St. Joseph County's Extended Face Mask Order May Face Opposition From Local Leaders
St. Joseph County’s face mask mandate will stay in place until May 27, more than a month and a half after the statewide mask mandate ends on April 6. But, the measure may face some pushback from county leaders.
Andy Kostielney, president of the St. Joseph County Commissioners, said local mayors and business leaders wanted to see the health department’s mandate downgraded to an advisory.
He said since the health department can’t technically enforce its orders, extending the local mandate beyond the end of the state mandate will only serve to confuse people.
“The people that are going to wear masks are going to continue to wear them. The people that are not wearing masks now, I don’t think, is going to increase any," Kostielney said. "The message is going to get bogged down and messier.”
Kostielney said he still encourages county residents to continue following all safety protocols, including wearing face coverings.
The St. Joseph County Council is set to review an ordinance that levies fines against businesses for face mask violations next month.
County Health Officer Dr. Bob Einterz said it will be up to the council to decide whether his order is enforceable. But, given the rising number of cases and the detection of more-contagious variants in the county, he said the order needs to stay in place until the end of May.
"We do have the responsibility to make the best public health decision that we can for our own county," Einterz said. "I don't think we are divided in our desire to see this pandemic come to an end and come to an end as quickly as possible."
Einterz said he expects 70 percent of the county’s adults to have some immunity to the virus by then, and that he won't extend the mandate again.
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