Elkhart County

Emma Atkinson/WTIU

Elkhart County’s extended face mask order went into effect Tuesday. On Monday, the Elkhart County Commissioners voted to rescind their enforcement of the mandate as it applies to businesses.

The Commissioners put an ordinance into effect late last year that originally included a monetary fine system for businesses that violated the health department’s COVID-19 orders.


Elkhart Co. Extends Face Mask Mandate

Apr 5, 2021

The Elkhart Co. Health Officer has extended the county's face mask mandate through May 14th. 

Elkhart County health officials announced Wednesday the more contagious California variant of the coronavirus has been detected in the county. 

County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait also said Wednesday that she was awaiting the release of Governor Holcomb's executive order to make a decision about the county's mask mandate. 

(Read the full release from the health department below.)

Captured via Zoom

Elkhart County’s health officer said she feels the state department of health’s COVID-19 metrics for the county are “slightly deceiving.” 

At the county board of health meeting Thursday night, Dr. Bethany Wait said that while Elkhart County is in the state’s “yellow” designation, which indicates moderate spread of the virus, the county’s positivity rate has risen steadily over the last few weeks.


Several Elkhart County institutions are pooling their data to improve child wellbeing and safety in the county.

The Elkhart County Child Dashboard will use data from local nonprofits, healthcare systems, schools and government agencies to track factors that could affect different aspects of child wellbeing. 


Rebecca Shetler Fast, director of Elkhart County’s youth mental health network, The Source, and the lead on the project, says that kind of cross-sector collaboration isn't common.


Gemma DiCarlo / WVPE Public Radio

Leaders from Elkhart, St. Joseph, Marshall and Kosciusko counties came together on Tuesday to oppose state legislation they say would divert money from public schools.

Representatives from over 20 local school districts attended a collaborative event hosted by Strong Public Schools For Strong Communities, where local mayors, business leaders, chamber officials and community members took turns reading from a four-county declaration to Indiana legislators and Governor Eric Holcomb.

Osceola Dragway Closing After More Than Six Decades

Mar 23, 2021

OSCEOLA, Ind. (AP) — A northern Indiana drag strip has closed its gates after more than six decades of playing host to drag races. The Osceola Dragway announced Friday in a Facebook post that it will not be opening for the 2021 season and that “after 63 years, our gates will be permanently closed.” Track officials said the coronavirus pandemic had impacted ongoing efforts that began in 2016 to sell the International Hot Rod Association-sanctioned track, which features a quarter-mile drag strip a few miles west of Elkhart.

(Courtesy of IU Health)

The Indiana Department of Health will hold a mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the Elkhart County Housing Authority next week.

State health officials announced earlier this week that mobile clinics would be headed to counties with limited access to the vaccine and high percentages of minority or vulnerable populations.


The Elkhart Co. Health Dept. has announced that a confirmed case of the U.K. variant of COVID-19 has been detected in the county. 

Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait said a more contagious variant makes indoor gatherings among unvaccinated people – even small gatherings, with masking and distancing – more dangerous.

Screenshot captured via YouTube

At the Indiana COVID-19 briefing Wednesday afternoon, state officials announced a new rental assistance program for renters who have suffered financially from the COVID-19 pandemic.


There are a couple of exceptions for local renters, though. Both Elkhart and St. Joseph counties have their own rental assistance programs, meaning renters have to apply through their local government instead of the state program.

Screenshot captured via WebEx

As of March 9, Elkhart County has officially dropped any fines for violations of public health orders related to COVID-19. County health officials say while the county’s COVID-19 situation is improving, residents can’t let their guard down yet.

Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait said the county’s numbers are “looking pretty good” – she said hospitals are full, but with non-COVID patients, and new coronavirus hospitalizations remain low.


Elkhart County

Elkhart County renters who have suffered financially from the COVID-19 pandemic are now eligible for emergency assistance through the county's new emergency rental assistance program


Elkhart County Commissioners today voted to drop the potential for fines for non-compliance with the county's face mask health order.

Businesses that violate the county’s COVID-19 health orders will now only be issued a verbal warning for a first offense, followed by a written warning for further offenses. 

(Provided by IU Health)

A pair of Elkhart County community organizations have partnered to promote the COVID-19 vaccine through social media.

Elkhart County Community Organizations Active in Disasters, or COAD, is a network of Elkhart-area organizations working to prevent and mitigate crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.


Elkhart County

As the consolidation of the Elkhart County courts moves closer to reality, county officials held the first of several “visioning sessions” to discuss what the facility might look like.


County judges and magistrates, as well as the prosecutor and Sheriff’s offices, gave input on what the 32-acre campus between Elkhart and Goshen should ultimately look like. 


Indiana Dept. of Health

Big changes are depicted from the previous week with the latest release of the Indiana Dept. of Health's COVID-19 county-by-county map. 

Only five Hoosier counties are in red, the lowest number in that designation since November. Two counties in the WVPE listening area are in yellow. Elkhart and Marshall counties both now have the most improved designation in our area. 


