that thinking for our daughter,” said the 40-year-old Louisville mom, who recently took Solome to a local middle school for her shot. “The only way to really beat COVID is for all of us collectively to work together for the greater good.”

Scientists agree. Each infection — whether in an adult in Yemen or a kid in Kentucky — gives the virus another opportunity to mutate. Protecting a new, large chunk of the population anywhere in the world limits those opportunities.

That effort got a lift with 28 million U.S. kids 5 to 11 years old now eligible for child-sized doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Moves elsewhere, like Austria’s recent decision to require all adults to be vaccinated and even the U.S. authorizing booster shots for all adults on Friday, help by further reducing the chances of new infection.

Vaccinating kids also means reducing silent spread, since most have no or mild symptoms when they contract the virus. When the virus spreads unseen, scientists say, it also goes unabated. And as more people contract it, the odds of new variants rise.

David O’Connor, a virology expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, likens infections to “lottery tickets that we’re giving the virus.” The jackpot? A variant even more dangerous than the contagious delta currently circulating.

“The fewer people who are infected, the less lottery tickets it has and the better off we’re all going to be in terms of generating the variants,” he said, adding that variants are even more likely to emerge in people with weakened immune systems who harbor the virus for a long time.

Researchers disagree on how much kids have influenced the course of the pandemic. Early research suggested they didn’t contribute much to viral spread. But some experts say children played a significant role this year spreading contagious variants such as alpha and delta.

Getting kids vaccinated could make a real difference going forward, according to estimates by the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, a collection of university and medical research organizations that consolidates models of how the pandemic may unfold. The hub’s latest estimates show that for this November through March 12, 2022, vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds would avert about 430,000 COVID cases in the overall U.S. population if no new variant arose. If a variant 50% more transmissible than delta showed up in late fall, 860,000 cases would be averted, “a big impact,” said project co-leader Katriona Shea, of Pennsylvania State University.

Delta remains dominant for now, accounting for more than 99% of analyzed coronavirus specimens in the United States. Scientists aren’t sure exactly why. Dr. Stuart Campbell Ray, an infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said it may be intrinsically more infectious, or it may be evading at least in part the protection people get from vaccines or having been infected before.

“It’s probably a combination of those things,” he said. “But there’s also very good and growing evidence that delta is simply more fit, meaning that it’s able to grow to higher levels faster than other variants that are studied. So when people get delta, they become infectious sooner.”

Ray said delta is “a big family” of viruses, and the world is now swimming in a sort of “delta soup.”

“We have many lineages of delta that are circulating in many places with no clear winners,” Ray said, adding that it’s hard to know from genetic features which might have an edge, or wwhich non-delta variants might dethrone delta.

“I often say it’s like seeing a car parked on the side of the road with racing slicks and racing stripes and an airfoil on the back and a big engine,” Ray said. “You know it looks like it could be a real contender, but until you see it on the track with other cars, you don’t know if it’s going to win.”

Another big unknown: Dangerous variants may still arise in largely-unvaccinated parts of the world and make their way to America even as U.S. children join the ranks of the vaccinated.

Walker, the Louisville mom, said she and her husband can’t do anything about distant threats, but could sign their daughter up for vaccination at Jefferson County Public Schools sites on a recent weekend. Solome is adopted from Ethiopia and is prone to pneumonia following respiratory ailments after being exposed to tuberculosis as a baby.

She said she wants to keep other kids safe because “it’s not good to get sick.”

As a nurse leaned in to give Solome her shot, Walker held her daughter’s hand, then praised her for picking out a post-jab sticker appropriate for a brave kid who just did her part to help curb a pandemic.

“Wonder Woman,” Walker said. “Perfect.

Holiday closings set
  • Updated

With the observance of Thanksgiving on Thursday, Nov. 25, and no U.S. Postal Service delivery on the holiday, Thursday’s edition of The Madison Courier will be delivered one day early on Wednesday, Nov. 24.

In addition, the Jefferson County Courthouse, Madison City Hall and Hanover Town Hall will all be closed on Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving with Madison City Hall actually closing at 2 p.m. on Wednesday. All three will resume normal hours on Monday, Nov. 29.

The City of Madison Street Department and Transfer Station will be closed Thursday with trash, recycle and compost collection delayed one day. On Friday, Nov. 26, the city’s Transfer Station will close at noon and reopen on Saturday, Nov. 28, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

All Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles license branches will be closed Thursday through Saturday. Branches will resume normal hours on Monday, Nov. 29.

New manager named for Lanier Mansion
  • Updated

A new site manager has been named for Indiana’s Lanier Mansion State Historic Site in downtown Madison to start work on Jan. 3, 2022 and replace Derek Peck, who died unexpectedly in June.

Sarah Prasil, executive marketing director for Visit Madison Inc., reported the news at Monday morning’s VMI meeting that Marnie Leist, a 15-year museum professional, has been hired as the new site manager in an announcement by Devin Payne, Southeast Regional Director for Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites.

“The enthusiasm that they speak about her is tremendous,” Prasil said. “She’s very well-rounded” with experience with museum, programming and retail. “We’re excited to have some leadership for that site.”

Leist’s most recent position was in Miami, Oklahoma, where she served as executive director of the Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center, developing multiple grant-funded projects to promote community voices, advance collections care, establish best practices and fund facility improvements.

Leist has spent the bulk of her career at the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska, rising from registrar and repatriation coordinator to curator of collections to director of operations. At the Alutiiq Museum, Leist collaborated with government agencies, donors, educators, artists and community partners in her various roles to help the museum become the second accredited tribal museum by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) and attain the first State of Alaska designation as a Natural and Cultural History Repository.

However, Leist is familiar with the Midwest and the Ohio River Valley. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Art History from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio; a Master of Arts in Art History and a Museum Studies Graduate Certificate from the University of Cincinnati; a Master of Arts in World War II Studies from Arizona State University in conjunction with the National World War II Museum, and has earned numerous professional certificates from AAM and American Association of State and Local History (AASLH), among others.

Leist, who is married and has a son, along with cats and a dog, recently finished restoration of an historic house in Oklahoma, and Payne said she will “no doubt find Madison’s historic district the perfect fit.”

Payne said Leist’s “family is excited to call Madison, Indiana, their new home.”