St. Joseph County not rolling back on reopening phase

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SOUTH BEND, Ind.-- In response to the spike in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in St. Joseph County, health officials discussed taking a step back from Governor Eric Holcomb’s stage 5 Back on Track plan earlier this week, and Thursday, announced they will not roll back the county’s reopening plan after all.

“At this point we’re not going to be issuing any new public health order so we not be rolling back in respect to the stages,” St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said. “Our conclusion is that there’s wide-spread community transmission. so how do we control that?”

As of Wednesday, over 7,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded in St. Joe County and in October are nearing similar numbers from the deadliest month in September with 16 deaths.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller is calling the spike the highest it’s been all year.

“It’s no secret that I thought we were reopening a little too fast in May, so we never got the numbers down to a safe level,” South Bend Mayor James Mueller said. “Then there was the spike from campus reopening and that was mostly contained to what was happening at the University of Notre Dame then we went through Labor Day did a good job and number were actually coming back down through mid-September and now we’ve seen a big spike in the past couple weeks, the highest level in the community we’ve seen all year.”

While rolling back a stage or two isn’t in the cards right now, officials are putting the magnifying glass on businesses not following state mask and sanitation orders.

“The Governor’s orders related to stage 5 are pretty clear about expectations for bars and restaurants,” Dr. Fox said. “It’s any establishment that creates conditions that are unsafe with respect to the pandemic that the local health officer has the authority to issue abatement orders.”

Under the stage 5 plan, up to 500 people can gather in an indoor group setting. However, health officials encourage people to keep that number to a max of 10 people in an indoor space as an extra enforcement mechanism to try and flatten the curve.

“You ought to operate on the presumption that someone in that space is infected and how will your behavior change, how should your behavior change with that as your premise,” Dr. Fox said.

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