Elkhart County health officer signs mandate requiring use of face masks

GOSHEN, Ind.— Elkhart County will now require people to wear face masks in all spaces where social distancing is not possible, according to a mandate signed by the county's top health official on Monday. 

Elkhart County’s health officer, Dr. Lydia Mertz, signed a mandate requiring that people wear masks in areas where they can’t distance themselves from others outside of their own immediate households, including indoor areas open to the public, public transportation, and outdoor areas where social distancing is not possible.

The mandate will go into effect on Tuesday, June 30 at 12:01 a.m. It will remain in effect until further notice.

According to the mandate, adults should supervise children aged 3 to 12 with the use of face masks to avoid misuse. 

Exceptions to the face mask requirement include but are not limited to individuals who have been advised by a medical professional not to wear one, children age 2 and younger, and individuals who are deaf and need to remove the face covering to use facial and mouth movements to communicate.

According to the mandate, people who are not in compliance with the order cannot be issued a citation or arrested by law enforcement or other residents.

The order is meant to educate, encourage and persuade individuals to wear face coverings, the mandate said. 

Dr. Michelle Bache, Vice President of Medical Affairs for Elkhart General Hospital said she agrees with Mertz's mandate and is "the right move."

According to the mandate, Elkhart County's ICU bed availability has "fallen significantly." 

As of Monday, Elkhart County had the third most cases of COVID-19 out of all Indiana counties.

"We're starting to see our percentage of positive cases coming down," Bache said but added that Elkhart General is still seeing the effects of the past two weeks, with the highest number of COVID-19 cases that the hospital has seen since the pandemic began. 

The Elkhart County face mask requirement follows a recent surge in COVID-19 cases confirmed throughout the county.

St. Joseph County implemented a similar face mask requirement meant to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The Elkhart Truth reported that the mandate was signed by Mertz on Monday at an Elkhart County Board of Commissioners meeting.

Read the full Elkhart County Public Health order 01-2020 below.

Read the public health order in Spanish below.

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