Dr. Joshua Vest, professor and vice chair of health policy and management at the IU Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health and several researchers in the Center for Health Policy provided evidence-based recommendations to the Marion County Public Health Department on the form and key components of a phased reopening plan.
The Center for Health Policy conducted a detailed review of national, state, and local plans, aiming to provide guidance and clear criteria that considers the level of risk within the community.
“Our team contrasted the strengths and weaknesses of the various plans, assessed feasibility of recommendations, and reviewed the literature to provide evidence for every recommendation,” Dr. Vest said, who is also the director for the Center for Health Policy.
Dr. Vest’s team sought to make recommendations that achieved two broad policy goals: 1) assure the health of the community and 2) alleviate individuals’ and the community’s economic hardships.
“Recommendations were for the entire county and were specific to individuals, those at highest risk, essential business, non-essential businesses, health care providers, schools, child care and more,” he said.
According to the plan, individuals and businesses are required to maintain self-quarantine and isolation for exposed individuals and suspected/confirmed cases; stay at home and remain isolated from the community as much as possible if you are high risk; maintain social distancing practices, frequent disinfection, and hand/respiratory hygiene practices; as well as have employees who are able to work remotely at home continue to do so.
Joe Gibson, director of epidemiology at the Marion County Health Department, served as a researcher on this project. Gibson praised Dr. Vest; Dr. Brian Dixon, associate professor; and Dr. Paul Halverson, FSPH founding dean for their close engagement and collaboration during the COVID-19 reopening plan.
“Dr. Vest brings a lot of data, literature, and science to each discussion, and Dean Halverson provides a lot of practical decision making, which guides our plans.”
Gibson also spoke highly of the school’s involvement in the statewide prevalence study, adding that the study puts Indiana in a much better place than other states.
“It helps predict how many cases are out there, which will help with contract tracing, the next step in controlling the pandemic,” Gibson said. “A well-organized contract tracing effort will allow us to jump in a lot earlier and stop the spread. In the meantime, I hope people continue to take this seriously and go out as little as possible. COVID-19 is still far too prevalent for us to act like this is over.”
The full Marion County Reopening Plan, outlined in the Indianapolis Business Journal, was announced May 13, 2020 during a press conference held by Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett.