Gov. Holcomb extends stay-at-home order to May 1st, discusses steps towards reopening

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb addressing the state Friday, a day after President Donald Trump spoke about a three-phase plan to reopen the U.S economy.

Holcomb announcing the executive stay-at-home order will be extended to May 1st in order.

“This is going to allow us to make sure we are all on the same page,” Holcomb said. “So we can continue monitoring our case numbers day by day, where they’re coming from, maintaining our supply pipelines and levels, continuing testing in different ways in different places, utilizing a contract tracing program and of course reviewing our business sectors ideas to safely reopen.”

Of course, everyone hearing President Trump’s new guidelines saw hope on the horizon that businesses can soon reopen and people get back to work. But officials at the state and local level want to make sure people know there is still a long road for us before we can fully reopen.

Governor Eric Holcomb is not being rushed by President Trump’s three-part plan to reopen the economy.

The plan requires states to have a sustained plateau of new coronavirus cases, an enhanced ability to test and trace, hospitals that can handle any kind of resurgence and new safe social distancing practices in the workplace.

Holcomb saying Friday his team has reached out to manufacturers, realtors, retailers, restaurants, employers, legislators and mayors from all over the state to gauge their thoughts and ideas for a safe, phases in reopening.

St. Joseph County’s COVID-19 leader says the worst thing that can happen is rushing it and having the coronavirus make a comeback.

“I think it’s a very thoughtful and systematic approach. Obviously, we want the economy to get back going, people are anxious to get back to work, businesses are anxious to get back open but we also want it to be safe,” Jeff Rea, the county’s COVID-19 response coordinator said. “What worries us is what if we went back too early, didn’t take the precautions needed and had to go through this again.”

In a virtual press conference, earlier on Friday South Bend Mayor James Mueller also addressed President Trump’s plan.

The plan would allow individual states to decide when to reopen based on certain criteria. Mueller said reaching those benchmarks will take time.

“We need to be careful, we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But we still have no idea how far we are from the end of the tunnel,” Mueller said. “We’re encouraged by the numbers, where the curve that dr. Fox just showed is flattening but we still have… these are still some of the most intense days yet and we still may be climbing.”

Models shown by the county’s COVID-19 response team say the peak is not here yet and will only be here late April early May.

In the meantime, slowing the spread remains a top priority.

The city of South Bend is setting up a regional isolation/quarantine facility in Roseland for individuals who have tested positive or are waiting for their test results. That will go until June 14th.

The response team was looking at locations for additional medical facilities but have determined that that won’t be needed.

And testing has increased in the county with both mobile and set testing facilities set up around town.

“Testing is going to continue to be an important one as we reopen. That’s going to be critical,” Rea said. “We tested more people here locally and in Indiana than we have had at any point during this entire virus. So that’s a good sign. And we’ve reached out to all sides of the county for that. Separation still remains key.”

Right now, county officials are also advocating for better small business loans to help residents get back on their feet and support the reopening process over the next few months.

However, before even thinking about reopening county officials say the surge coming in the next couple weeks will probably hit the Michiana area a little later than Indianapolis and when that happens it’s important that we are prepared.

“We’re making plans for when that happens, do the hospitals have the capacity, do we have enough ventilators those kinds of things. I have confidence in what’s going on here locally,” Rea said. “I was with Dr. Box on a phone call this morning, the state head of health who was on with the governor and she was very complimentary about the effort that was happing out in the county to prepare for what’s happening.”

With testing at high levels, we have not seen before, and hospitals and other health care sites having an adequate supply of PPE, we are well on our way.

Of course, social distancing and travel advisories remain in place.

The city also has several loan options for businesses struggling during this time.

Rea said the most important step before reopening the state is finding best practices that will keep us open and safe down the road.

“Can a restaurant that’s figured this out help other restaurants learn about the best practices or safety measures that will do this,” he said. “We’re trying to give feedback to the governor as well too. And he’s really reached out to all corners of the state and says help me understand what this looks like for a small business community starting to open back up and what kind of things should happen to make that work.”

County officials have a “restarting the economy” survey that is out.  They are seeking input from businesses on what they need to be able to rebound and reopen going forward.  Click here for that survey.

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