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Council member discusses Shelbyville's Covid situation

Shelbyville City Council member Nathan Willis really wants to get across this message: MHP and other hospitals in our region are running low on resources to treat COVID cases.

This is the rationale behind the local government’s decision to reimplement masks.

“I think that right now it’s gotten a little polarized with the mask thing and the county commissioners vote [Monday] morning,” Willis said. “I think people are losing sight of the bigger picture and it’s really the local and regional hospital system. Right now, too much focus is being put on … conspiracies. Regardless of your feelings on COVID, the hospitals are getting filled up.”

“I wanted to get the message out on those points because I think when people realize we’re all in the same boat here – if all the hospitals fill up locally and in Indy, then you’re limited on your care choices,” he added.

Willis, a respiratory therapist at Eskenazi Health, is seeing the lack of resources first hand.

He said Eskenazi has been on diversion multiple times this week; “diversion” means they have to send ambulances to other hospitals because they are simply too full.

Although MHP is not on diversion, Monday’s Incident Command report shows that their inpatient unit is full and they have run out of Regeneron – the primary medication they’re using to treat COVID patients.

MHP has since moved to “BAM,” an Eli Lilly drug used to treat COVID in the earlier days of the pandemic. But they’re running short on that too, and MHP staff have no idea when they will receive shipments of both drugs.

The lack of resources increase the odds of a COVID-positive patient needing to move to the inpatient unit and possibly being put on a ventilator. This would take up space for trauma or other emergency patients.

“The possibilities of them (MHP) becoming inundated are high because not only are they running low on resources to treat COVID, like Regeneron, but you’re running into lack of space from inpatient care,” Willis said. “So then if someone has a stroke, you don’t have enough ICU beds to get the proper care.”

The Indiana State Department of Health is reporting only 13 percent of ICU beds are available in Shelby County’s region. This region includes Indianapolis, which has had several hospitals on diversion this week.

“It’s a combination of not only COVID but trauma and COVID combined,” Willis said. “COVID itself is not a high turnover rate. You’re not on a vent for three days and then you’re fine. It’s a long process to recover.”

If MHP has to divert, then people need to know where they can go to get emergency care, Willis added, and right now there’s not a lot of places to go.

Willis and other local officials hope to combat this “resource crunch” by re-instituting masks. Masks decrease the spread of the coronavirus, which in turn keeps people out of the hospitals.

No matter what people think about masks, to dismiss COVID would be irresponsible, Willis said.

“I’ve seen teenagers cry for their mother because their mother is on a vent and coding,” he said. “Yes, you’re tired of COVID, it sucks. I hate it. I have a two year old, and I’d love to take them out on experiences. The reality is you can’t ignore it.”

“I’m treating patients in the ER and at the same time I’m caring for them, they’re laughing at me because I’m wearing mask, or because I’m asking if they’ve been exposed to COVID in the last two weeks,” he said. “Even as I’m caring for them, I’m receiving animosity as a healthcare worker.”

This is why pleas are being made, Willis said. There’s not a lot of resources, and a lot more COVID.

“Resource limitation. That’s what I’m most concerned about,” he said. “That’s what we’re getting from MHP: ‘We’re running low on these medications, help us. We keep getting people in and don’t have the medication for it. We’re in trouble.’”

Blue River Environmental aiding in Hurricane Ida recovery efforts

Shelby County-based Blue River Environmental and Restoration is down in southeast Louisiana right now working on four restoration projects.

“We’ve done two elementary schools and two hospitals in Louisiana,” said Vice President TJ Morgan. “We’ve got anywhere from 50-200 people on the ground after a disaster.”

Blue River Environmental was founded in 2011 as a sister company to HIS Constructors. Both facilities will be relocated to the Pleasant View area, once the new headquarters building is finished.

“It started off as a purely environmental company doing site soil remediation, hazardous chemical cleanup in 2011, when it first started,” Morgan said. “In 2017, we joined a franchise group called DKI, there’s 160 members in the group.”

It’s through this franchise the company was able to assist after Hurricane Ida, Morgan said.

