In the aftermath of Thursday’s announcement by Gov. Eric Holcomb of new stringent measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19, including limiting non-essential gatherings to no more than 250 people, several local schools and organizations have announced closings and postponements.

St. Bernard School closes

Given the continued spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and multiple confirmed cases within the diocese, the Catholic Schools Office has announced the closing of all 43 Catholic Schools within the 14-county service area effective Monday, March 16, and for a minimum of three weeks, according to Jennifer Simerman, secretary for communications.

A set date has not been established for the re-opening of our schools. Additionally, all after-school and extracurricular activities are suspended until further notice.

In response to a Plain Dealer request Friday, St. Bernard School confirmed this announcement also applied to them.

“The diocese has been, and will continue to be, in constant communication and follow the directives of local health authorities, the Indiana Department of Health, the Indiana Department of Education, the CDC and the Indiana Governor’s office,” stated Simerman.

Beginning Monday, March 16, school officials will be working with staff members from all of 43 schools to finalize plans for eLearning or distance learning for our students. Parents should watch for communications from their principals for more information.

“The health and safety of our students, staff, and their families is of utmost importance” stated Dr. Joe Brettnacher, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese. “We do not take this decision lightly and understand these impacts thousands of families. As things continue to evolve, we are working hard to follow every direction of local health experts and to implement preventative measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.”

For more information, visit www.diocesefwsb.org/covid-19.

Manchester Community Schools closes

In a Friday letter to family, staff and students of Manchester Community Schools (MCS), Teresa L. Gremaux, superintendent, announced they would also be canceling classes and more.

“As updates continue to emerge regarding COVID-19, we have been monitoring the situation and meeting with other local officials regularly as well as seeking guidance from state and national sources,” she stated. “While there are currently no reported or suspected cases of the novel coronavirus at MCS or Wabash County, out of an abundance of caution, we are making decisions to keep our students, staff and community safe and healthy, and reduce the spread of COVID-19 to more vulnerable populations. At this time, Manchester Community Schools is closing all schools and canceling all school-related activities from the end of the school day Friday, March 13 until Monday, April 13. More details will be shared with families in the coming days concerning extended eLearning procedures, as well as details on food distribution. We will continue to monitor information from local, state and national health officials. This is a very fluid situation and the MCS Administrative Team will continue to meet regularly and provide updates through email, phone messenger, text messages, social media and the school website. The health, safety and well-being of our community remain our highest priority as we make these difficult decisions.”

Wabash County Museum closes

In a statement Friday, Mitch Figert, president and CEO of the Wabash County Museum, stated they had decided to close as well.

“Following a meeting today with community leaders, the Museum’s leadership team has made the decision to temporarily close the museum to all visitors effective at the end of the day today. Our team will continue to monitor and reassess the situation,” he stated. “With that said, the museum’s staff members will continue to work onsite and remotely to assist with research requests, deep clean the entire facility, and perform site improvements. We are optimistic that this situation will improve as the community practices social distancing, proper hygiene including frequent hand washing and warmer weather arrives. This decision was made to put the health and safety of our staff, visitors, and the community as our top priority. The museum has contingency plans in place to care for the multiple artifacts in the building should staff need to be off-site for an extended period of time. Thank you for your cooperation in this matter and please follow the museum’s social media for future updates as this situation evolves.”

MSD closes

On Thursday, Mike Keaffaber, MSD superintendent, issued a statement regarding the possibility of closures, which at that point had not been implemented.

“On Wednesday, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. After meeting with the Wabash County Health Department (WCHD) today and other school officials, MSD of Wabash County will be conducting school and school activities as normal as possible moving forward until advised otherwise by the WCHD. The preventative actions taken by our schools to manage the flu season are the same precautions to be used for COVID-19. However, MSD is already working to enhance safety precautions. We ask those with compromised immunities or underlying health conditions to take special precautions to ensure their personal safety. If the WCHD would advise us to close school, MSD would comply which may mean using eLearning days. Again, this is ever-changing so the message could change as early as tomorrow,” he stated. “Please keep your child or children home if they show symptoms of being ill.”

On Friday, Keaffaber issued another statement saying they had also decided to close.

