Gloved hands holding face masks
(Photo by Vladimir Smirnov/TASS via Getty Images.)

Elkhart Requires Masks As Other Communities Eye Virus’s Second Wind

(ELKHART, Ind.) — Elkhart County is the third in Indiana to require masks in public, as the coronavirus outbreak continues to rage there.

Elkhart County has had more than 3,000 coronavirus cases — that’s one of every 68 people, the
second-worst in the state. A thousand of those cases have come in just over two weeks — the number of cases has quadrupled there in a month-and-a-half.

The county’s neighbors to the east and west, Saint Joseph and LaGrange, already require masks — until now, Elkhart had tried to encourage masks through ads and billboards.

LaGrange’s infection rate is the fourth-highest in the state.

Other locations have considered requiring masks. West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis says there were serious discussions there, but says it would be difficult to enforce. He says the city and county would have to decide whether to incorporate it into an existing ordinance, pass a new one, or treat it as a health code violation. More important, he says, the goal isn’t to hand out a fistful of tickets, but to communicate the importance of wearing masks to reduce the virus’s spread. Dennis says making it a requirement would make some people dig in their heels more.

Dennis says private entities are better equipped than government to pass and enforce mask requirements. He says many stores are requiring customers to wear masks. And Purdue has ordered all students, faculty and visitors to wear masks on campus, though Dennis says he’s still concerned about what happens when students finish the day’s classes and head to off-campus housing or activities.

Tippecanoe County has had 96 cases in the last week. County health director Jeremy Adler says 336
people, about half the county’s total of 633 infections, are still sick.

Adler says he believes Indiana should put off lifting the final restrictions imposed in March on businesses and other mass gatherings. While Indiana’s hospitalization and infection rates are down, Adler says the current soaring infection rates in Florida, Texas, California and other states represent a stark warning of the danger of moving too quickly.

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