Indiana State Police have announced they are investigating a death at the State Prison in Michigan City. The man who died was from Goshen, 30-year-old Daniel Heflin. Heflin pleaded guilty to murder in Elkhart county nearly a decade ago. 

Captured via WebX

Indianapolis-based design firm Performance Services has been chosen to build the consolidated Elkhart County Courts facility. The County Commissioners approved the partnership at their biweekly meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 19.

Last week, the county’s Technical Review Committee interviewed project teams and ranked them using factors like local participation and courthouse facility experience. Out of three finalists, Performance Services scored the highest.


Elkhart County Teen Sentenced To 63 Years For Murder

Jan 15, 2021

GOSHEN, Ind. (AP) — A teenager who was 13 when accused of killing another youth in northern Indiana was sentenced Thursday to 63 years in prison. Alphonso James III, now 16, was convicted of murder in the death of 18-year-old Jaren Minies in Elkhart last September. Minies was shot multiple times during a dispute over a gun, money and a video game system. Elkhart Circuit Judge Michael Christofeno found James guilty in a bench trial last year. Christofeno sentenced James on Thursday to the 55-year advisory prison term for murder plus eight years for aggravating circumstances.

Elkhart County

The consolidation of the Elkhart County Courts is moving closer to reality, with three teams under consideration for the project’s final design and build.

The county’s Technical Review Committee interviewed the three teams on Jan. 12 and assigned each proposal a qualitative score. Those scores were based on factors like local participation, courthouse facility experience, and schedule management.



The Indiana State Dept. of Health has updated its county-by-county COVID-19 map and it shows that Elkhart, LaGrange and Pulaski counties are in red. The red designation is the most serious on the map. A total of two dozen Hoosier counties are in the red as of now. 

For a third straight week, more than a quarter of Indiana counties are rated with the highest risk level of coronavirus spread in Wednesday’s state update that continued to show no area in the low or moderate community spread zones. The Indiana State Health Department tracking map labels 24 of the state’s 92 counties the most dangerous red category, down two from a week ago. All other counties are in the next-riskiest orange rating of the four-level system. The new county ratings come a day after state officials announced a flaw in Indiana’s COVID-19 reporting that is expected to change the state’s overall positivity rate and the metrics for individual counties once corrected.

Screenshot captured via YouTube

On Dec. 23, Elkhart County Commissioner Suzie Weirick will host a fourth “Candid Covid Conversation,” a series of online discussions with Elkhart County healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic. This week’s conversation will address the county’s Spanish-speaking community. 

Weirick said the conversation will be conducted almost entirely in Spanish, with a panel of bilingual nurses to answer questions and translators for any English-speaking panelists.


ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — A teenager who was 13 years old when accused of killing an 18-year-old in northern Indiana has been convicted of murder. Elkhart County Judge Michael Christofeno delivered the verdict Wednesday, about three months after holding a bench trial. Alphonso James is now 16. He was 13 years old in 2018 when he was accused of repeatedly shooting Jaren Minies in a dispute over a gun, money and a video game system. The prosecutor chose to charge James as an adult. James testified in September, telling the judge that it was a case of self-defense.

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

Captured via WebX

The Elkhart Common Council voted Monday night on a city ordinance to support Elkhart County’s COVID-19 safety measures.

The ordinance, which passed to a second reading, would allow Mayor Rod Roberson to enforce the county’s fine structure for Elkhart businesses that violate COVID-19 safety protocols.

Roberson originally asked the council to fast-track the city ordinance so it could immediately support the county ordinance, which goes into effect on Dec. 17.

“We cannot wait any longer to assist and support our healthcare system. People are dying,” he said.

Three Elkhart County cities have committed to enforcing the county’s COVID-19 protocols. The mayors of Elkhart, Goshen and Nappanee will each bring an ordinance to their city councils next week.

The ordinances will recognize and support the county health department’s COVID-19 orders, which limit gathering sizes and mandate face masks, among other things. They will also support the County Commissioners’ ordinance that establishes fines for violating those health orders.

The Elkhart County Health Department has released graphing data with COVID-19 information. It shows the spike that has occurred in cases and deaths in the month of November. 

Annacaroline Caruso / WVPE Public Radio

The Elkhart County Board of Commissioners has passed an ordinance that allows fines for entities that repeatedly violate the health department’s COVID-19 order.

The fines will be the second step in the enforcement procedure laid out in the ordinance. The first step is a warning, followed by an education effort.

Then, fines can be issued per violation – not posting signs that announce a face-covering requirement, for example, means a $50 fine, while failing to maintain social distancing will cost $250.

(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.


Today, the Indiana State Department of Health updated the color coding on its map tracking COVID-19 cases in all 92 Hoosier counties. Based on information released at noon, 17 counties are now in the most serious "red" designation, which is four fewer than last week.

In the WVPE listening area, both Elkhart and LaGrange counties remain in the red. Elkhart County moved to the red designation on Nov. 18, and LaGrange County entered the red on Nov. 11.