Two northern Indiana counties take action on face masks

Two adjacent northern Indiana counties have implemented or extended orders requiring people to wear face masks to impede the spread of the coronavirus.

Elkhart County’s health officer, Dr. Lydia Mertz, announced a new open-ended order beginning Tuesday at 12 a.m. requiring masks when 6-foot social distancing can’t be maintained indoors and in outdoor public areas. Also, all employees and customers in local businesses must wear masks, the South Bend Tribune reported.

The county has had nearly 3,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 42 deaths.

Meanwhile, St. Joseph County’s public health officer, Dr. Robert Einterz, extended that county’s mask order through Sept. 7.

“Given that there is no vaccine or medication available to prevent or treat COVID-19, measures such as hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing face coverings are the most effective strategies to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from infected persons to uninfected person,” the county’s new mask order states.

The mask order was due to expire Saturday. It requires face coverings for all people inside businesses and enclosed public spaces where social distancing of at least six feet can’t be maintained. It exempts people who can’t wear face coverings for health reasons.

The order also requires businesses to have hand sanitizer available at entrances for customers.

St. Joseph County has recorded more than 1,800 COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths.

A third northern Indiana county, LaGrange, implemented a mask order two weeks ago.

Gov. Eric Holcomb and other Indiana officials have recommended face masks as a means to slow the spread of COVID-19 but have stopped short of requiring them. Public practice across the state in wearing face masks has been spotty.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the main purpose of wearing a cloth face covering is to avoid spreading the virus to others. People infected with the virus may not show symptoms for several days.

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