Elkhart County could be next COVID-19 hotspot in the US

Published: May. 28, 2020 at 7:34 PM EDT
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Elkhart County leaders, as well as the city, say they're alarmed after recent New York Times data calls Elkhart one of the next emerging hotspots in the country for COVID-19.

16 News Now spoke with the mayor's office as well as county emergency management staff to learn why this spike in cases is happening and what people can do to stop it.

"We were just as concerned as everyone else was when we saw that big spike and that big increase, especially being included in that New York Times data," Corinne Straight-Reed says. She is Director of Communications for Mayor Roberson.

"I'm very alarmed because obviously our message isn't getting out to the people that it needs to get out to," Director of Emergency Management for Elkhart County Jenn Tobey says.

Elkhart County has now jumped up to 1,101 cases of COVID-19. A week ago from the date of this article the total was at 844 cases.

The county putting out a press release saying the New York Times is ranking Elkhart as 10th in the nation for being the next possible outbreak area.

"We're reaching numbers as high as 69 positives a day, a couple days where we had 57 (and) 49 but honestly our numbers are doubling, kind-of, week-to-week," Tobey says.

So between information from the city and the county, these are the main reasons for the increase in cases.

More people are getting back to work as the state reopens

Those manufacturing jobs, like the RV industry, create an environment where social distancing can be difficult.

People are coming from outside the county to work, possibly bringing COVID-19 with them.

There is increased access to testing, which is giving a more accurate reading of cases in Elkhart County.

Unlike St. Joseph County, there's no mask requirement in Elkhart County.

"I don't think it takes the government to tell people to do that. I mean, if you as an individual chooses to take the risk to go to a grocery store and you feel safer in a mask, then wear a mask," Tobey says.

"We do know from information that we get from our partners and our contacts at Elkhart General Hospital that wearing a mask is the number one determinant whether or not a positive person passes this virus along," Straight-Reed says.

As the cases rise in Elkhart County leaders here are saying to stay safe, and don't let your guard down.

"Although things are opening back up, it does not mean that the virus has slowed down," Straight-Reed adds.

"It's here, we know it's here, but to flatten the curve, we have to follow some of the rules," Tobey says.

Those rules are what we've heard before; sanitizing, social distancing, wearing a mask around others, getting tested and staying home if you're feeling sick. Also, if you are in the at-risk populations like the elderly and immunocompromised, stay away from others as much as possible.