Dr. Lydia Mertz

Photo provided by the Elkhart Co. Health Dept.

On Christmas Eve the Elkhart Couny Board of Health announced that it had hired a new County Health Officer, Dr. Bethany Wait. Wait will replace Dr. Lydia Mertz who is retiring at the end of 2020.

Today the Elkhart County Health Department issued an update on the county's COVID-19 status. 

(Courtesy of Johnson & Johnson)

In the wake of promising vaccine trials and still-surging COVID-19 cases, the phrase “herd immunity” has entered the popular vocabulary. 

It refers to the idea that if enough people in a community are exposed to a virus, it will eventually die out. It’s a real phenomenon, but it’s not possible without some sort of intervention.

Elkhart County Health Officer Lydia Mertz said it would take over five years to achieve herd immunity in Elkhart County without a vaccine – and that’s with every resource in every hospital dedicated to caring for coronavirus patients.


Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Lydia Mertz gave a COVID-19 update at the Elkhart Kiwanis Club’s regular meeting held virtually Tuesday afternoon. She re-emphasized the dire situation at local hospitals.

“People who think there’s going to be car accidents and they can go to the emergency room and be taken care of – that’s not true," Mertz said. "That’s the seriousness of what we’re seeing now.”

Elkhart Co. Health Dept.

NEW: Elkhart County's Health Officer has issued new public health orders as the county was given a "red" designation by the Indiana State Dept. of Health due to rising COVID-19 rates. Many of the action items in the order appear to mimic language already put in place by the state for counties designated as red.

A face mask mandate is outlined with information that includes an incremental enforcement structure that starts with a written warning and could escalate up to having  the health department issue an order to close a business or issue a penalty of up to $2,500. Within the face mask mandate is a page worth of exceptions as to when a mask is not required.

A mitigation directive addressing the size of gatherings was also issued that contains a similar enforcement structure. 

The orders go into effect at 12:01am on Wed., Nov. 19, 2020. 

Read more about the face mask mandate here. 

Read more about the mitigation directive here. 

Read Dr. Mertz's media release here.

Screenshot via Cisco Webex

Saturday morning the Elkhart County Council spent extensive time debating how much money, if any, to spend to recruit and retain a new County Health Officer. The current Health Officer, Dr. Lydia Mertz, is retiring at the end of 2020.

After considerable discussion, the council ultimately agreed on a 4-3 vote to spend $30,000 for recruitment and retention.  One council member acknowledged the difficulty that may be faced in replacing Mertz saying, "This is an unpopular job to have."

Late Friday afternoon, the Elkhart Co. Health Dept. issued a letter to warn county residents that more restrictive health orders are coming in an attempt to try and bring down surging COVID-19 numbers. The letter was signed with the support of 56 health, government, business and school officials in the county. 

NEW: Just hours after the Elkhart County Health Officer came out with benchmarks to get the county's COVID-19 outbreak under control, the county sees a new all-time high in daily cases. On Nov. 5th Elkhart County reported 263 new cases, the most ever since the start of the pandemic. 

Elkhart Co. Health Dept.

Elkhart County's Health Officer is issuing new warnings about the transmission of COVID-19 in the county. In data released yesterday by the Indiana State Dept. of Health, the county reported a new all time high in cases for Mon., Nov. 2nd. Also on Monday, Elkhart's Mayor Rod Roberson tested positive for the virus.   

Webex via YouTube


The Elkhart County Board of Health met Thursday night to discuss the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases over the past several days. The meeting was originally scheduled for last week, but had to be canceled when a group of about 50 unmasked individuals showed up. Last night’s meeting had a virtual option to try and address that and people in attendance could be seen wearing masks.


The Elkhart County Health Officer has just issued new guidance on reopening schools. She is recommending that schools can offer an option to reopen for in-person instruction. In addition, Dr. Lydia Mertz will also announce today that Elkhart County will move to Stage 4.5 with the rest of the state in reopening the economy. Elkhart County had been "paused" at Stage 4 behind the rest of the state due to earlier surging COVID-19 case numbers.