At the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic in April of 2020, Scott Fadness, the first Mayor of Fishers, Indiana ceased coordinating efforts with state and county health departments and held an “emergency meeting” to create an additional, new health department. While other city leaders throughout the state of Indiana worked diligently with well established county health departments to stop the spread of COVID-19, Fadness chose to start from scratch and spend the city’s time and resources to build and expand an agency that would serve as a third “layer” of health departments for residents. Why would he do this when no other city in Indiana chose to create a new health department? Mayor Fadness told the City Council that a brand new health department was necessary to provide testing for residents and help business open after closure – this turned out to be completely false. Funding to the county health department would be reduced and efforts such as contact tracing, COVID-19 testing and education would be produced and provided by the Fishers Health Department (FHD) – even as these services quickly became readily available from state and county health departments. Testing, tracing, education, mandates and orders all became a chaotic mess of duplicate and overlapping services and public health instruction.
Nearly a year later, the results have been disastrous. Residents were angry and confused by the conflicting orders and mandates, businesses were ordered closed while others in nearby neighborhoods remained open, churches complained of unfair targeting, and the public school system became the last in the entire county to provide in-person education for students – even lagging behind many of the much larger Indianapolis public school systems. Perhaps most concerning is that there remains no indication of any public health benefit to the residents of Fishers as cases, deaths, hospitalizations, mental health and other key indicators are on par – and in some instances worse – than surrounding communities operating under county and state guidance.
It didn’t have to happen this way and other leaders worked together to make things better for their community. Fishers chose to go-it-alone. Together, we can work with our neighbors to restore our partnerships with county and state experts and rebuild a more Healthy Fishers.