Jasper mayor provides COVID-19 update

Christine Stephenson/The Herald
The Dubois County Courthouse Annex in Jasper displays signs at the entrance saying the public must wear masks upon entering the building. All government buildings and businesses in the county must follow the mask mandate.

By CHRISTINE STEPHENSON
cstephenson@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Dubois County Health Department is working diligently to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the county through measures such as monitoring mask mandates in small businesses and making vaccine appointments accessible, Mayor Dean Vonderheide said at a Wednesday Jasper Common Council meeting.

Vaccinations are now administered through the health department instead of Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center, Vonderheide said. The department has been administering about 450 vaccinations a week and recently announced that 1,200 doses are available.

The department will administer the vaccinations by appointment Saturday — from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. —  at Jasper Middle School on Jan. 23. The clinic is for ages 70 and above.

“So even if you had an appointment later on, you can move it up now to get your vaccination this Saturday,” Vonderheide said.

The state is operating under the assumption that only a certain percentage of each age group will want to be vaccinated, so once that percentage is reached it will move on to the next age group, Vonderheide said.

Additionally, the health department has been actively enforcing the county mask mandate with the help of public feedback. With help from the state, the department has been contacting local businesses if it has received complaints about violating the mandate.

If a business is found to be in violation, it will be issued a warning. After receiving a warning, if the business is in violation again, it will be issued a cease-and-desist order, and upon a third violation, will be shut down for at least 48 hours while the business submits a plan to the health department on how it will begin to enforce the mandate.

“They have had to execute at all stages, but not much so far in the county,” Vonderheide said. “Our businesses have been very respectful and compliant in most cases.”

Since the pandemic began, Dubois County has seen 5,525 total cases and 78 COVID-19-related deaths as of Thursday, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

“That’s where it hurts the worst is when we lose some members,” Vonderheide said.

However, the seven-day positivity rate in the county is declining. The health department is indicating that the rate is continually declining from the peak caused by holiday gatherings.

Vonderheide said the county will continue to operate as it has, including holding all Jasper government meetings via Zoom, until cases drop significantly.

“It’s going to be good to get back to normal,” he said, “but to do that, we need to get our population vaccinated.”

The council also:

Accepted a proposal from the Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission in regard to Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs COVID relief funds. The funds would provide up to $10,000 to small businesses to support them during the pandemic.

Re-elected Kevin Manley as president pro tempore of the council.

Appointed Chad Lueken to the Dubois County Solid Waste Board for a one-year term and Adam Auffart to the Jasper Utility Service Board for a four-year term.

Approved encumbrances, which are contracts or purchase orders that have not been paid yet, from 2020.

Accepted the conflict-of-interest disclosure from Jerry Schitter, Jasper’s representative to the Indiana Municipal Power Agency Board.

Passed an ordinance amending the Unified Development Ordinance for Jasper and its jurisdictional area. The ordinance includes adding language for body art salons and professional counseling and social services as permitted use for office space, and changing fence standards so that any new fences installed must be set back 2 feet from the property line. The council is working on getting the full, user-friendly ordinance available online for the public.

Passed a resolution authorizing the transfer and acceptance of interest in real estate at the Fifth Street Elementary property.

Passed a resolution authorizing the suspension of certain local municipal code sections pertaining to signage and parking and otherwise permitting outdoor seating and merchandise display. This resolution allows local businesses to advertise outside more. Manley suggested to the council that if the new advertising opportunities are helping local business that they be made permanent.

Passed a resolution to transfer the old Jasper Public Library property to the Jasper Redevelopment Commission.

Heard from Vonderheide that IMPA visited the old dump in Jasper and said it would be a good site for a solar field. No action has been taken yet, but it would be about a $20 million investment, Vonderheide said, which is a big commitment that needs to be further discussed.




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