Michiana Event Center still hosting events in Pandemic

NOW: Michiana Event Center still hosting events in Pandemic

SHIPSHEWANA, Ind. - LaGrange County is one of the hardest hit areas by the Pandemic in Michiana. It's 24.8% positivity rate is the highest in the State of Indiana. This week, the LaGrange County Health Officer threatened to shut down businesses not complying with the statewide mask mandate and other COVID-19 restrictions. Also, this week, video surfaced on social media showing a large crowd gathered at the Michiana Event Center (MEC) for a rodeo back on November 7th. The crowd did not appear to be practicing social distancing and most people there were without facemasks. It all has some in the community struggling with complying with pandemic mandates.

"We've had several restaurants shut down due to the possibility of COVID spread," Dustin Diehm, a lifelong LaGrange resident, said. "It's definitely tough," said Diehm who also works at a truck repair shop in LaGrange. "As a group, we're part of a ten-dealership network, and we're one of the smallest ones. So, restricting access to the building just to the number of customers that are coming through definitely puts a cramp in our situation."

Diehm said the County Health Officers shutdown threat does not affect where he works very much because as it is they see very little foot traffic.

"We sanitize all the time, and we spray all the time," said Nicole Meade, Diehm's manager. "We're doing what we can."

County Health Officer Dr. Tony Pechim said adhering to those policies can save lives in LaGrange County.

He released a statement Wednesday that said:

"To improve, and indeed save the lives of our community, the Lagrange county health department is urgently trying to help our local businesses comply with the governor’s order on proper mask wearing, social distancing, hygiene, and decreasing the size of social gatherings. The financial strain is proving to be a difficult obstacle for many businesses during this time. And it will require the individual citizen to get on board with us to achieve a reduction in the spread of Sars CoV 2."

Meanwhile, the MEC is still hosting large events in its arena. A recent video appearing on social media showing a large crowd at the Rodeo ant the MEC in early November has people like Diehm and Meade scratching their heads.

"I can't believe they're not limiting the number of people that are allowed in at a time," Diehm said. "That seems like the only way they could have something like that would be to restrict access to the building which kind of limits the opportunities for the sellers that are setting up for some of these shows."

Diehm said because of events like the Rodeo, he and his family have no plans to go to the MEC during the pandemic.

"Since the pandemic started, we've tried to avoid large crowds as much as possible," Diehm said. "When we do shopping trips, we try to limit them to one member of the family going to pick stuff up."

Meade said she agreed.

"I don't know," Meade said. "I don't think they're saying how many people can go at one time. I think they're filling all the seats. So, unless they have mandatory masks over there, I don't think I would go."

The Michiana Event Center declined to comment on this story, but according to its website, it does plan to continue hosting events throughout the remainder of the year.

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