Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton. Photo by Stephen Sproull

Editor’s note: This message, written by Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton, was delivered to Bloomingtonians’ email inboxes as part of the mayor’s May newsletter. You can read it in its entirety below.

Last month the COVID-19 pandemic really hit home. Dawn got sick and spent 11 days in the hospital, where they saved her life. Her mother did not make it out of a Pennsylvania COVID ward. The homecoming was sweet as Dawn recovered, but poignant too, with the loss of Carolyn, the wonderful Johnsen family matriarch.
Many, many thousands of families across the country and globe have been hit with loss. Every number is a name and a story and a singular tragedy.
Our community seems so far to have flattened the curve with physical distancing and other measures, which is good news. But we’ve also suffered an economic punch in the gut: several thousand Bloomington residents have filed for unemployment in the last month – staggering numbers – and hundreds of employers have closed or shrunk their operations.
To protect our positive momentum, we’re extending the stay-at-home protocols and continuing the physical distancing and masks-in-public expectations that save lives and slow the disease. Indeed, locally we’ve declined to move as fast as our Governor has – our data does not justify opening up as cases continue to grow. See order extending current rules for two weeks.
Two working groups I set up in March are helping in big ways: bolstering social services in the crisis (including shelter, food, childcare, and health services) and supporting the economy (with emergency loans and other assistance). Folks all throughout Bloomington have stepped up for their neighbors and community. Thanks to all the helpers.
We will continue to monitor the situation and make decisions based on facts and science, to minimize harm and maximize recovery and quality of life.
As we continue to work hard to address this pandemic and determine how best to promote the recovery that WILL come, perhaps one important guiding principle is truly understanding that facts are stubborn and demand attention. The virus is a fact, and no wishful or magical thinking can make it behave differently.
We have needed intentional and intensive planning and action to address the challenge. (Don’t get me going on how badly the Trump administration has handled this, with awful bungling and braggadocio that hurt millions, but I digress…)
Some other stubborn facts will challenge us as we design and implement our recovery: climate change is real, an existential threat, and also demands dramatic and quick responses; income and wealth inequality are real, and dramatically worse over the past two generations, and demand intentional and intensive action; racial disparities persist – in this health crisis and elsewhere – and call for lasting remedies. And more of course.
Government must be countercyclical in times like these. We should help reduce pain and suffering and loss as much as possible. We need to accelerate recovery and opportunity however we responsibly can. Watch for ideas about that – and please share your own – so we can move forward into a sustainable community that works for all, and welcomes all, and is a good steward of all our resources.
With a final note to all the workers who keep things going – saving lives in health care, providing basic needs of food, water and shelter for all, protecting public safety, and just keeping all the gears turning – we say THANK YOU, and we redouble our commitment to support the dignity of all work and all people.
Democratically yours,
PS: If you want to get regular updates, some options include: Sundays HT Mayor’s Corner Q&AMondays WFHB news from the Mayor at 5pm, and a short weekly video message I share directly. Tuesdays I’m live on WGCL at 4pm; Wednesdays are presentations from me and others from my administration at City Council at 6:30pm, and Fridays at 1:15pm are weekly press conferences (hosted by IU and shared live on Facebook).