The new order went into effect Thursday, Nov. 19.
The new public order “is to mandate that all people in Elkhart County … wear a face-covering … to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This order is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19 throughout Elkhart County and protect public health.”
Mertz issued two public health orders, one to address the face covering directive and another to address the COVID-19 mitigation directives required in the county.
“With the support of the county commissioners and city mayors, these two public health orders contain provisions for inspection and enforcement to ensure we achieve the level of compliance necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The Elkhart County Health Department is working to establish inspection and enforcement procedures. If, as a member of the public, you wish to report a concern regarding violations of Public Health Order 06-2020, you may contact the Elkhart County COVID-19 hotline at (574) 523-2106. Additionally, the Elkhart County Health Department will soon release an online form for submitting possible violations of Public Health Order 06-2020.”
The order addressing the mask mandate is mandating every individual must properly wear a face covering over their nose and mouth when they are at an indoor area open to the public, including public transportation; an outdoor public area where a distance of 6 feet from individuals outside of their household cannot be maintained or a private indoor or outdoor area where a distance of 6 feet from individuals outside of their household cannot be maintained.
There are 11 exceptions to the face-covering directive. These include: children under the age of 2, a signed note from a licensed physician advising there is a medical, mental health condition or disability preventing the wearing of a face covering, a person who is deaf or hard of hearing or communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing and needs to temporarily remove the face covering to use facial and mouth movements as part of their communications; an individual who is unconscious, incapacitated or unable to remove the face covering without assistance.
Exceptions also include any person consuming food or drink or seated at a restaurant or other establishments to eat or drink, in a swimming pool, lake or body of water; obtaining a service requiring temporary removal of the face covering for security surveillance, screening, or a need for specific access to the face and upon request as part of a law enforcement investigatory stop or investigation or court-related proceeding.
Additionally any person engaged in a work-related activity where a face covering would serve to present or exacerbate a hazard determined by local, state or federal workplace safety guideline, any person who is incarcerated unless instructed by the incarcerating entity and any person while giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience if the person can maintain social distancing from all other persons.
The new order additionally covers business and employer requirements and educational institutions. Under the intent and enforcement section it notes that inspections of businesses and entities may be conducted by the health department or its designated agents. These persons can initiate enforcement actions against those failing to comply with the directives of the order.
These actions include a written warning, a citation of noncompliance, closure with the matter being referred to legal counsel for litigation with penalties such as suspension or revocation of a license, remedial actions, vacation of a property, inspections, and penalties up to $2,500 per violation.
The new order will remain in effect until rescinded by the Elkhart County Local Health Order.
Prior to issuing the oder Mertz received letters of support from the mayor, county commissioners, and many city and town council members, public safety officials, school superintendents, chambers of commerce, and business leaders which “urged the Elkhart County Health Department . . . to issue a new public health order designed to more significantly mitigate the spread of the virus.” They further expressed their “support [for] the work of the Elkhart County Health Department to develop and adopt a new public health order that will help protect our residents from being infected by the coronavirus while also keeping our economy open.”
To read Public Health Order 05-2020 click here.
To read Public Health Order 06-2020 click here.