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Local officials opt out of 'in-person' 4-H fair

Local officials have opted to hold a much different 4-H fair this year after being given the green light by Purdue University nearly a week ago to start planning for this year’s event.

That was the decision of the Miami County Fair Board after a recent meeting to discuss what this year’s fair might look like given certain restrictions put in place by the university because of health concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

“The Miami County Fairboard has decided due to the restrictive nature of the PPE rules from Purdue that the 2020 Miami County 4-H Fair will not take place in person,” read a letter from Rusty Merritt, board president, that was posted to various social media pages on Thursday.

That, according to Merritt’s letter, and Kim Frazier, Miami County Purdue Extension Educator, means that this year’s fair is not going to look like the typical annual summer event.

“We will have a 4-H Fair experience but it will be virtual for livestock,” Frazier told the Tribune on Friday.

Participants will be asked to submit photos and videos of their animals.

“Then we will have a judge judge them,” she said. “It will certainly be different than a live show.”

Project entries are currently slated to be dropped off at the Community Building – the regular venue for such entries – on July 20. On July 21, Frazier said, the building will be closed to everyone but volunteers and judges for a full day of judging.

Once winners are announced, projects not bound for the State Fair can be picked up on July 22.

Exactly how, and when, the livestock judging is going to take place is still being worked out. .

“We are wrapping our brains around how this is going to happen,” she said.

Officials announced in April that the local fair would have to be postponed this year as Purdue had placed a restriction on face-to-face meetings through June 30.

In a May 15 announcement, the university, whose Extension program oversees 4-H in the state, announced that local fair boards could start planning their events to take place after that June 30 date had passed.

“County 4-H educators have received implementation guidance,” a news release said at the time of that announcement. “The guidance, developed from industry and government best practices, will aid 4-H councils, fair boards, and county educators in planning over the next six weeks. In some cases, 4-H councils and extension boards may choose to virtualize their fair experience due to financial limitations, PPE availability or other locally determined restrictions. Purdue Extension 4-H specialists have developed models for virtual 4-H fairs in preparation that some counties may not be able to adequately follow federal, state, and local guidelines.”

A letter, signed Thursday by Frazier and local Extension Educator Corey Roser, acknowledged the local board’s decision.

“Both Kim & I have fielded many calls, questions, and understand the multitude of emotions that come with a decision of this magnitude,” it said. “Some people will be relieved with the decision, while others will be sad or mad. At the end of the day, the requirements from Purdue Extension at the University level to have an in-person fair were daunting, and compliance with those requirements would have been near impossible.”

“As we move forward, I would ask that we all remember that each of us are the face of 4-H in Miami County,” the letter said in closing. “We can (and should) take a moment to be sad/mad/angry about the decisions that have been made, but then it is time for us to go forward like the 4-H motto says ‘to make the best better.’ If those around you see 4-H represented in a negative way, they will choose to think negatively about 4-H. Let us show our community the tenacity, creativity, and determination that our 4-H members exhibit every day.”

City reopens parks amenities in time for holiday weekend

City residents will have the opportunity to enjoy more of their parks’ amenities as they look to get out of their houses for the holiday weekend.

That is thanks to Friday’s beginning of Stage 3 of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana plan, which allows for the easing of several restrictions put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are going into the next phase without any problem,” Peru Mayor Miles Hewitt told the Tribune on Thursday.

That was a day after Holcomb, in a Wednesday news briefing, announced that the state, with the exception of three counties, could move into the next stage of the reopening plan by Friday.

That decision moved up the start of Stage 3 by two days.

And it meant that the city would reopen the Canal Street skate park, all park pavilions and benches, tennis courts, basketball courts and the disc golf course in time for all of Memorial Day weekend.

Asked if the Governor’s slight acceleration of the original plan (Stage 3 had been scheduled to begin on May 24) created any scheduling problems for the city, Hewitt said it did not.

“Matter of fact we are still right on plan,” he said, “opening up everything as need be.”

But the signed executive order from Holcomb did bring one surprise.

Playgrounds, which had been slated to reopen as part of Stage 3 are to remain closed.

The change prompted a Friday afternoon message from the Mayor’s Office,

“Due to the unforeseen announcement in the Governor’s latest Executive Order, playgrounds will NOT be open until further notice,” a Facebook post said. “Please refrain from using all playgrounds in the Parks and on the Riverwalk!”

That will likely give more time for workers who were out Friday morning to finish a mulching project at the Miami’s Fort playground on Canal Street.

But the other work was already done, with caution tape removed from riverwalk benches and pavilions. And by early Friday afternoon, skateboarders had returned to the skate park.

Hewitt said Thursday that that was the intention, even before Holcomb moved the date from Sunday to Friday.

“I had already planned on having it done so my people wouldn’t have to come in on Sunday,” he said.

Though more amenities will be available and open, Hewitt still reminded residents to enjoy them responsibly and with the ongoing health concerns still in mind.

“I request everyone using any public areas please remember hand washing after leaving the area and don’t let your children touch their mouth, eyes, and nose area prior to hand washing,” he said in a Facebook post. “Remember this is going to be a holiday weekend. I want everyone to enjoy family time together and be safe.”

