Few words — some perhaps not printable — better describe 2020 than “unprecedented.”
From the day coronavirus first made its appearance on the front page of The Tribune on Feb. 20, you’d be hard-pressed to find any story that didn’t contain COVID-19, pandemic or coronavirus on the front page or any inside page for that matter. In fact, there have been more than 1,000 news items containing the word coronavirus and/or COVID-19 this year.
That ranged from school cancellations that started in mid-March and later led to eLearning to Gov. Eric Holcomb ordering Hoosiers to stay home from March 25 to April 7 — later extended to April 20 and then to May 1 — to the cancellation of almost every major event from the Jackson County Fair to Seymour Oktoberfest and Seymour CityJam to Fort Vallonia Days.
All of the spring’s high school athletic events were canceled, and it took some creative thinking to even hold graduations for high school seniors.
The primary election, normally held on the first Tuesday of May during election years, was even pushed back into June.
Besides coronavirus and COVID-19, there were a lot of new words and phrases or new uses for old words and phrases thrown at us, including “wear a mask,” “hunker down Hoosiers,” nonessential gatherings, virtual learning, social distancing, the Bubble, telehealth, the CARES Act, hybrid schedules … The list is endless.
Restaurants were restricted to carryout for a couple of months during the lockdown. Some would open later, but others never reopened their dining rooms and may not do so any time soon. Banks also have not opened their lobbies except by appointment.
Government offices also were closed during the lockdown, and many are still holding virtual meetings even now following a recent surge in positive cases.
Many couples planning to marry this year either adjusted their plans or decided to put their weddings off until next year, and many family get-togethers were postponed and eventually canceled.
There also have been weekly updates from Gov. Eric Holcomb and Schneck Medical Center about the progression of the pandemic.
For better — or worse — some of the actions taken in response to the pandemic have forced people to spend most of their time at home with their families.
Working from home also has become much more commonplace and gives us a glimpse of the future.
We’ve gone fewer places and taken less vacations, but on the other hand, we have used less fuel, perhaps keeping our air a little cleaner.
The cancellations also forced nonprofits to think outside the box when it comes to fundraising, and they found some creative ways to do so.
Although they can be hard to find, some good things have been happening here in Jackson County despite the pandemic.
The community pulled together, supporting overworked hospital staff and other hometown heroes in a number of ways and finding new ways to help their fellow Hoosiers.
Here’s a look at the top stories of the year:
The first positive case of COVID-19 was reported here March 20 and involved a Seymour woman.
Rita Hinners, who was hospitalized for 82 days and spent 19 days on a ventilator, came home June 20.
The county’s first COVID-19 related death was reported April 22.
Since that time, another 42 county residents have been listed as dying from complications for COVID-19 and 3,693 have tested positive for the virus.
A Bartholomew County man was arrested on a murder charge on the morning of May 6 after Ryan Joseph Ross, 28, of Seymour was found shot to death in an apartment at Sycamore Springs.
Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer later said Tobias E. Au, 30, of Hope shot Ross when he went to the apartment of his former girlfriend, Dakota Anderson, on the city’s far east side to exchange their child.
A motive in the case was never released, although Anderson was dating Ross at the time.
Au hung himself in his jail cell May 10 and died seven days later, police reported.
A 43-year-old Seymour man, convicted on five criminal charges stemming from his failure to get treatment for his son who had ingested a deadly dose of methamphetamine in June 2018, will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.
Curtis Collman II received a 60-year prison sentence from Jackson Circuit Court Judge Richard W. Poynter during a hearing Nov. 5.
A jury found Collman guilty of a Level 1 felony count of neglect resulting in death and four additional felony and misdemeanor counts a month earlier.
The charges stem from the death of his 8-year-old son, Curtis Collman III, who died June 21, 2018, at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour.
A toxicology report revealed the boy had 180 times the lethal limit of meth in his bloodstream when he died.
On Nov. 1, detectives with the Indiana State Police Versailles Post were called to investigate an officer-involved shooting that occurred along Tipton Street near Burkart Boulevard on Seymour’s east side.
The officers involved in the incident that led to the death of Jason S. Cline, 43, of Beech Grove were placed on administrative leave while the Indiana State Police investigated the incident
That incident started after police responded to a report of theft at Walmart Supercenter in Seymour. Police arriving in the area found a man, later identified as Cline, with a shopping cart containing suspected stolen items near the Speedway convenience store in the 1500 block of East Tipton Street.
