Wayne County won’t continue broad mask requirements at this time

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Wayne County commissioners decided Wednesday, April 7, that they are not going to widely require masks be worn in public at this time, even though a majority of Wayne County Health Board members had recommended it.

While commissioners encourage residents to continue wearing masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, they said they believe a mask requirement will be too hard to enforce after Indiana’s Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the requirement would be lifted statewide April 6.

At that time, Holcomb encouraged Hoosiers to keep wearing masks and said he would continue to wear one in public.

However, the public will remain required to wear masks on Wayne County property, which county officials can enforce.

County government employees will continue wearing masks while entering or exiting the building, while in common areas such as hallways, restrooms, stairways or elevators; when interacting with the public; or when interacting with fellow county employees when social distancing can’t be maintained.

In addition, Richmond Mayor Dave Snow is requiring masks be worn by all citizens and visitors to City of Richmond buildings. Those riding city buses also will need to continue masking.  All city government employees will remain masked while at work.

Reid Health also is requiring masks for all visitors to its campus and medical offices.

Snow announced Monday he would not continue a broader public mask requirement in the city at this time, but noted that could change if there was a significant increase in infections or limitations arose for hospital capacity.

Snow said he needed to balance the health board’s recommendations and the newer availability of vaccinations with the cultural and economic vitality of the community and the city government’s ability to enforce such restrictions.

RELATED STORY: Health department offering Saturday (April 10) Moderna clinic; IU East, Ivy Tech, Purdue students, staff can get shots on campus Thursday (April 8)

Commissioners noted Wednesday that mask requirements could go back into place if Wayne County goes out of the blue, or best, state advisory level for the number of local COVID-19 cases and percentage of positive tests.

Wayne County is clinging to the state’s blue advisory level for COVID-19, but it’s flirting with the yellow level, based on the increasing number of weekly cases and positivity rate.

A new map is posted each Wednesday. 

When the weekly rankings were announced April 7, Wayne County averaged its number of cases and positivity rate to stay in the blue.

If based solely on the number of cases, 63 per 100,000 residents, Wayne would have turned yellow, but its low positivity rate for all tests (3.47) helped preserve the blue ranking.  Wayne County has had 6,820 lab-confirmed positives since the pandemic began and has had 196 related deaths.

However, Henry and Delaware counties weren’t so lucky, with both returning to yellow on April 7. Delaware County recorded 67 cases per 100,000 residents, and Henry was at 43. Their positivity rates were over 5 and 6 percent, respectively.

Much of northern, central and southern Indiana is in the yellow. Jasper and Jackson counties are the worst in the state at orange levels.

Read more about local masking policies and COVID-19 related news, such as updated charts featuring the numbers of cases in local schools, long-term care facilities and local communities in the weekly edition of Western Wayne News. 

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