Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness on Thursday unveiled a $2.5 million, multi-part plan for how the city will tie the long-term health and safety of its residents to an economic recovery as the state lifts restrictions related to COVID-19.
The Fishers City Council will convene for an emergency meeting Friday to potentially create a city-level health department, offer free and widespread testing for Fishers residents, implement new tools for employers to track their workers’ health and establish rapid public health response teams that will guide local business’ return from COVID-19 restrictions with informed decisions.
“This is not just about a COVID-19 response,” Fadness said during a online press conference. “This is about how we should address public health going forward in our community. We can no longer look at our economy without looking at public health, as well.”
Fadness said the creation of a city health department will allow Fishers to create a grassroots approach to recovery, one that is specifically tailored to the community.
If the department is approved, Emergency Medical Services Division Chief Steve Davison will use medical direction provided by Community Health to instruct city paramedics, public safety personnel and other staff on the appropriate way to respond, isolate and address COVID-19 outbreaks.
Fadness said the city is already working to determine best practices for opening up manufacturing facilities, restaurants, churches and more. He’s hoping to have a concise guide for each entity, and a team of subject-matter experts available to explain those new procedures.
“We’re going to do a lot of the homework for our businesses,” Fadness said.
The health department also will launch a safe practice verification program to provide consulting for businesses.
At the same time, Fadness is asking the council to direct $2 million from the city’s cash reserves toward free testing for any interested Fishers resident. Though Fadness said testing could include asymptomatic residents, he said the city’s potential health department will establish its own protocols.
Drive-up testing through Mid-America Clinical Laboratories could start as early as next week with 200 to 300 tests conducted each day. Fadness said Fishers’ $2 million investment could provide testing for as much as one-third of the city’s population.
“This is a measured approach. We have to be wise about the usage of our resources,” Fadness said. “We believe that this initial investment will certainly be enough to get us through the initial onset of the economic recovery, and hopefully get our businesses and everybody else moving again.”
The city also has partnered with Qualtrics, an employee survey software company, to help participating businesses track how many employees have been tested, how many have tested positive, and other aspects of their health status. Though Fishers will provide employers with access to testing, those businesses will be responsible for paying for each employees’ test.
Several other programs have been established to support small businesses during their return to normal operations, whenever that may be.
OneZone, the combined chamber of commerce for Fishers and Carmel, is partnering with Fishers’ economic development and redevelopment departments to make roughly $500,000 in small business recovery loans available sometime next week.
Other new programs include a virtual business recovery center dedicated to finding federal and local loan opportunities and a Launch Fishers Entrepreneurship Program, which both provide participants with a free six-month membership to the coworking space.