WARSAW – City and county leaders urged shoppers Wednesday to start wearing masks while visiting stores.
The recommendation comes a few days after the CDC issued suggestions that everyone don masks in public.
The number of people wearing masks in grocery stores and elsewhere in Warsaw has risen sharply in recent days and officials hope more people embrace the trend.
Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. William Remington said he’s encouraged to hear about so many groups working to make masks for the public.
“If you are heading out to a store and you just cannot avoid that trip, you should have a homemade mask, he said, adding there are many places on the internet that show how to make the masks.
He suggested people use a simple scarf or a homemade mask.
The comments were part of a news conference at Warsaw City hall that included input from Mayor Joe Thallemer, Kosciusko County Sheriff Kyle Dukes, County Commissioner Brad Jackson and Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory Chief Mike Wilson.
Thallemer also expressed support for that approach.
On Monday, Thallemer said he talked to managers of some of the bigger stores in Warsaw to check on any new policies that were emerging.
He said Walmart is now limiting the number of workers and shoppers inside the store from the normal maximum of 5,500 down to 1,000. Two other stores – Owen’s grocery store and Aldi – are now limiting the number of customers inside the store at any one time, Thallemer said.
One unnamed store has discussed the idea of taking the temperatures of customers before they enter, but that has not been implemented, Thallemer said.
The changes are an attempt to protect workers and the public, Thallemer said.
Thallemer encouraged people who are making masks to drop them off at Parkview Hospital, Salvation Army in Warsaw and the Kosciusko County Health Department.
In California, authorities are looking at requiring people to wear masks if they want to enter a store. Remington endorsed such a notion even though it has not been openly proposed in any way locally.
For summer residents returning to the lakes, Thallemer suggested if they are coming from a virus hotspot that they isolate themselves for two weeks.
Thallemer also urged families to rely on a single person to do their shopping, but he acknowledged that’s sometimes difficult to do for some families.
In other matters, Dukes said the coordination of law enforcement departments in the county is providing a boost.
He also said the jail is not releasing inmates in an effort to reduce the jail population, a move that other communities have taken to lessen the chance of an outbreak.
Dukes said his policy of not using the jail as a “holding facility” for state prisons has helped reduce the inmate population down to 225 people.
Jackson commended Dukes on that approach in helping set the stage for a good situation now at the jail during the pandemic.
Thallemer and Jackson both said they strongly support policy efforts at the state and federal levels in combating the spread of the virus.
While some of the state polices are more suited to address circumstances in big cities, they are comfortable with the one-size-fits-all approach even if they end up leaning heavily on the side of caution.
Remington announced the first death in the county as a result of COVID-19 at the news conference.
“The next two to three weeks is when we will likely see the apex of the surge – the top of the mountain if you will,” Remington said.
The news conference can be seen on the city’s website.