By Dan Spalding
WARSAW — Don’t look for any support from local officials on a county-wide mask mandate.
That approach was echoed again Wednesday, Dec. 30, by officials who met in a quickly assembled online news conference after learning the county had been shifted to the red category by the state in its tracking of COVID-19.
Officials from the city of Warsaw and Kosciusko County urged people to be vigilant, limit social interactions outside of households and cancel upcoming holiday gatherings.
Kosciusko County Health Officer Dr. William Remington and others expressed skepticism on Wednesday over the idea of a mask mandate when the topic came up in the news conference.
Given the apparent local opposition to a mask mandate, Remington said he could not envision a mandate would make a difference.
Elkhart and St. Joseph counties have enacted mask mandates. St. Joseph extended its mandate through the end of March. Elkhart County has struggled to come up with a cohesive enforcement approach after the sheriff announced he would not participate.
The governor’s mandate remains in effect.
The state directive requires Hoosiers age 8 and up to mask themselves in all indoor public settings and outdoors when they cannot maintain 6 feet of distance from others. It took effect on July 27 and was extended last month.
Remington said he doesn’t think a local mandate would make a difference.
The governor’s mask directive “was a super-hard sell in this county, but I so appreciated him doing that,” Remington said.
“For us to layer on top of that, I don’t sense that that’s gone very well in a lot of adjacent communities,” he said. “I’m not sure what it accomplishes.”
Neither Republican Warsaw Mayor Joe Thallemer nor County Commissioner Cary Groninger – who also participated in the news conference – voiced any support for the notion.
In November, St. Joseph County officials approved an ordinance establishing fines for businesses that don’t enforce the mask order among employees.
If a business has been warned about employees not following the order and remains out of compliance, it can be fined between $50 and $250. Fines can accrue daily for each day out of compliance.