St. Joseph County Health Department implements new mask requirements or social distancing

NOW: St. Joseph County Health Department implements new mask requirements or social distancing

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Following Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb’s announcement of the “Back on Track” plan for the state, officials in St. Joseph County are ordering everyone to wear a mask in public in certain situations and for businesses to provide hand sanitizer to customers.

The St. Joseph County Department of Health made the announcement Sunday – saying it’s no longer necessary to continue the stay-at-home order, but there are still precautions people need to take moving forward.

Beginning at 11:59 p.m. Monday, all employees and customers who are medically-able must wear a face covering in public places.

These masks need to remain on at any time when distancing of at least six feet isn’t possible.

Businesses will also be required to make hand sanitizer that will be kept at entrances and other ‘high-touch’ areas.

If you’re heading back into work, you’re asked to wear a mask when walking from your car to the office, while heading to the restroom and any time you’ll be interacting with others.

It’s the same idea in restaurants and stores – keep the face covering on as you walk throughout these places and look for hand sanitizer stations to frequently use. But say you’re out to eat, once you get to your table you can remove the mask.

Officials say this will be enforced like any county order – St. Joseph County police don't plan on getting involved and if customers or businesses have a complaint, they're asked to report it to the St. Joseph County Health Department.

While Indiana is moving toward re-opening the state, the county’s order emphasizes the need to avoid close interactions - and customers could be asked to leave public places if they’re without a face covering, while businesses could be reported to the St. Joseph County Health Department for not complying.

“The general thought on every rule or law is you hope people will have respect for each other and understand that not only are businesses trying to protect their employees and other customers, they’re also trying to protect those that may be defiant as well,” said Jeff Rea, president of the South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce and COVID-19 response coordinator. “Businesses aren’t in the business of trying to create confrontations. So I think they’ll do whatever they can to minimize any confrontation and if they feel like somebody in there without a mask creates a health risk for their employees or other customers, then they likely would ask them to maybe not come in.”

The order lasts until July 4.

The South Bend Chamber of Commerce is also asking anyone who is able to make and sell masks to email Shari Carroll at scarroll@sbrchamber.com.

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