City and county leaders in St. Joseph County are expressing concern about the state's moving to Stage 5.
Dr. Mark Fox with the County Health Department said, "Psychologically saying 'hey it’s OK have a bigger party,' it could lead some people to say this virus must not be much of a problem if they are lightening up on restrictions. Clearly in Saint Joseph County, I would argue even statewide, that is absolutely not the message we need to send right now."
Fox went on to say, "I have not seen any data locally or statewide that makes me say go for it. Throw the gates wide open."
Fox has commended Notre Dame for getting its outbreak under control and he added, "Now we’re trying to do that with the football team."
Mayor James Mueller of South Bend echoed some of what Fox said indicating that "this is the time to be doubling down, not sending the message to relax or let your guard down."
Fox also shared data showing a September spike in cases at long-term care facilities. There are six congregate living facilities in the county with ten cases or more. Those facilities could be dorms, jail, or long-term care sites. One of those sites has 60 cases that are being dealt with.
Another theme echoed by several officials was the importance of getting flu shots.
"I don’t know what we need to do to make sure people need to realize just because we are going to Stage 5 tomorrow doesn’t mean that we are out of it. Actually we are going in the wrong direction. This is a particularly dangerous time with flu season underway and cold weather coming," Mueller said.
"That makes it so much more critical this year to get the flu shot. So at least we are not overwhelming our medical systems with as many of the annual flu cases and not confusing the flu with this virus," Mueller added.