Berrien County reacts to lifted restrictions across state line
BERRIEN COUNTY, Mich. -- As Indiana prepares to remove its mask mandate and business restrictions in two weeks, just north of the state line in Berrien County, the health department is trying to keep a spike in cases from turning into a fourth wave.
“We have the finish line of this pandemic in sight, we can’t quit now, especially with the recent uptick in cases,” said Gillian Conrad, MPH, Communications Director at the Berrien County Health Department.
But for some businesses, like Harvest Café in Niles – which sits right on the edge of Indiana – this only further emphasizes the need for Michigan to adopt a county approach to restrictions.
“What’s happening in Detroit isn’t necessarily relevant to what’s happening here and so it feels like the blanket approach isn’t the best,” said owner Pamela Sebasty.
The Southwest Michigan Regional Chamber said that even the criteria used for Indiana’s decision to reopen mirrors Michigan.
“Cases, deaths and vaccination rates,” said President & CEO Arthur Havlicek, “Michigan’s almost identical to Indiana in those categories, so it’s disappointing that we can still be so far behind.”
And it will only further damage Michigan businesses if the state doesn’t follow suit.
“We’re seeing a lot of revenue and tax dollars migrate south of the border, and we’re also seeing talent migrate as well because it’s a much more secure place to work,” said Havlicek.
But as tough as it is to still be under tight restrictions, it’s better than fully reopening to only move backwards once again.
“Most of the restaurant owners I’ve talked to have been perfectly willing to keep whatever mandates in place to just be able to keep their customers safe, I would not like to see us go backwards,” said Sebasty.
And a gradual reopening may be worth it in the end for Michiganders.
“We have to think of things more as a dimmer switch rather than a light switch that can just be flicked on, especially with some of the new variants of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Conrad.
Michigan still has a statewide mask mandate, restaurants and retail must operate at 50 percent capacity, and employers must have their staff work remotely whenever possible.