COVID-19: April 7 update from Urban Times / four reports

1. Indianapolis Public Library is a resource for remote learners
2. Woodruff Place Flea Market postponed until autumn
3: Kroger limits number of customers in store at one time
4: City outlines efforts to care for the homeless during pandemic

REPORT 1: Library can be great resource for students learning at home

To support students and teachers who are continuing their academic school year via remote instruction, The Indianapolis Public Library is providing a vast collection of free research and study tools at that target specific subject areas and meet various curriculum standards.

Most resources can be found in the “Research” section of the Library’s website where users can search by subject categories such as “Homework Help” for all grade levels, or in the blog where various tools are highlighted and explained. Library staff have also directly communicated with school systems to emphasize Library resources that allow teachers to search for activities by curriculum standard.

During this time, certain publishers of online products have removed restrictions or limits that might normally be in place.  These include Tumblebooks, which features e-books and math picture books with animation for grades K – 6, as well as e-books and educator resources for middle school and high school students. The publisher Gale also has resource tools that do not require the use of a Library card for all grade levels, including Biography in Context, Global Issues, Opposing Viewpoints, Science, U.S. History and World History.

Other Library e-resources that support curriculum standards as well as provide homework help include National Geographic Kids, World Book, Explora for Middle Schools and High Schools, CultureGrams, Sirs Issues Researcher, and African American Experience.

Many of these resources can be accessed without a Library card. For the ones that do require a card, Marion County students are well positioned to access all of the Library’s electronic resources as a result of an ongoing Library card campaign during which more than 77,000 students in grades K-12 have received free cards.

The blog on the Library’s website features tips and guides for teachers, students and all individuals who need help navigating the online resources. In addition, a Library hotline is available at 317-275-4184, or by text at 317-333-6877, to receive help from a Library information specialist, including getting a new Library card or finding a lost card number. Personal assistance is also available through the contact link on the Library’s website.

REPORT 2: Woodruff Place postpones Flea Market until October

This year’s Woodruff Place Flea Market won’t take place in June as usual, having been rescheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 3-4, in the wake of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic measures.

The Flea Market Committee made the difficult decision during an April 3 video conference. Committee members said the decision came from a “powerful consensus to put safety first and delay the gathering.”

Committee members said the weather is usually lovely in early autumn, and the date – as far as can be known now – should not conflict with or crowd other events in which many neighbors may participate. The committee will be monitoring government recommendations and restrictions, and any further changes will be communicated to the neighborhood as soon as they are made.  

Any specific questions can be sent to the committee at the Flea Market email, Committee members said they look forward to seeing the classic and prized Woodruff Place ingenuity, humor, and fun that are sure to accompany this “new normal” for the 2020 Flea Market.

REPORT 3: Kroger limits number of customers in store at one time

Kroger has implemented customer capacity limits to further encourage physical distancing in stores. Beginning April 7, the retailer will begin to limit the number of customers to 50% of the international building code’s calculated capacity to allow for proper physical distancing in every store.

“Kroger’s introduction of customer capacity limits is one more way we are doing our part to flatten the curve while operating as an essential business, providing our customers with access to fresh, affordable food and products,” said Mary Ellen Adcock, Kroger’s senior vice president of operations. “During this national pandemic, we are committed to adopting preventive measures to help protect the safety and health of our associates, customers and communities.”

As an illustration, the standard building capacity for a grocery store is 1 person per 60 square feet. Under Kroger’s new reduced capacity limits, the number will be 1 person per 120 square feet. Kroger will begin to monitor the number of customers per square foot in its stores using its industry-leading QueVision technology, which already provides a count of the customers entering and exiting stores.

“By leveraging QueVision, our technology system that uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics, we will be able to more efficiently support our new capacity limits, creating a safer environment for our customers and associates,” said Yael Cosset, Kroger’s chief technology and digital officer.

Kroger’s new customer capacity limits joins other measures the retailer has established over the last few weeks to promote physical distancing, including the addition of plexiglass partitions and educational floor decals and airing of a healthy habits message via in-store radio to encourage customers to practice good hygiene and spatial awareness.

Kroger and its affiliates have also recently implemented protective and preventive measures including protective face masks and gloves for associates, wellness checks for associates, piloting one-way aisles in select markets, and waived prescription delivery fees.

REPORT 4: City outlines efforts to care for the homeless during pandemic

Mayor Joe Hogsett has announced ongoing efforts to serve Indianapolis residents experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts are the result of collaboration among city, state, and county agencies, along with community partners.

“As a city, our number one priority is the health and safety of our residents. Just like anyone else in our community, our most vulnerable neighbors are safer at home,” Hogsett said. “That’s why we are committed to a community response that provides shelter, food, healthcare, and other resources to our residents experiencing homelessness, and helps them follow social distancing and other public health guidelines to the greatest extent possible.”

The nature of COVID-19 transmission creates increased exposure risk for those in shelters or on the street, and produces a need for additional resources and proactive measures to slow the spread of the virus among these individuals. The city has partnered with the Marion County Public Health Department, Wheeler Mission and local faith groups to establish temporary overflow shelter space that allows for homeless neighbors to seek shelter while still maintaining a safe distance. These temporary shelters have been established at Garfield Park and Washington Park. The city’s Winter Contingency has also been extended past March 31 to better serve this population.

“Preventing the spread of COVID-19 among all residents is critical to flattening the curve of spread in our community,” said Virginia A. Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department. “My thanks to the Lilly Endowment, the United Way of Central Indiana, and the many community partners who have stepped up by providing funding, services, or other resources to care for those experiencing homelessness.”

City officials report working closely with members of the Indianapolis Continuum of Care on crisis response measures, including the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), disinfectants, thermometers, and other needed supplies, and the placement of portable handwashing stations at key downtown locations. Screening tools for outreach and shelter providers, as well as response workflows that can help with decision-making following screenings, have also been provided, and a public health infographic has been posted at known locations where groups may be sleeping outdoors.

 “We have been working over recent weeks to responsibly utilize City facilities and resources to ensure our most vulnerable residents can access shelter and support following social distancing guidelines, all while maintaining a healthy workforce of outreach providers who can care for these individuals safely,” said Paul Babcock, director of the city’s Office of Public Health and Safety.

As was announced on April 2, OPHS has fostered a partnership between the city, Second Helpings, Pacers Sports and Entertainment, and Professional Blended Street Outreach to safely provide more than 1,600 fresh meals per week to individuals sleeping outside and in encampments through the pandemic. The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Homeless Unit also continues to serve those experiencing homelessness during this time.