Police later said Cline fled officers into a deep ditch on the north side of Tipton Street in front of Taco Bell restaurant. The officers caught up to Cline, and while attempting to place him in handcuffs, Cline resisted and pointed a gun at the officers, who both fired their guns, hitting Cline, police said.
The officers provided aid to Cline, who also had gone by the names of Jason Tabor and Jason Tabor Cline in the past, before he was taken to Schneck Medical Center, where he died as a result of his injuries.
The officers’ names have not been released by police, and no findings have yet to be announced by ISP.
Although counting of ballots of Jackson County voters took longer than normal, there were no real surprise winners.
Nearly 68% or 19,422 of the county’s 28,648 registered voters cast ballots in the days leading up to the Nov. 3 general election or that day.
The total included 10,199 who voted before the general election. Counting the early ballots would delay the release of official results until early on the morning of Nov. 4.
Republicans won all five of the contested countywide races.
Incumbent District 2 county Commissioner Bob Gillaspy of Seymour won reelection; three county council at-large seats were taken by Dave Hall and John Nolting, both of Brownstown, and Brett Turner of Crothersville; and political newcomer Paul Foster captured the coroner’s contest.
Interstate 65 project winds down
In early September, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was conducted by state and local government officials at the northbound weigh station on Interstate 65 near Seymour.
The purpose was to celebrate the completion of a nearly three-year, 14.25-mile project to widen Interstate 65 to three lanes between Exit 50 at Seymour to Exit 64 at Walesboro.
The $143 million I-65 Southeast Indiana Project was mostly complete at that time, although some work, including the installation of two roundabouts, continued at the State Road 11 interchange (Exit 55) through the end of November.
Heavy truck traffic accounts for close to 30% of daily traffic on I-65 in southeast Indiana, and that amount is expected to increase significantly in the next 20 years, leading to the need for the project, officials said at the time.
Burkart South Bypass
Construction of a bypass around the south side of Seymour started in the summer.
The three-phase, $30 million project, which won’t be finished until sometime in June 2022, is designed to connect the east side of the city from Burkart Boulevard to Freeman Field on the west side.
About 20% or $6 million of the project’s cost will come from the Seymour Redevelopment Commission with the bulk of the expense being covered by federal transportation grants.
The goal of the bypass is threefold: To help alleviate the amount of semi traffic driving through the city on U.S. 50, to give motorists, especially emergency vehicles, a much-needed option to get around trains coming through Seymour with the addition of a railroad overpass and to open up the southern area for future development and growth.
Despite the customer restrictions created by the pandemic, there has been what seems to be a resurgence of business interest in downtown Seymour.
Several new restaurants have opened there this year, including Schwätzers, Vat and Barrel and Reed’s Place: Steak and Chop Shop. The owners of Brewskies Grub and Pub also moved that restaurant from its location on U.S. 50 near Interstate 65 to downtown and changed the name to Brewskies Downtown, and The Healthy Corner, offering protein shakes, teas, coffees, aloe shots and acai protein bowls, also opened downtown.
Raquel Pasillas also converted her bakery to Seymour Healthy Zone, offering protein shakes, protein coffees, teas, energy tea bombs, protein waffles and crepes.
Other downtown business openings include The Castle Games, Scarlet’s Primitive Pets and The Magic of Books Bookstore.
At least three downtown businesses, however, closed their doors during the year. They were Chillicen, Bullwinkle’s Family Restaurant and Reno’s Cigar and Martini Lounge.
Infant placed in Seymour’s baby box
A healthy newborn baby girl was placed inside the Safe Haven Baby Box at Seymour Fire Station 3 on Jan. 23, less than a year after the box became operational.
Seymour Fire Chief Brad Lucas said the baby was retrieved within 60 seconds from the box and taken to Schneck Medical Center.
“The system worked perfectly,” Lucas said. “We had firefighters in the building, and the ambulance was on scene within minutes. The baby was transferred to the hospital and is doing great.”
She was the first newborn to be surrendered in Seymour’s baby box.
The infant was placed in the custody of Indiana Child Protective Services to find a set of adoptive parents for her.
In November, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay allowing the Nativity scene to continue to be displayed outside the courthouse in Brownstown.
The Nativity scene went up the day after Thanksgiving. Jackson County currently is appealing a federal court decision saying the display is unconstitutional. That decision was made in May by Indiana Southern District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.
It is unknown as to how soon the ruling on the county’s appeal will be made. The stay motion was granted in a 2-1 decision. The dissenting judge, David F. Hamilton, said the stay motion violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“The dominant religious content of the display communicates to a reasonable observer a governmental endorsement of Christianity, a matter as to which government must remain neutral,” Hamilton said.