Concern about coronavirus spike in letter to Elkhart business community

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An open letter to the local business community from the Mayors of Elkhart, Goshen and Nappanee, county commissioners and top business leaders expressing concern about a spike in coronavirus cases as Elkhart County is now the fifth highest in the state when it comes to the number of cases. Th

The following is a letter signed by Elkhart County Mayors Jeremy Stutsman, Rod Roberson and Phil Jenkins, Commissioners Frank Lucchese, Suzie Weirick and Mike Yoder, as well as Elkhart County’s chambers of commerce and Economic Development Corporation Presidents Nick Kieffer, Levon Johnson, Jeff Kitson and Chris Stager:

June 1, 2020

To the Business Community of Elkhart County,

We are reaching out to you to share our concerns about the spread of COVID-19, particularly as it relates to Elkhart County.

In March and April, our community did a great job working together to slow the spread of the virus and assure that we could medically test and treat those who were infected. We expected a peak in mid-May in northern Indiana, but numbers in the past week in particular are troubling. As of June 1, Elkhart County had a total of 1,322 positive cases from 9,849 tested and 28 people have died from the coronavirus.

The State of Indiana is decreasing the percentage of new positive cases in comparison to the number of tests given. The temporary shut down and actions of people as we open up seem to have been successful statewide. Our county tells a different story. In the past week, Elkhart County received national attention when it became the 10th most likely in the entire country to have the next COVID-19 outbreak, based on data collected by the New York Times. This has since changed and we are no longer on the high end of the list, but only because other counties are doing worse.

As of today, we expect to see our total number of cases double every 12.5 days. Our county is testing a significant number more people than we have in the past which means our total number of positive cases will rise. The problem is our percentage of positive tests to total tests given is rising dramatically. This shows that we have a spread issue. The first couple of months we saw a daily positive test percentage of 4% to 9%. Since the economy has reopened, we have seen that jump to 16%, and the last week the percentages of positive tests rose to 20% to 25%. By comparison, Indiana dropped from 18% to the current 7.5% daily positives.

If you look at Indiana’s data of positive cases by age, it is clear people ages 20 to 60 are the ones spreading the virus. This is us and this is our work force. As we have returned to work, the number of people who are getting sick is growing. Since we appeared on the national list, state and federal agencies have started looking closer at Elkhart County and we are at risk of them taking action to shut us down again. The CDC, OSHA, State Board of Health, or the Governor could order Elkhart County to again stay home entirely if we don’t act now to slow the spread again. The best solution for all of us is to do this voluntarily rather than be told to shut down. We cannot afford to shut down again if we can avoid it, but we can afford to take the time to reinforce our efforts and precautions. Companies with outbreaks have suffered work shut-downs, morale issues and community embarrassment. We need to not allow anyone outside Elkhart County to
control our ability to manage this pandemic. We will work with each and every one of you to support your efforts. We just ask that you stand beside us as well. We are all in this together.

We want to remind everyone that social distancing, masks and handwashing are just as essential now as they have been over the past two months. If we become complacent and relax our personal or workplace protocols and behaviors, we could see the disease spread in even more deadly ways.

These are not fun times, but we can take steps to slow the spread of the virus and keep our community safer. We need to work together, possibly slow output, and both implement and enforce safe practices. We are now seeing record volumes of COVID-19 patients in our Urgent Care facilities and our hospitals have more patients than ever due to COVID-19.

We are a team here in Elkhart County. We all rely on the other. In the time of a pandemic, the actions of a few can have a large effect on all of us, our health and our economy.

Thank you to all of you who are already taking the appropriate steps and thank you to those who will step up again as you have in the past.

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