AP-NORC poll: Many in US won't return to gym or dining out

WASHINGTON — Much of the country remains unlikely to venture out to bars, restaurants, theaters or gyms anytime soon, despite state and local officials across the country increasingly allowing businesses to reopen, according to a new survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

That hesitancy in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak could muffle any recovery from what has been the sharpest and swiftest economic downturn in U.S. history. Just 42 percent of those who went to concerts, movies, theaters or sporting events at least monthly before the outbreak say they’d do so in the next few weeks if they could. Only about half of those who regularly went to restaurants, exercised at the gym or traveled would feel comfortable doing so again.

About a quarter of Americans say someone in their household has lost a job amid that downturn, and about half have lost household income, including layoffs, pay cuts, cut hours or unpaid time off. The majority of those whose household suffered a layoff still believe they will return to their previous employer, but the share expecting their job will not return has risen slightly over the past month, to 30 percent from 20 percent.

Amber Van Den Berge, a teacher in Indiana, held off on immediately returning to her second job as a fitness instructor. She would need to pass a test for COVID-19, get her temperature checked each morning and lead class while wearing a protective mask.

“Wear a mask to teach a fitness class? I’m not ready for that,” said Van Den Berge, 39.

The speed and strength of any economic rebound could be thwarted because many fear the risk of new infections. Consumers make up roughly 70 percent of U.S. economic activity, so anything less than a total recovery in spending would force many companies to permanently close and deepen the financial pain for 39 million people who have lost jobs in roughly the past two months.

Forty-nine percent of Americans approve of how President Donald Trump is handling the economy, the poll shows. That has slipped over the last two months, from 56 percent in March. Still, the issue remains a relative positive for Trump, whose overall approval rating stands at 41 percent.

Trump has at times downplayed the threat of the coronavirus and the benefits of testing and has criticized the leadership of Democratic governors. Meanwhile, many Democratic lawmakers have insisted on the importance of containing the disease and sustaining the economy with federal aid.

Greg Yost, a Republican from Rockaway, New Jersey, says he wishes the president would defer more to medical experts, rather than speak off the cuff. But he added that he thinks Trump believes he must defend himself against personal attacks.

“He’s between a rock and a hard place,” Yost said.

But ShyJuan Clemons, 45, of Merrillville, Indiana, says Trump has made the fallout from the pandemic worse by initially denying its dangers and failing to display much empathy for those hurt by the coronavirus.

“Even my cat knows that he’s terrible,” said Clemons, referring to his 14-year-old Siamese mix, Shinji.

Clemons works with special needs people and worries about his hours if Indiana – starved of tax revenues because of the disease – cuts its budget.

But it also shows how an atmosphere of political polarization may be feeding both an eagerness by some to return and a reluctance by others to resume their previous lifestyles.

Among those who did so at least monthly before the outbreak, Republicans are far more likely than Democrats to say they’d go to restaurants (69 percent to 37 percent), movies, concerts or theaters (68 percent to 28 percent), travel (65 percent to 38 percent) and go to a gym or fitness studio (61 percent to 44 percent).

Sixty-nine percent of those who regularly shopped in person for nonessential items before the outbreak, including majorities among both parties, say they’d be likely to wander malls and stores again. But Republicans are more likely to say so than Democrats, 82 percent to 61 percent.

Yost expressed no qualms about going out because he believes the economic damage from shelter-in-place orders will be worse than the deaths from the disease.

“What’s going to happen with depression, homelessness – a lot of other problems are going to arise because we shut down the economy?” said Yost, a vice president of operations at an insurance agency. “I would go to a restaurant and feel comfortable with my kids and not even have masks on.”

Still, there’s an exception to the partisan divide, with 76 percent of Republicans and 69 percent of Democrats who get haircuts on at least a monthly basis saying they’d do that in the next few weeks if they could.

The poll finds an overwhelming majority of Americans, 70 percent, describe the economy as poor, but their outlook for the future is highly partisan. Sixty-two percent of Republicans expect improvement in the coming year, while 56 percent of Democrats say it will worsen.

At the same time, two-thirds of Americans say their personal finances are good, which has remained steady since before the outbreak began.

Many families have been able to survive the downturn because of aid such as direct payments to taxpayers and expanded unemployment benefits that will expire in July.

Mitchell Durst, 74, has watched the job losses from the sidelines as a retired mathematician in Keyser, West Virginia.

He was already cautious about going out because of a compromised immune system from cancer treatments. The disease stopped his weekly poker game. He lived through the polio crisis, dealt with gas rationing during the 1970s and worked in Nigeria during the Ebola scare.

He calculates the United States will need to be patient about an economic comeback.

“Until we have a vaccine, particularly for those folks at risk, it’s going to be awhile,” Durst said. “If we get something in two years, if we’re so fortunate to be able to do that, I think that would be fantastic.”

Community Information

To help keep residents informed during the ongoing health emergency, this section is continuing to evolve.

