BATESVILLE — On Tuesday, Batesville Mayor Mike Bettice spoke with the Daily News to give an update on the COVID-19 situation within the local community.
Mayor Bettice said Ripley, Franklin and Decatur Counties seemed to follow a similar path at the start of the pandemic in March.
“Batesville, along with the counties, all seemed to get hit early with the virus and we seemed to have a lot of cases in our area in March and April much quicker than they were in other parts of the state,” Mayor Bettice said. “For example, Fort Wayne, Evansville, Lafayette and those areas didn’t have many cases at all in March and April. They were very lucky where we were rather unlucky and seemed to get hit early.”
Mayor Bettice said the state is reporting more positive COVID-19 cases on a day-to-day basis than when the pandemic started.
In May and June, the number of positive COVID-19 cases dropped in Batesville and surrounding areas.
Ripley County reported a total of 18 new positive cases from May through June with 15 confirmed in May and three in June, according to the mayor.
Franklin County reported 14 new cases in May and 14 new cases in June.
Decatur County reported 47 new cases from May through June with 25 confirmed in May and 22 in June.
Mayor Bettice said in July COVID-19 has been much more active in the area than in May and June.
Ripley County reported more positive COVID-19 cases (68) in the month of July than in any single month so far.
Franklin County reported 51 positive COVID-19 cases in July.
Decatur County has reported 39 positive COVID-19 cases in July
“Unfortunately, Ripley County is leading those three counties in positive cases at this point,” Mayor Bettice said. “We had kind of similar paths at the start, but unfortunately here in the last three or four weeks, Ripley County has had the virus passed around much more quickly.”
What caused the rise in cases?
Mayor Bettice is not exactly sure why the number of positive COVID-19 cases has spiked in the area during July. He admits he doesn’t have scientific proof, but he believes people may be growing tired of social distancing and are spending more time around others.
“Unfortunately there’s not just that one thing you can put your finger on that says this is what caused it,” Mayor Bettice said. “It is being passed around at a greater rate than it was earlier.”
Mayor Bettice mentioned Batesville’s close proximity to Cincinnati may have an impact on COVID-19 cases in the area.
Mayor Bettice said he stays informed about COVID-19 and strives to keep the public up-to-date and educated about the disease.
Over the past few months members of the local community have reached out to Mayor Bettice to encourage him to ask that others wear face masks and continue to practice social distancing to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I’ve had a number of people who’ve reached out to me and say, ‘Mike is there something you can do to encourage people to make better choices and be safer and to think about what those consequences are’,” Mayor Bettice said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Mayor Bettice met daily via conference call with members of the Ripley County Health Department and Margaret Mary Health to monitor the situation as it progressed. The groups held mini-press conferences Monday through Friday for almost three months.
They still hold a weekly meeting to discuss the virus and best practices to keep the public informed.
“We’re trying to keep the lines of communication open between the health department, the hospital and the city so we can figure out what is the right message and what should people know so they can make the right choices and be safe,” Mayor Bettice said.
The mayor mentioned he is on the local radio station three times per week to provide COVID-19 updates.
Mayor Bettice agrees with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s decision to mandate the use of face masks in public spaces.
“We had a number of conversations internally asking if that (mandating masks) is something we should consider. Before we got to a point where we felt like we had to make a decision either for or against, the governor stepped in and made the tough decision,” Mayor Bettice said. “I think he made the right decision. I think it was one of those things that is necessary to help slow it down. It isn’t just our corner of the world that’s seen an uptick in cases.”
The mayor acknowledged some people don’t agree with being required to wear face masks, but he encourages everyone to do their part to slow the spread of the disease.
“I think it is a small price to pay for everybody’s health,” Mayor Bettice said.
COVID-19 info by ZIP Code
COVID-19 information is now more accessible and accurate. In June the state established a breakdown of information by ZIP Code on its COVID-19 website https://www.coronavirus.in.gov/.
The ZIP Code 47006, which includes 11,727 individuals according to the mayor, started off with 63 positive cases on July 2. As of July 28, there are 79 positive cases in that ZIP Code.
“We’ve gone up by 16 cases in the ZIP Code 47006,” Mayor Bettice said. “That’s not a terrible number, but unfortunately it’s a number that is growing. It’s one of those things I find very concerning and follow every single day. I encourage everyone to be smart and do their part to try to slow that down again.”
Mayor Bettice’s message
Mayor Bettice provided the following message for local residents:
It’s the end of July, so we’ve been through almost five months of this. I wish I could tell you that it is done and over with, but it’s not. We’re not done. This is going to go on for months. This is not going to go away. At one point, people thought this was going to go away come summer, like the flu normally does. That obviously has not happened and is not going to happen. So this is one of those things we’re going to deal with for the rest of this year and maybe into the first half of next year. This is something we all will have to deal with for a while. It has hit people at different levels. Some people have gotten very sick and it’s very bad for our systems. We’ve also had people and their businesses that had to be shut down for two months. That obviously wasn’t good for their business, themselves or their families. People lost their jobs. There are a lot of costs involved with this that the average person may not recognize. Those people who own their own businesses all of a sudden had to be shut down by an order by the governor and did not have a way to put food on the table. That was a terrible situation to be in, but we are not done. We are not through this yet. We have got to stick together. We have got to find a way that we can get over some of the little things so we can get through all this together. Hopefully, a year from now when we’ve got this under control and hopefully there’s a vaccine in place and we continue to learn more about this disease, we can get to a point we can get back to a more normal life. But I’m afraid we’re not going to get back to what we are used to and it’s going to be awhile until we get there. I know this has put a lot of stress on people. We just all need to remember that we’re in this together and we need to work together to find a way through this.