But they also know that’s not going to happen now.
“There’s no help coming before the election,” said Lydia Mertz, the county’s health officer, calling the current situation “extremely alarming.”
“I think right now some elected officials are just looking to get through the first weeks of November before they do anything unpopular,” said Dan Nafziger, chief medical officer at Goshen Hospital, referring to the restrictions seen in the state earlier this year that he believes are needed again.
“Without a doubt the election is a factor,” said Mike Yoder, a Republican county commissioner.
The pandemic has become politics. And on the eve of a contentious national election, with cases of the novel coronavirus surging in many parts of the country, places like Elkhart County — where President Trump is popular — feel they are being left alone to face outbreaks spiraling out of control. Trump has long disparaged efforts to fight the virus, clashing at times with his own public health officials. On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reinforced the president’s message, saying during a CNN interview, “We’re not going to control the pandemic.”
The result, according to officials in Elkhart County, is that state and federal authorities in recent weeks have showed little interest in helping them push for the tougher measures needed to control the pandemic — a change from earlier this year, when they worked together on encouraging mask-wearing or limiting public gatherings. And local officials worry they lack the authority or support to go it alone.
“I’ve talked with the mayor, county officials and corresponded with the Indiana State Health Department and the governor, and I’ve asked them to make stronger interventions,” said Rebecca Stoltzfus, president of Goshen College, who is part of the county’s coronavirus fight. “There’s not been much of a response.”
The business community, too, has noticed the lack of action, said Levon Johnson, president of the Greater Elkhart Chamber of Commerce.
“Unfortunately, politics has gotten in the way of the common-sense things that need to be done,” said Johnson.
A spokeswoman for Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, referred questions from The Washington Post to the state health department. A statement from the state health agency said cities and counties are free to impose, “ANY additional health emergency restriction they determine necessary to control the spread of the virus.” The agency said it has provided advice and funding for testing clinics and education campaigns in Elkhart and across the state.
Elkhart County is rural and conservative, home to 200,000 people, 150 miles north of Indianapolis and best known for a manufacturing base that makes it part of the “RV Capital of the World.” A Democrat hasn’t been elected to county office in years. Trump won nearly 57 percent of the vote here in 2016.
And the area is accustomed to serving as a stage for presidential politics. Barack Obama, when he was president, visited the county in 2009 to highlight how much work was needed to get the