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County COVID-19 cases, deaths triple in recent surge
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Miami County has seen more than 150 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths in the last four days as the surge of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus continues across the state.

Thursday’s update from the Indiana Department of Health put the number of cases identified in the county since officials started tracking the numbers in March at 1,360. Twelve Miami County residents have now died, the report showed.

Those numbers are up from 10 deaths and 1,199 cases on Monday. They represent a three-fold increase in both deaths and cases since the surge began in early October.

On Oct. 2 the county had seen 446 cases of the disease and four deaths.

The rate of new cases has been increasing in recent days and weeks, with Thursday’s state update showing a single-day jump in cases of 72.

Miami County Health Officer Dr. Christi Redmon said it’s unclear exactly how bad it is going to get.

“I think over the next week or two we will see if we are going to be overwhelmed,” Redmon told the County Council at their Tuesday night meeting.

She said she felt many are suffering from “pandemic fatigue” and worried that they may let their guards down as Thanksgiving approaches.

But with numbers climbing at an ever increasing pace, Redmon told the Tribune on Thursday that everyone needs to adjust to the idea that Thanksgiving dinner is going to be different this year.

That means individual families should likely have dinner alone, or try having a small get together outside where people can spread out more. Either way, those who are elderly or have another underlying condition that makes them otherwise vulnerable to severe sickness or even death because of a COVID-19 infection should not be mingling with their more hardy family members.

“Do not go over and get in their space,” Redmon said.

Her warnings come as the county sits right on edge of being designated red – the designation for the highest level of community spread of the virus – on the state’s “county metrics map.”

“The likelihood that we won’t be red is low,” Redmon said.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said during Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Wednesday press briefing that every county in the state has reached the red level in terms of the rate of new weekly cases per 100,000 residents.

Miami County, on Thursday, sat at 678 cases per 100,000, more than triple the state’s threshold rate of 200 cases.

The only thing keeping Miami County out of the overall red category in recent weeks is that the seven-day running average positivity rate for all tests administered had not yet reached the state’s 15-percent mark. Reaching 15 percent would give the county a cumulative score pushing it over the line from the orange designation to red.

The last update from the state put Miami County’s positivity rate at 14.49 percent.

It will be updated again on Wednesday.

The numbers underscore the seriousness of the problem, Redmon said and she reiterated her points that the only way to avoid further problems now is through personal responsibility.

“This information is not new,” she said about the way the virus spreads and how people can protect themselves and the vulnerable.

Ignoring the guidelines can cause residents to fall ill and die, incur thousands in medical bills because of an extended stay in an intensive care unit, or further disrupt the state’s health care infrastructure, which, according to state officials is already suffering under the load of the current surge.

Redmon said she is in contact with officials at Dukes Memorial Hospital who tell her they still have surge capacity and will notify her if that changes.

But she urged everyone to take steps in the coming weeks to make sure that that doesn’t happen and that more people don’t needlessly get sick.

If residents don’t, “we are going to be facing worse times than anyone can imagine in this state,” she said.


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'A good thing for both of us': Local couple passes pandemic with project after taking in an old farm wagon

A gift of an old wooden farm wagon earlier this year turned into a project that has kept one local couple busy through much of the pandemic.

“It was one of those things that just kind of evolved,” Jayne Kesler told the Tribune on Thursday.

She was talking about a recently finished vardo that she and her husband, Keith Kesler, have been working on since they took possession of the wagon before March.

Vardos are wagons or “caravans” that were the traditional mode of travel for the Romani people who migrated to Britain where they are sometimes referred to as “gypsies.” (The word is considered pejorative by some Romani.)

Kesler said she and her husband, who have restored antique travel trailers in the past, won’t be traveling with this trailer. Instead they will use it for family or grandchildren who visit.

“It’s like the party place out at the pond,” she said. “We are going to kind of use it as a guest house.”

Kesler said her husband, a retired industrial arts teacher, hatched the idea with her after friends gave them the old wagon when they needed to get it off a piece of property.

“He just loves to build things,” she said.

The couple worked together through much of the spring and summer when they were sticking close to home and away from others because of health concerns surrounding COVID-19.

“We play off each other,” she said.

With the frame, walls and roof complete, Kesler said she made the bedding and pillows for the bunk beds at one end and they worked together making something that can be lived in.

“Then he plumbed it,” she said.

That gave it a small sink. And they found a heater that can be used safely inside.

“The lighting that’s in it is from my grandma and grandpa’s house,” Kesler said.

A small air conditioner is covered to maintain the traditional look and Kesler worked at decorating it with things she likes.

“So it’s got lots of feathers and birds and butterflies,” she said, along with a large stenciled owl on one end that is “the same size as my dining room table.”

Now completed, Kesler said they not only have something fun for the family to enjoy, but something that serves as a reminder of how they passed time during the first part of the pandemic.

“It’s just been a good thing for both of us,” she said, “rather than just sitting around and looking at each other.”


