Two adjacent northern Indiana counties have implemented or extended orders requiring people to wear face masks to impede the spread of the coronavirus.
Elkhart County’s health officer, Dr. Lydia Mertz announced a new open-ended order beginning Tuesday at 12 a.m. requiring masks when 6-foot social distancing can’t be maintained indoors and in outdoor public areas. Also, all employees and customers in local businesses must wear masks, the South Bend Tribune reported.
The county has had nearly 3,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 42 deaths.
Meanwhile, St. Joseph County’s public health officer, Dr. Robert Einterz, extended that county’s mask order through Sept. 7.
“Given that there is no vaccine or medication available to prevent or treat COVID-19, measures such as hand hygiene, physical distancing and wearing face coverings are the most effective strategies to reduce the spread of respiratory droplets from infected persons to uninfected person,” the county’s new mask order states.
The mask order was due to expire Saturday. It requires face coverings for all people inside businesses and enclosed public spaces where social distancing of at least six feet can’t be maintained. It exempts people who can’t wear face coverings for health reasons.
The order also requires businesses to have hand sanitizer available at entrances for customers.
St. Joseph County has recorded more than 1,800 COVID-19 cases and 65 deaths.
A third northern Indiana county, LaGrange, implemented a mask order two weeks ago.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and other Indiana officials have recommended face masks as a means to slow the spread of COVID-19 but have stopped short of requiring them. Public practice across the state in wearing face masks has been spotty.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control says the main purpose of wearing a cloth face covering is to avoid spreading the virus to others. People infected with the virus may not show symptoms for several days.
Meanwhile, in other states, more people are being ordered to wear masks.
Arizona’s Republican governor shut down bars, movie theaters, gyms and water parks Monday and leaders in several states ordered residents to wear masks in public in a dramatic course reversal amid an alarming resurgence of coronavirus cases nationwide.
Among those implementing the face-covering orders is the city of Jacksonville, Florida, where mask-averse President Donald Trump plans to accept the Republican nomination in August. Trump has refused to wear a mask during visits to states and businesses that require them.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s order went into effect immediately and for at least 30 days. Ducey also ordered public schools to delay the start of classes until at least Aug. 17. Most Arizona bars and nightclubs opened after the governor’s stay-at-home and business closure orders were allowed to expire in mid-May.
Arizona health officials reported 3,858 more confirmed coronavirus cases Sunday, the most reported in a single day in the state so far and the seventh time in the past 10 days that daily cases surpassed the 3,000 mark. Since the pandemic began, 74,500 cases and 1,588 deaths stemming from the virus have been reported in Arizona.
“Our expectation is that our numbers next week will be worse,” Ducey said Monday.
The state is not alone in its reversal. Places such as Texas, Florida and California are backtracking, closing beaches and bars in some cases amid a resurgence of the virus.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Monday that he’s postponing the restarting of indoor dining because people have not been wearing face masks or complying with recommendations for social distancing. New Jersey has been slowly reopening, and on Monday indoor shopping malls were cleared to start business again.
Democratic governors in Oregon and Kansas said Monday that they would require people to wear masks. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s order will require people to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces starting Wednesday. Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said she will issue an executive order mandating the use of masks in stores and shops, restaurants, and in any situation where social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained, including outside. The order goes into effect Friday.
“The evidence could not be clearer: Wearing a mask is not only safe, but it is necessary to avoid another shutdown,” Kelly said.
Idaho is moving in a different direction, at least when it comes to the elections. Despite the continuing spread of the virus, state elections officials said Monday that they would allow in-person voting—as well as mail-in ballots—for August primaries and the November general election, the Idaho Statesman reported. Idaho’s May 19 primary was the first statewide election held by mail only. The primary had record voter turnout.
In Texas, a group of bar owners sued on Monday to try to overturn Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s order closing their businesses. They contend Abbott doesn’t have the authority, and they complained that other businesses, such as nail salons and tattoo studios, remain open.
“Gov. Abbott continues to act like a king,” said Jared Woodfill, attorney for the bar owners. “Abbott is unilaterally destroying our economy and trampling on our constitutional rights.”
But Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that Abbott is on the right path, and he added that Trump should order the wearing of masks.
“States that were recalcitrant … are doing a 180, and you have the same states now wearing masks,” Cuomo said. “Let the president have the same sense to do that as an executive order, and then let the president lead by example and let the president put a mask on it, because we know it works.”
One of Cuomo’s Republican counterparts, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, on a conference call with Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House coronavirus task force, also asked Pence and Trump to issue a national call to wear masks.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has opposed a statewide mask requirement but said in response to Jacksonville’s action that he will support local authorities who are doing what they think is appropriate.
In recent weeks, the Republicans moved some of the convention pageantry to Jacksonville after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina objected to the holding of a large gathering in Charlotte without social-distancing measures.
Less than a week after Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said there would be no mask requirement, city officials announced on Monday that coverings must be worn in “situations where individuals cannot socially distance.”
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany responded by saying the president’s advice is to “do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you.”
Elsewhere around the world, Britain reimposed lockdown restrictions on the city of Leicester after a spike in cases, ordering the closing of schools along with stores that do not sell essential goods.
The European Union is preparing a list of 15 countries whose citizens will be allowed to visit the bloc beginning Wednesday, Spain’s foreign minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya, told the Cadena SER radio network. Because of the resurgence in the U.S., America may not be on that list.
“This is not an exercise to be nice or unfriendly to other countries. This is an exercise of self-responsibility,” she said.