Michiana officials dispute President Trump's wish to ease social distancing

NOW: Michiana officials dispute President Trump’s wish to ease social distancing

ELKHART, Ind. - Hours after President Donald Trump announced he wants the United States to be "back up and running" with businesses back open by Easter, the Elkhart Common Council held a special call-in meeting to discuss the city's response to the coronavirus pandemic. As a show of social distancing, the meeting was primarily virtual with constituents calling in via video chats and web chats.

Michiana city and health officials said it is not yet time to ease off on the social distancing guidelines coming from the State and Federal Government.

"I would say that at this point in time, it is just too soon to tell when we will be quote 'back up and running,'" said Gillian Conrad, the Berrien County Health Department Communications manager. "As we are in the midst of this response, we're still in the early parts of this outbreak, this pandemic here in the United States."

Just before the Elkhart Common Council announced the city will be moving to essential staff only until further notice in response to the pandemic, Fourth District City Councilman Dwight Fish said there is still more work to do to flatten the curve of COVID-19 cases before easing off the social distancing guidelines.

"I can understand where he's coming from, but I will tell you that we're not even close to the end of flattening that curve out," Fish said. "We've got a lot more time to spend trying to find how we can control the virus through public meetings and individuals that are not following the social distancing rules, trying to visit people in nursing homes and going to grocery stores without taking proper precautions. A lot of the people that I see out really, probably shouldn't be out."

President Trump said getting people back to work is essential to getting the economy back on track, but health officials said it's critical to let the social distancing guidelines run their course.

"It is true that we are in unprecedented times," Conrad said. "Never before in our lifetimes have we had to respond to a viral pandemic like we are right now with COVID-19. It is anxiety-producing. It is scary. We don't know what the outcome of this will look like in any of our communities, but we do know how we can slow the spread of the transmission of the virus, how we can protect our communities' most vulnerable and how we can ensure that our health care partners and our hospital systems do not become overwhelmed with critically ill patients and that we're able to treat the people who get sick and help them get better. Ultimately, the social distancing measures, the executive orders that are in place right now are going to help save lives."

Conrad also said it's important to note that an area with low positive COVID-19 test results does not necessarily make that area low risk. She said low positive test results could also mean the area does not have adequate testing resources. She said it's important to always act as though you are in a high risk area and that patience and diligence will be key in getting through the pandemic precautionary measures.

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