WARSAW – City officials are pleading with residents to stay home when possible and stop congregating in public as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continues to rise locally.
In a news conference Friday morning, April 3, Mayor Joe Thallemer and Police Chief Scott Whitaker both made appeals for public cooperation.
With warming temperatures, officials realize there will be a growing urge to get outside and that was evident Thursday as temps rose into the 60s and people headed to the parks, some playing basketball.
Thallemer’s advice was blunt about the stay-at-home directive from the state.
“If you are essentially traveling to work, go from Point A to Point B, do your job, keep your distance, wash your hands and go home. But we don’t want congregating,” Thallamer said.
Thallemer said he realizes it’s important that people get outside, but said it should be done in ways that respect social distancing. At one point he suggested hanging out in one’s own backyard as an alternative and later he suggested people could spend time cleaning up their garages.
Parks are still open, but playing on playground equipment has been banned.
“We will leave our parks open, but if we find we’re having trouble with congregating, we will ask law enforcement to ask people to go home. If we have a continued problem with that, we will probably have to shut the parks down,” Thallemer said.
Thallemer said they are not attempting to appear or be heavy-handed but want cooperation.
Whitaker talked about enforcing the governor’s orders concerning non-essential businesses being open and activities out in public.
Thallemer said Indiana State Police and excise police are overseeing temporary rules governing restaurants and bars.
Whitaker said he doubts the city has received many complaints about businesses being open.
As for business activity, Whitaker said police will not attempt to determine whether the status of the business is essential or not but will send information to the prosecutor’s office if it appears to be in violation.
Police are also keeping an eye on travel restrictions.
He said he thinks the community will step up and abide by the temporary policy.
“Our intent is not to stop cars and ask if you have purpose to be traveling. If we are to come across you for other reasons, obviously, that could come up,” Whitaker said.
Whitaker also agreed people need to get outside and not be cooped up.
“If you are anywhere, just do not congregate. Keep that social distance,” he said.
Confused about the stay-at-home directive? Here are some common questions and answers
Friday’s press conference, which was live-streamed, also included comments from Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. William Remington and Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Mike Wilson and came about three hours before Gov. Eric Holcomb announced an extension of the state-wide stay-at-home order.
Anticipating the change, Thallemer extended the city’s order that allows city workers to work from home when possible to April 18. The city will continue to review the policy every two weeks, but Thallemer hinted that it will likely be extended again.
Meanwhile, Remington announced the number of positive cases in Kosciusko County rose from 8 to 11 overnight.
Warsaw is surrounded by hot pockets where the number of cases is rising significantly. Those include Chicago, Michigan and Indianapolis. Also on Friday, an article by Bloomberg news service suggested Indiana was on a short list of emerging hotspots.
Remington was asked to compare the longevity of the spread of the virus to the length of a baseball game.
“My estimation is we are in about the second inning,” he said, adding, “Extra innings are very likely.”
He said he expects much of the next two months will be a difficult slog.
“Three weeks from now, it’s going to feel very heavy,” Remington said.
Speaking on behalf of all local police departments, Whitaker said County Prosecutor Dan Hampton, Central Dispatch and others helped develop temporary uniform guidelines for police operations.
“We just want to let the public know that your law enforcement agencies are regularly communicating. We are preparing and taking all the measures we can at this time to prepare our staff and provide the personal protective equipment that is going to be needed,” Whitaker said.
“We’ve certainly never been down this road before,” Whitaker said.”But I feel very very good about Warsaw PD. It’s officers, the training, the equipment and the equipment we continue to obtain.”