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Crews finish work on circus barn roof

When a crew shows up later this month to put gutters on one of the barns at the International Circus Hall of Fame, it will mark the end of the long effort to preserve the barn and the artifacts inside.

“He’s supposed to get started some time at the end of next week,” Bob Cline, the Hall of Fame’s treasurer and historian, told the Tribune on Friday.

Crews finished re-roofing the northernmost barn on the property at Peru Circus Lane last week after a struggle of more than a year to secure money for the work.

That money, according to a summer news release from Indiana Landmarks, came from the Heritage Support Grants Program, supported by Lilly Endowment, and was to be coupled with money coming in from the Indiana Department of Transportation.

That INDOT cash – about $40,000 – had long been promised as part of historic preservation efforts surrounding the impending loss of the Terrell Jacobs Circus barns along U.S. 31 near the Indiana 218 West interchange that INDOT owns.

That July announcement left officials at the museum on Peru Circus Lane just off State Road 124 hopeful that they were finally going to get the roof over the barn that houses much of the institution’s historical artifacts. Those include old circus costumes and a model of an old Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, which was one of the many circus companies to use the property as a winter quarters during the 20th Century.

There were still snags along the way including a scramble to find a contractor that could work within budget after asbestos was discovered in some of the old materials on the roof.

But the end is now in sight.

“They put the last shingles in place on Friday,” Cline said.

Though high winds did some minor damage that weekend, he said that is expected to repaired shortly with the whole project being buttoned up with the addition of the gutters.

Gutters will also be put on the old office building which was re-roofed last year, Cline said.


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Community Foundation announces year-end fundraiser

Outgoing Miami County Foundation Director of Development Connie Cutler will have an opportunity to introduce her successor during one of the foundation’s major fundraisers.

Incoming director Heidi Wright will be on hand with Cutler on Dec. 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. at Canal Street’s Riverview Event Center for the Giving Tuesday fundraiser.

Cutler announced her retirement earlier this year.

The day known as Giving Tuesday is celebrated each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to punctuate the start of the giving season.

Locally the event is opportunity for residents to give to any of the foundations “community funds” that are manged in order to support grant requests throughout the community.

In recent years some of that money has gone to help build the Harvesting Capabilities “all-inclusive” playground on Canal Street ($20,000) as well as allow for a $100,000 committment over five years to support the building of the YMCA.

Last year’s event was held a the Miami County Museum, but it has been moved this year for a “drive-by” event at the event center because of health concerns associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are more determined than ever to bring our community partners together to find solutions for challenging problems in our local communities,” Jay Albright, executive director of the Northern Indiana Community Foundation, of which the local office is part, said in a news release. “This year has been unique due to COVID-19, but we feel that we have stayed true to our mission statement. We at the Community Foundation try our best to improve the quality of life in our communities by assisting donors in fulfilling their charitable wishes. We are looking forward to helping those who wish to help others.”

For more information, contact the Community Foundation at 765-475-2859 or email at miami@nicf.org


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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/covid testing or call 888-634-1116. This site will remain through the end of the year, but appointments are now required.

COVID-19 testing is also now available through the Miami County Department of Health in partnership with Dukes Hospital. Testing is available to all members of the public regardless of symptoms. (Rapid testing is only available to individuals with symptoms. Patients who are not preregistered for a rapid test will not be administered a rapid test.) Children as young as 2 can be tested with parental consent. The site at the Boulevard entrance of Dukes Hospital is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and open from 2 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. Saturday hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. For questions about the site call the county health department at 765-472-3901 ext. 1228.

Events and information

United Way accepting grant applications

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.

Nov. 21

Main Street Methodist Church, at 81 West Main St., will operate a drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes on Nov. 21 between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Nov. 22

Main Street Methodist Church, at 81 West Main St., will operate a drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes on Nov. 22 between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.

Nov. 23

Main Street Methodist Church, at 81 West Main St., will operate a drop-off location for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes on Nov. 23 between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m.

The Maconaquah Board of School Trustees will convene a meeting on Nov. 23 at 6 p.m. in the Maconaquah High School auditorium. Social distancing will be practices and masks are required.

Nov. 30

The deadline for applications for the current round of Dukes Health Care Foundation grants is Nov. 30. Grant applications may be picked up at the Peru Chamber of Commerce Office in the Community Resource Center at 13 E. Main Street, the Dukes Memorial Hospital Administrative Office at 275 W. Twelfth Street, and Comerford & Co. PC at 36 W. Fifth Street. Contact John Claxton at 765-473-7189 for further information.

The Miami County Democrats will meet at 6 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the old United Methodist Church at 170 East Harrison in Denver. For more information call Charles Wagner at 765-473-4771.

Ongoing

The New Waverly United Methodist Church breakfasts for November and December have been canceled. The church hopes to be able to resume breakfasts at some time next year.

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.