Officials in Indiana’s second-largest county and one of the largest Indianapolis suburbs have adopted face mask mandates for residents and businesses in an attempt to slow the coronavirus spread.
The mandates throughout northwestern Indiana’s Lake County took effect Monday, while the order for the Hamilton County city of Fishers just northeast of Indianapolis will take effect Friday.
Those areas join a growing list of cities and counties across the state imposing mask requirements. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb has declined to issue a statewide mandate even while encouraging face masks as the state has seen recent growth in the number of coronavirus infections and hospitalizations.
Lake County’s health department issued the requirement for mouth and nose face covering inside a businesses or other public places where people cannot maintain at least 6 feet of social distancing. Municipal officials in Gary and Merrillville, both in Lake County, adopted similar orders.
Merrillville Town Council President Rick Bella said council members had discussed requiring masks for about a month.
“There’s a lot of different opinions about it, but our thoughts were, ‘Hey, if it could prevent someone from getting sick, it’s just well worth it,’” Bella said.
A mask requirement also takes effect Wednesday in rural northwestern Indiana’s Starke County. Similar orders have been issued for the cities of Indianapolis, Evansville and West Lafayette, along with LaPorte, St. Joseph, Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northern Indiana and Monroe County, which includes Bloomington and Indiana University’s main campus.
The state health department on Tuesday reported 734 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, with Indiana’s seven-day daily average of new confirmed cases at 752, which is the highest at any point of the pandemic. It also reported 21 more deaths of people with confirmed or presumed infections, most of which happened between Friday and Monday and raised the state’s death toll to 2,846 since mid-March.
Coronavirus hospitalizations dipped slightly to 803 as of Monday, but that remained above levels last seen in mid-June. Indiana had seen a steady decline in hospitalizations since being over 1,400 a day through April into early May before the recent trend upward.