The following is a prepared statement from South Bend Mayor James Mueller. It is being published verbatim for the public record.
Good morning. We got some more tests back and have some updates on action steps. Out of 126 test results through last night, we now have five positive cases in St. Joseph County, three of which were in contact with the original positive case plus one other. There are about 500 additional tests for which we still have not received results back yet.
As many of you know the spread of this virus occurs exponentially, which means that while the number of positive cases is still low and out healthcare facilities still have capacity, this situation can get out of hand fast, as seen in other cities across the nation and around the world.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and our local health officials recommend extreme social distancing measures, as well as washing your hands regularly.
If you are exhibiting symptoms, stay home and call your healthcare provider. The County hotline at 211 is available for those who don’t have a healthcare provider. The best piece of advice I’ve heard is to act like you have the virus already, and thereby reduce spreading it to others. Research into the virus’s spread has found that it is aggravated by individuals who have it but do not exhibit symptoms.
We are now at a turning point where additional measures are necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the South Bend region. I, along with our County Commissioners, am declaring a local disaster emergency and effective at 2:00 today, issuing a travel advisory at the watch level, which means essential travel only.
This travel advisory will still allow people to travel for essential reasons, which includes going to and from work, going to the grocery, picking up a prescription, visiting the doctor’s office, dropping your kids off at daycare, picking up food from a restaurant and traveling for emergencies.
But traveling to visit friends or going to other places where people congregate is discouraged.
What’s important right now is that we work to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community, and by avoiding unnecessary travel you can play your role in protecting the vulnerable members of our community.
Please follow these directions. These measures only work if everyone follows them. We don’t want to enforce travel restrictions, but we will if we have to.
On Monday, Common Council will be considering an additional appropriation of $500,000 for use in preparing our community to combat the COVID-19 threat. That money will be used to purchase necessary supplies and prepare auxiliary facilities for responding to the virus’ spread.
While we continue to take measures to contain the COVID-19 threat, the economic impact from these measures are already mounting. Thousands of furloughs and layoffs have already happened in our community.
And nearly 100-year old businesses that survived the Great Depression and every recession since, are on the ropes as well. The President just signed a package that includes a number of things that Rep. Walorski can speak to, including 14 days of paid leave for workers, unemployment insurance coverage, and free coronavirus tests.
But we know that is nowhere near what is needed and is just the start. Talks on a substantial federal stimulus bill are proceeding swiftly. I’ve talked with the Governor’s office and they are contemplating unprecedented steps. And we are contemplating unprecedented steps at the local level as well.
There are some other resources already available. To workers out of work, make sure you file for unemployment at the Department of Workforce Development. To small businesses, please check in with the Small Business Development Center to report the economic impact your business expects to see and find out what disaster relief is available.
I also want to announce the rollout of a new tool on the City’s website, which will help residents connect with different Resources and Support being provided by agencies, organizations, religious institutions and more during these unprecedented times.
You can access this tool on the City’s homepage or at southbendin.gov/covid-19-resources-support.
This list of resources and support will be updated throughout the duration of this crisis by my staff. If you work for an organization that is providing support, you can submit information to be added to the list.
It’s important we support each other through this time, and that’s why my team will continue to work to connect residents to vital resources they need.
As I mentioned earlier, the City will continue to provide the city services you depend upon: clean drinking water, trash pickup, public safety and EMS. We will get through this difficult time together.