“As updates continue to emerge regarding COVID-19 and the announcement of next steps by Gov. Holcomb, we are monitoring the situation and meeting with other local officials regularly as well as seeking guidance from state and national sources. While there are currently no reported or suspected cases of the novel coronavirus at MSD of Wabash County or Wabash County, out of an abundance of caution, we are making decisions to keep our students, staff and community safe and healthy, and reduce the spread of COVID-19 to more vulnerable populations,” he stated. “At this time, MSD of Wabash County is closing all schools and canceling all school-related activities until Monday, April 13. More details will be shared with families in the coming days concerning eLearning procedures, as well as details on food distribution. We will continue to monitor information from local, state, and national health officials. This is a very fluid situation, and the MSDWC Administrative Team will continue to meet regularly and provide updates through email, phone messenger, text messages, social media and the school website. The health, safety, and well-being of our community remain our highest priorities as we make these difficult decisions. Prevention is of utmost importance.”

Wabash City Schools closes

On Friday, Jason Callahan, Wabash City School (WCS) superintendent, issued a statement saying they had also decided to close.

“After consultation with local and state health officials and governmental agencies, WCS has decided to close school from Monday, March 16 through April 10,” stated Callahan. “Out of an abundance of caution for our students, staff and community, and because of safety concerns related to COVID-19, school and extra-curricular events for students in Wabash City Schools have been canceled. WCS places the highest priority on student safety. As we have stated, prevention is the best strategy for curbing the spread of this virus. Therefore, we make this decision, based not on cases of COVID-19 in Wabash County. Instead, we are making this decision to prevent cases from increasing. Local and state officials continue to urge the public to not panic. Instead, our community should promote social distancing in preventing the spread of this virus. Our decision to cancel is designed to prevent the spread of this virus and to provide health officials an opportunity to have a better understanding of how to handle this health event.”

Callahan stated they are prepared to utilize eLearning, as well.

“During this time out of school, WCS will use a mixture of eLearning days and waiver days provided by the state of Indiana,” he stated.

Monday, March 16 will be a waiver day, but all staff will be in the buildings. Tuesday through Thursday will also be waiver days and Friday will be an eLearning Day.

For the weeks of March 23 and 30, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays will be eLearning Days. Tuesdays and Thursdays of those weeks will be waiver days.

The week of April 6 will be spring break.

The week of April 13 will represent the planned return of students and staff. Any changes will be announced in advance.

“As this health emergency develops, we will rely on social media, website and school messenger to keep our community up-to-date on school closings and openings,” stated Callahan. “Although our school buildings will be closed, our district office will remain open. We plan to make a decision on future closings based on updated health information before spring break. To best prepare for the closing and eLearning days, WCS staff will be in attendance on Monday, March 16. If you have any questions, please reach out to your child’s building on Monday or the district office afterward.”

Honeywell Foundation announces closings

On Friday, Morgan Ellis, public relations and marketing coordinator for the Honeywell Foundation, issued a statement announcing various venues would have their programming affected, but were planning to reschedule.

“The Honeywell Foundation’s top priority is always the health and safety of its much-valued team, volunteers, and guests. The foundation is abiding by Gov. Holcomb’s mandate including precautionary social distancing to slow and prevent the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), including the prohibition of public gatherings and events of 250 guests of more in the state of Indiana,” stated Ellis. “In compliance with Gov. Holcomb’s instructions and with an abundance of caution, the Honeywell Foundation is suspending all events at Foundation properties including the Honeywell Center, Honeywell House, Eagles Theatre, Dr. James Ford Historic Home and Charley Creek Gardens through Thursday, April 9. The foundation is actively working with agents, managers, artists, and partners in an effort to reschedule performances when possible. Guests will receive updates via email and social media as quickly as they become available. Guests are asked to hold on to their ticket(s) as they will be honored for the rescheduled date(s). In the event of a show being canceled on behalf of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), guests will receive a 100 percent refund and will be contacted directly by the foundation with more information on how to receive a refund. If guests are unable to attend a rescheduled event, a 100 percent refund will be issued.”

While all programs and events are suspended, Ellis stated Eugenia’s Restaurant will remain open during normal business hours from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sundays.

“The Honeywell Foundation values the health and safety of its guests, artists, staff, and community and will continue to monitor the situation closely and with public safety in mind. The Foundation is saddened by the loss of programming for the coming month but will share excitement with the community when events move forward as rescheduled,” stated Ellis.

The following actions were taken regarding upcoming events:

Honeywell Center Programming

2020 Wabash County All-Schools & Peru High School Art Show & Banner Reception on Wednesday, March 18 – canceled.

“Finding Neverland” on Sunday, March 15 – suspended.

