On March 23, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb passed an executive stay-at-home order for the entire state, beginning March 24, to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that is sweeping the globe. Indiana’s order was extended to last until April 20 at the beginning of the month, though it is unknown how long these restrictions will ultimately remain in place.
Under the order, Indiana residents are mandated to stay at home unless they work for an essential business or are completing an essential activity, like caring for a relative, seeking medical help, grocery shopping, or taking a socially distanced walk outside.
With the precautionary step needed to slow the spread of the virus and prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed, the country also is facing an unprecedented economic crisis. In the Evansville region, many industries and businesses already have been affected.
Restaurants are not allowed to serve dine-in customers, but can offer drive-thru, carry-out, or delivery. Banks are closed to in-person interactions and are utilizing online, mobile, and drive-thru banking. Schools are shut down through the end of the school year, with the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation and other school systems completing e-learning with students. Universities have switched to all online classes and canceled commencement ceremonies this spring. Museums, libraries, and exercise facilities will not open until further notice, though many are offering online resources.
The city of Evansville, however, has been working to find solutions to the economic impact caused by the virus crisis. Through the collaboration of many local organizations and nonprofits, including the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, the Community Foundation Alliance, and the Welborn Baptist Foundation, a COVID-19 Crisis Response Fund of the Greater Evansville Region was established on March 27 to serve the community through the relief, recovery, and restoration phases of the crisis.
“Both the health crisis and the economic crisis our residents are facing is totally unprecedented,” says Pat Creech, executive director of the Welborn Baptist Foundation. “There hasn’t been an economic crisis that has affected our community in this way since the Great Depression, and all indicators are that the impact of this crisis will be multifold more intense than that was. This will touch everyone, either the health aspect or the economic aspect, it will touch everyone in the community.”
Currently, more than $2 million has been committed to the fund from individuals, organizations, and companies, with an overall goal of raising $6 million. In the initial relief phase, the funds will be used primarily to assist the ALICE (asset-limited, income-constrained, and potentially temporarily unemployed) community, who the fund believes will be one of the most affected groups in the crisis. The ALICE community are people who live above the federal poverty guideline but under the living wage standards.
“They generally do not have a support system, and they are generally the first to lose their jobs,” says Creech. “We are already seeing it in the service industry, the restaurant industry, and the hospitality industry.”
The fund also seeks to help provide gap support for the ALICE community that doesn’t duplicate federal programs already in place, sustain critical operations and services that meet the basic needs of the vulnerable and at-risk, support temporary staffing or volunteers to combat the loss of staff and volunteers at essential social services, and encourage neighbors to care for each other.
“Together we will get through this in ways we would never get through if we were not standing shoulder to shoulder,” says Creech. “This fund has been put together in a collaborative effort by a number of different funders and foundations that collectively have done our best to identify the greatest needs this crisis will bring to this community. It is such an incredibly well-rounded team that our community can have confidence this fund will deliver.”
During the COVID-19 crisis, many local businesses and companies are changing their practices and manufacturing to assist the community in the fight against the effects of the coronavirus.
The Downtown Evansville Economic Improvement District announced the implementation of a district-wide sanitation regime with Keep Evansville Beautiful to disinfect public areas, like benches, trash cans, and railings, each Monday and Friday until further notice. The EID also installed several handwashing stations throughout Downtown.
Tropicana Evansville donated two vehicle loads of fresh fruit, produce, and other food items to Evansville Rescue Mission, which used the donation for its 150 residents and to provide pick-up meals for others in the community.
Signarama has remained open during the crisis, offering curbside pick-up of signs. The business also is offering discounts on any signs related to COVID-19.
Pearison Inc., based in Posey County, has shifted its manufacturing of cheerleading uniforms, marching band uniforms, and corporate and team apparel to make washable face masks to fulfill the shortages at local hospitals and clinics.
Siegel’s Uniforms will donate more than 200 face masks to local hospitals made by the business’s seamstresses.
Garmong Construction is developing sneeze guards for hospitals to place at registration and patient interaction areas to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Catholic Diocese of Evansville is allowing the city of Evansville to use the diocese’s Sarto Retreat House as a voluntary self-isolation center for people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. The facility will house homeless individuals who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or discharged from local healthcare facilities after being treated for the virus.
The University of Evansville’s School of Nursing, Physician Assistant Science, and the Doctor of Physical Therapy programs donated face masks, isolation gowns, and exam and surgical gloves to support the efforts of healthcare workers.