INDIANAPOLIS — Two more northern Indiana counties have implemented or extended mandatory mask orders to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Elkhart County’s health officer, Dr. Lydia Mertz, announced a new open-ended order beginning Tuesday 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.
Elkhart County has 3,003 confirmed cases and 42 deaths from the virus, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
And 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 persons,” 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 state health officials have recommended face masks as a means to slow the spread of the virus, but have stopped short of requiring them. Public practice across the state in wearing masks has been spotty.
The CDC says the main purpose of wearing a cloth face covering is to avoid spreading the virus to others, as people infected with the virus may not show symptoms for several days.
The mask orders came as state health officials reported another 1,170 Indiana residents were diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend, and another 29 died.
The Indiana State Department of Health on Monday reported 312 more Hoosiers were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, following 362 new cases on Sunday and 496 on Saturday. That brings the state total to 45,228 cases.
A total of 2,432 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19 after 5 new deaths were reported Monday, 3 on Sunday and 21 Saturday, according to the ISDH. Another 192 probable deaths have been reported.
The state total includes 522 confirmed cases and 25 deaths in La Porte County; 676 cases and 36 deaths in Porter County; 4,781 cases and 239 deaths in Lake County; and 67 cases and 3 deaths in Starke County, according to the ISDH.
To date, 476,519 tests have been reported to ISDH, up from 470,535 on Sunday. That includes 7,249 tests reported in La Porte County.