Elkhart County Leaders urge caution after Orange COVID Designation

NOW: Elkhart County Leaders urge caution after Orange COVID Designation

ELKHART COUNTY, Ind. - Elkhart County's weekly positivity rate reached a low enough threshold this week that it has now been designated from a Red, most at-risk county to an Orange, second most at-risk county. The county's rate this week was measured at 14.62% putting it under the 15% threshold that made it red earlier this month, but county leaders said they think these numbers are misleading.

"Don't believe the hype," Elkhart Mayor Rod Roberson said. "Our numbers are still showing in certain data points that this pandemic is not only red but burning red in Elkhart County."

Mayor Roberson said the numbers were favorable because of fewer testing being done last week due to people being away for Thanksgiving.

"The numbers do move every week," Roberson said. "We're just a fraction, a fraction of a point out of red. We had a whole lot less testing that moved us out of red to orange. So, we're still in red as far as I'm concerned."

Roberson told small business owners and restaurant managers not to expect any easement of restrictions with this new designation because area hospitals are still at a critical point.

"I want to open back up as much as anyone, but our community spread is so widespread," Roberson said. "Our hospitals are still having their backs against the wall. They're really running low on availability for beds and equipment."

The main difference for Elkhart County now is how restrictions get imposed. As an orange county, local restrictions will now come from a collaborative effort between State and County leadership. The State Health Commissioner cannot impose her own restrictions on an orange county unless that restriction goes statewide. She can impose restrictions specifically on red counties. Small business owners like Black Crow Cafe Owner Andrew Hall, said all they can do is just look to better days ahead.

"It's always nice to see more people here enjoying food and relaxing, but I know in the future, that will happen again," Hall said. "So, I'm just looking ahead."

Mayor Roberson echoed that sentiment, but also said there is more work to be done.

"I want to make sure that we're sending the right messaging to our entire community about how we will and can get back on track completely," Roberson said. "So, this is just another step towards getting back on track, and I hope and pray that we can keep as many businesses open as possible."

Mayor Roberson said he expects the city to pass legislation supporting the mask ordinance Elkhart County passed earlier this week that goes into effect December 14th.

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