Mishawaka not mandating travel restrictions like South Bend, county

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - The city of South Bend and St. Joseph County are under a travel advisory, everyone is urged to stay home except for what’s called “essential” trips, but the city of Mishawaka right next door is not joining in.

“We’re recommending that people stay home but they are really free to move around as they see fit,” Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood said.

Mayor Wood sent out a letter confirming he has not ordered any travel restrictions and does not plan to at this time relying on Mishawaka residents to do the right thing on their own to continue to be careful and safe, directly contradicting the rest of the county.

South Bend Mayor James Mueller and county commissioners announced the change Thursday.

“This situation can get out of hand fast as we’ve seen with other cities across the nation and around the world. We are now at a turning point where additional measures are necessary to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the south bend region,” Mueller said.

Mayor Wood said the Mishawaka website is full of factual information on the coronavirus and safety advice he wants residents to follow like what to do if you think you may have the coronavirus, how to protect yourself from the virus and other resources, but he’s not budging on a travel advisory at this point.

“There’s so much information out there that, we don’t want to add to the panic. We know people are feeling uneasy and not knowing whether they should go out or they shouldn’t but if they follow CDC guidelines, they should be okay and we really want to encourage that,” Wood said.

He said it also has unintended consequences, citing one auto dealership who’s staff are still working but most customers can’t come in now with the travel advisory in place.

“Plus there are always unintended consequences when you do those kinds of decisions. We had many calls after that decision the county and South Bend made, ‘what does that mean for me?’ ‘can I not leave?’”

However, some residents questioning the mayor’s decision.

“I feel like something definitely needs to be said because I feel like we as people don’t take it upon ourselves to be responsible enough so I feel like that direction is needed,” Jose Ramirez-Zamroa, said.

“For them to take that ban off, it puts their people at risk of spreading it to other south bend or St. Joseph county’s local people anywhere,” Shaunteka Alexander said.

Local health officials also disagree with that move, after finding evidence of community transmission here at home.

“For the 6 confirmed cases in St. Joseph county for to date, 5 of them clearly had a known source. Which is why we believe there is evidence of community transmission in St. Joseph county,” Dr. Mark Fox, the Deputy Health Officer for St. Joseph County Department of Health said. “We think that with the identification of community transmission, it does call for an escalation in the mitigations strategies. So work at home for people who can do it. Extreme social distancing, limiting unnecessary travel.”

Mayor Wood said that his team meets every day and reevaluate the situation so things may change in the future but as of right now, there is no travel advisory in place here in the city.

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