Mayor sounds the alarm as COVID-19 cases surge in Gary
By Erick Johnson
The Genesis Convention Center may be used as a field hospital to help treat COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, according to a recent proposal by Mayor Jerome Prince.
Prince reportedly offered the Genesis Center last week to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The mayor said Gary and Northwest Indiana urgently need state and federal resources to prevent more deaths from a disease that as of April 15 has killed 127,590 people worldwide.
In Gary, COVID-19 has killed five people and infected 174, Prince announced Tuesday, April 14 at his daily briefing on the health crisis.
In Lake County, 31 people have died, 819 have been infected and 3,813 people have been tested for the coronavirus, according to the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH).
In Indiana, 8,236 residents have tested positive for the virus and 44,539 have been tested, according to state data.
Mayor Prince said the Genesis Center must be chosen so the building process can begin, to avoid future deaths.
In one news report, Prince said he has exhausted the city’s local resources to address the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on Gary.
A predominately Black city, there is concern that Gary is not equipped to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. In many U.S. cities, the virus has killed and infected more Blacks than any other ethnic group.
Long a neglected city in a Republican state, there is concern that Gary’s needs during the health crisis will be overlooked by Indiana’s political leaders.
Prince said the Genesis Center is a strong choice for a field hospital and now “it’s time for the government to act.”
“They must select the Genesis Center and begin the building process now so we can avoid future deaths, and a potential humanitarian crisis, as much as possible,” said one news report.
Dedicated in 1982 under Mayor Richard Gordon Hatcher, the Genesis Center has 24,472 square-foot of space that has been used for graduations, sporting events, concerts and public funerals. Located across from City Hall, the Genesis Center is easily accessible from Interstate-90, but remains largely underutilized throughout the year.
Dr. Ronald Walker, GaryHealth Commissioner reportedly has been working for some time to get a field hospital set up in Gary. According to news reports, Walker had an extended conversation with ISDH leaders about converting the Genesis Center into a temporary field hospital, but there are concerns about finding staff and medical professionals for the proposed operation.
Walker is reportedly talking to numerous schools, including Indiana University School of Medicine, where some students are graduating early and are willing to help.
Meanwhile, the ISDH reportedly has sent strike teams to two Gary nursing homes with positive cases to make sure the staff is properly sanitizing and maintaining the facility to keep it clean and safe for employees and facility residents.