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on Saturday, March 28 – suspended.

Hairball on Saturday, April 4 – suspended.

Honeywell House Programming

Cabaret!!! on Thursday, March 19 – suspended.

Dinner and Chamber Series Opus Two on Tuesday, March 24 – suspended.

Conversations on Renovation on Thursday, April 2 – suspended.

Eagles Theatre Ballroom Dances into the Future on Tuesday, April 7 – suspended.

Eagles programming

“Hoosiers” on Friday, March 13 – canceled.

“A Star is Born” on Friday, March 13 – canceled.

“Willy Wonka” on Saturday, March 14 – canceled.

“Green Book” on Saturday, March 14 – canceled.

“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Sunday, March 15 – canceled.

“La La Land” on Sunday, March 15 – canceled.

Top of the Charts on Friday, March 20 – suspended.

Free Open-House Public Tours on Saturday, March 21 – suspended.

Tribute to John Denver on Thursday, March 26 – suspended.

“Mulan” from March 27 to 29 – canceled.

“Onward” from March 27 to 29 – canceled.

Buckets N Boards on Thursday, April 2 – suspended.

Charley Creek Gardens programming

Herbal Teas 101 Lunch & Learn on Wednesday, March 18 – suspended.

Spring Break Bash on Tuesday, April 7 – suspended.

For questions or more information, visit Honeywell Foundation.org or email ticket @honeywellfoundation.org.

For more information on COVID-19 (Coronavirus), visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov/coronavirus.

Parkview Wabash issues new restrictions

In a statement Friday, Tami Brigle, public relations manager for Parkview Health, stated they had implemented precautionary measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

“In its commitment to the health and safety of patients, visitors, co-workers and the community, Parkview Health is implementing multiple precautionary measures across its facilities to mitigate the impact of novel coronavirus (COVID-19),” stated Brigle.

Until further notice, all Parkview hospitals have implemented the following visitor restrictions:

Visitors are limited to one adult (at least 18 years old) per patient. This could include a designated family member or spouse/domestic partner.

No visitors will be allowed in the emergency department (except for a parent or guardian of a minor).

No visitors of any age with respiratory or flu-like symptoms (cold, cough, fever, muscle aches) will be allowed to visit patients or wait in the facility.

No one under the age of 18 will be allowed to visit patients.

Cafeteria services are limited to staff and individuals visiting a patient.

“Parkview is committed to doing everything we can to mitigate the impact of COVID-19,” stated Jeffrey Boord, MD, MPH, chief quality and safety officer, Parkview Health. “These measures are being put in place to protect everyone who comes to a Parkview facility – to work, receive care or be with their loved ones. We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our community as we address the COVID-19 pandemic declared by the World Health Organization.”

To help manage the flow of patients and visitors, some non-essential hospital entrances may be closed.

Valet services have been temporarily suspended. Staff will be stationed in parking lots to aid patients who may need assistance getting to the entrance.

“To safeguard supplies, face masks have been removed from public areas. Staff will provide direction to patients or visitors who may need masks or other personal protective equipment,” stated Brigle.

Parkview’s volunteer services, which aid in a variety of programs, have been temporarily suspended.

“Wherever possible, Parkview Health is practicing social distancing, which means limiting close contact with others, especially in large groups. Community events, classes and non-essential meetings may be cancelled or postponed. Contact the organizer if you are unsure about the status of a specific event, class or meeting,” stated Brigle. “As the largest employer in northeast Indiana, Parkview Health is actively implementing procedures to support and protect its more than 13,000 co-workers. Guidelines for travel, remote work, paid time off, exposure risk and other key areas have been put in place, and human resources continue to proactively take measures that will support our ability to serve the community.”

Parkview Health is offering two free, easy-to-use screening options specific to COVID-19.

People with symptoms or concerns specific to COVID-19 can either visit parkview.com/covid19 screening for detailed self-triage information or call 877-PPG-TODAY (877-774-8632) for a free phone screening.

“Both options are available 24/7 and offer prompt guidance while limiting exposure to others,” stated Brigle. “Patients with minor health concerns unrelated to COVID-19 may wish to utilize telehealth resources to reduce their exposure risk. Parkview’s two mobile applications, Parkview MyChart and Parkview OnDemand both offer virtual visits with a provider. Patients with standing appointments, ongoing care plans or other health concerns should contact their providers prior to canceling or rescheduling appointments.”

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.