“We were called down by one of our franchise group members to respond initially to a hospital,” he said. “The hurricane hit on Monday, then on Tuesday morning we were on site with roofing crews, an 80-ton crane and supplies, basically to get the roof sealed up so we could start the draining process to get a hold of mold.”

Mold is a huge issue down south, Morgan said. When the power goes out, facilities get so humid mold starts to set almost immediately.

“You need to get in as fast as you can to stabilize the environment to mitigate that mold growth as much as possible, especially in a hospital,” he said.

There’s three to four weeks left in this project. Blue River Environmental and Restoration focuses on stabilizing the environment and completes interior demolition for a different construction company to complete the restoration.

“The portion we do takes anywhere from a week to two months,” Morgan said. “It depends on when the power comes back, how much water was in the building, how many floors the building has.”

After arriving to complete this hospital, the company was able to secure three more restoration projects – two elementary schools and another hospital.

“One of the schools we’re almost complete with and then the second one is about halfway done,” Morgan said.

The second hospital will take a little bit longer. This hospital is still operating, so the company has to coordinate with the hospital staff to get patients moved off a floor so they can get in and do their work.

“We have to do it floor by floor by floor because the hospital still has to maintain operations while we do our work,” Morgan said. This hospital has eight floors.

Morgan expects Blue River Environmental and Restoration to be in Louisiana through the end of the year.

“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of natural disasters in that part of the country right now,” he said. “It seems like every year third quarter (of the year) there’s a major event somewhere in the country.”

For the last six years, the company has responded to some sort of natural disaster in different places all over the country.

“We’ve worked from Chicago to Houston over the past five years,” Morgan said. “A lot of hurricane response. We were down in Texas for the outlier freeze they had. We worked on a college down there.”

The company has a natural disaster response team in place. Its five full-time members (who are not just based in Indiana) are ready to go when disaster strikes.

“Basically, starting about September, it’s kind of like mobilizing the military,” Morgan said. “We have a whole group of campers, semi trucks, pickup trucks with equipment. We’re moving around the county from 3-6 months. … When we get to the location, we staff up with a few labor companies. They are on the road half the year basically.”

Blue River Environmental has the capability to be in multiple places at once, but it doesn’t happen often. In 2020, they were in Houston and New Orleans at the same time. New Orleans got hit with a hurricane and Houston was hit with a freeze.

“We have 5-6 people dedicated to this stuff,” Morgan said. “Our other people are willing to travel and we can move a lot of resources really quickly. People who don’t normally travel, we can surge an area if we need to.”

Board of Works accepts opioid company bankruptcy

The Board of Works passed a resolution Tuesday morning that would accept the bankruptcy of a pharmaceutical company that pushed opioids as medical treatment.

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals filed for bankruptcy in 2020 after more than 3,000 lawsuits came about claiming they were irresponsibly pushing doctors to prescribe opioid medications. These lawsuits come from all 50 states.

Mallinckrodt created generic versions of oxycodone and hydrocodone, City Attorney Jenny Meltzer said.

“The allegations against them are they pushed those drugs stronger than they should have,” she said. “The way they pushed them onto doctors was negligent and irresponsible.”

Mallinckrodt submitted a restructuring plan in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, which will place $1.6 billion into a fund that will be divided among the states for local governments to use to abate the opioid crisis.

By passing this resolution, the city will be able to receive some of this funding.

Other business

In other business the Board of Works approved for Capone’s Downtown Speakeasy to temporarily use two parking spaces on North Harrison Street for a food truck on Sept. 24.

The spaces will be closed from 4-10 p.m. This is a private event that CoreVision Financial Group is hosting for its customers at Capone’s, so the food truck will not be open to the public.

Mayor Tom DeBaun called the event “a small test run” of what types of events the new Public Square layout will allow and encourage.

Last, the board issued an order to appear for the owners of 132 E. Mechanic Street. Plan Director Adam Rude said this is a nuisance property.

This particular property is a rental, and the board commented they are unfamiliar with the company renting it out.

Three previous orders to appear that were scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting were resolved prior to the meeting.

Local Briefs

YMCA hosts first Kid’s Night Out Friday evening

The YMCA will host its first Kid’s Night Out Friday from 5-8 p.m.

Drop your kids off for a night of pizza, games, a movie and more. For YMCA members, the cost is $5 per kid or $10 per family, according to a flier. For program members, the cost is $35 per kids or $70 per family.

Questions can be directed to Abby Denham at a.denham@shelbycountyymca.org.

– Staff report

Battle of the Bluegrass pulling series at fairgrounds Saturday

The Battle of the Bluegrass pulling series is heading to the Shelby County fair grounds this weekend.

On Saturday Sept. 18, the truck and tractor pull will feature five classes of competition.

“Make sure you come out to see the ground pounding semi’s hook to the sled!” the fairgrounds posted on its Facebook page.

The event will start at 7 p.m. Admission will be at the gate and costs $15 per person. Kids 6 and under are free.

There will be food vendors and a beer tent.

Featured Classes include Hot Farm Tractors, Pro Stock 4X4 Trucks, Light Limited Pro Stock Tractors, Limited Pro Stock Diesel Trucks (3.0) and HOT Semi Trucks.

Comedy returns to Strand Theatre

Saturday marks a big moment for the Strand Theatre.

The marquee’s lights will be flashing before the 8 p.m. showtime, signaling the theatre’s first public event with full capacity since shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The theatre has had a few other events since its last show in 2020, but when comedian Costaki Economopoulos takes the stage, it will be the first major performance hosted by the 105-year old theatre since the pandemic prevented it from conducting its normal operations.

Normally, by this time in the year, the theatre’s event count is somewhere between the upper 90’s to 100’s, David Finkel said.

The year before the pandemic, the Strand was at No. 103 at this point.

Economopoulos’ performance will be the theatre’s sixth event this year, a significant cutback that the Strand continues to feel financially.

“(It’s) just the way it is,” Finkel said. “It is stressful. It’s the worst. It is exponentially harder than forming the theatre and getting it open. Part of it is the feeling of helplessness. We are not in control of our own destiny. I hate that.”

Economopoulos can relate to the financial worries and stresses that the pandemic brought.

Unable to tour last year, the longtime comedian found himself stuck at home.

“It was terrible,” he said of not being able to be on stage,” he said. “It killed me financially, it killed me emotionally.”

He spent that time focused on his family and he was able to see his mom for a stretch, he said. And he did a lot of writing, creating an hour’s worth of new material for the current nine-day tour.

He also did some comedy shows via Zoom for corporate events while he was unable to be on the road.

But for someone who has been performing on stage since 1994, it was not the same.

“I love it,” he said of being back on the road. “Especially with the challenge and joy and terror of doing a new hour, it was a lot of work on my part. I did some homework last year.”

Economopoulos is in the middle of nine shows in nine days.

That means doing interviews with local radio stations and newspapers while driving to the next gig.

On Saturday, which includes opening act Willie Griswold (the son of Tom Griswold of the Bob and Tom Show), Economopoulos will be telling jokes about the pandemic, his childhood and about his own children.

One thing he is staying away from for this particular tour is politics.

He used to tell political jokes but grew tired of it.

“Every social media outlet, every news program, every late show, everyone’s doing it,” he said. “I don’t want to do it right now.”

This is his fifth time appearing at the Strand.

Four days before his appearance in Shelbyville, he was asked about his experience at the local theatre. He said he loves the Strand for the people and the structure itself.

“I don’t want to jinx myself, but I’ve always had great shows (at the Strand),” he said. “That place has a very good combination of, it’s got some history, the layout is beautiful, it’s run by people that love that place, and it’s a creative place. “The audience is happy that you’re there. I’ve always enjoyed that place.”

He credited Finkel and the rest of the volunteers for keeping the doors open.

“They’re trying to keep this place afloat,” he said. “They’re in a tough spot but they’re hanging in there. They’re good folks.”

While Finkel and the group of volunteers are excited to have Economopoulos, he does not anticipate being back to normal operations until February 2022.

“We’re excited to get comedy back,” he said. “We’re excited to get a show that will utilize the theatre as it’s meant to be.”

There is no capacity restriction and masks will be optional. Hand sanitizer will be available.

The bar will also be open as will the concession stand.

Tickets can be purchased at https://strandpac.square.site/.