Though many events have been canceled, some, like mobile food pantries and blood drives, will continue to take place. The top portion of this section will list such events and be updated daily. Cancellations and closures of various events, agencies and public buildings will be listed below those items.

Testing available

The state of Indiana, in a partnership with OptumServe Health, has opened a coronavirus testing site at the Indiana National Guard armory at 77 German St. in Peru. Individuals who are symptomatic or COVID-19 or close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 positive patients are eligible for testing. Residents will not be charged for testing and insurance is not required, but those with insurance are asked to bring information with them. For more information or to schedule a test, visit lhi.care/covidtesting or call 888-634-1116.

Events and information

The Peru Public Library has reopened to the public with social distancing guidelines and other precautions in place.

The United Way of Miami County is now accepting grant applications for money from a coronavirus relief fund made possible by the Lilly Endowment. Money from the $225,000 dollar fund is expected to paid out in three phases – for immediate relief to longterm recovery – and is targeted to help “human and social service nonprofits on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic.” To apply, visit the local United Way website at www.uwmiamip.org.

May 24

The “airpark” outdoor exhibit at the Grissom Air Museum will open to visitors on May 24. Staff will allow 100 visitors in at a time and ask that visitors follow social distancing guidelines and use face coverings.

The full museum is scheduled to open on June 14 at 50 percent capacity in keeping with the state’s reopening plans.

May 27

The Maconaquah School Board will meet at 6 p.m. on May 27 in the elementary school’s Group Room. Social distancing guidelines will be in place.

May 28

The Miami County Local Emergency Planning Committee will meet on May 28 at 4:30 p.m. at 78 McKinstry Avenue.

June 4

The Loree Brethren Church will host a chicken noodle dinner on June 4 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at 8483 S. Strawtown Pike. Carry-out only.

June 30

The Dukes Health Care Foundation of Miami County is accepting grant applications from organizations “that promote the health and well-being of the citizens of Miami County.” The deadline to apply is June 30. Application packets for tax-exempt organizations can be picked up at the Miami County Chamber of Commerce office at 13 E. Main St. Those with questions should contact John Claxton at 765-473-7189.

County reminds residents to update dog tags

Dog tags are available at the Miami County Courthouse, Room 107, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The fee is $5 per dog.

Residents can also mail payment to Miami County Courthouse, 25 N. Broadway, Room 107, Peru, IN 46970. They are asked to enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and tags will be mailed along with a receipt. Please make checks payable to Miami County Treasurer.

For questions, call 765-472-3901 Ext. 1860.

City announces new contact for dog tags

Peru residents looking to renew or purchase dog tags need to contact Peru Animal Care and Control at 765-470-2410 or at the office located at 75 German Street. The animal control officer is available between the hours of 8 a.m and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

North Miami preschool and kindergarten registration opens

North Miami Community Schools is currently accepting online applications for both Little Warriors Preschool and kindergarten.

Little Warriors Preschool is certified through the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration’s Child Care Developmental Fund and is Paths to Quality Level 3 Certified.

The school offers both full-day and half-day options. Half-day preschool is open to all 3-and 4-year-olds, and the full-day preschool is open to all 4-year-olds. Children must be 3 or 4 no later than Aug.1 of the current school year to enroll. Preschool is every Monday through Thursday, and tuition is and $35 per week for half-day or $60 per week for full-day.

The elementary is also registering students for kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year. Registration for both programs can be found on the North Miami Elementary School site under “PK/K Registration Information.”

For questions, please contact the elementary school at 765-985-2155 on Monday or Tuesday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Cancellations and Closures

The Miami County YMCA is closed to the public. Y Transit and meal delivery is still operating. For assistance or questions call 765-472-1979.

The Peru Lions Club Cheer Club is halting visits due to visitation restrictions in place at area nursing homes.

Indiana health officials report 28 more coronavirus deaths

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana heath officials on Friday added the deaths of 28 more people with confirmed or presumed coronavirus infections to the state’s toll from the pandemic.

Those additional deaths, most of which occurred Wednesday or Thursday, give the state an overall total of 1,941 confirmed or presumed COVID-19 fatalities since Indiana’s first was recorded March 15, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

The state agency reported 27 new deaths involving confirmed COVID-19 infections, increasing that total to 1,791. It also added one more death with a presumed infection, giving the state 150 deaths considered coronavirus-related by doctors but without confirmation of the illness from test results.

The Indiana jobless rate was higher than the 14.7 percent national rate. April’s mark was much worse than the state’s peak unemployment rate of 11.0 percent in 2010 during the last recession, according to federal statistics released Friday.

That report showed about 546,000 people unemployed in Indiana. That’s up from just less than 100,000 unemployed in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey conducted in March just before coronavirus-related closures happened and placed Indiana’s jobless rate at 3.0 percent.

Indiana’s private sector employment fell by 380,500 workers from March, the state Department of Workforce Development said. The hardest-hit sectors were leisure and hospitality, with 116,000 job losses, and manufacturing, which lost about 78,000 jobs.

The state’s jobless ranks have continued to grow as business closures have continued since mid-March. More than 100,000 people have filed new applications for unemployment in Indiana so far during May.