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County health officials weigh new COVID-19 restrictions and protocols

| Tuesday, October 6, 2020

St. Joseph County health officer Dr. Robert Einterz said he expects the county to implement new health guidelines in the next day in order to inhibit the spread of the coronavirus, the South Bend Tribune reported Monday.

Einterz said the guidelines could include moving back a stage or two in the state’s reopening plans. Governor Eric Holcomb recently lifted almost all lockdown restrictions Sept. 26 as part of the state’s Phase 5 reopening plan. Masks are still mandated in the county until the end of the year and statewide through Oct. 17.

Einterz and others including members of the Unified Command team, the country‘s response team to the coronavirus pandemic, discussed options for additional restrictions Monday morning.

The Tribune reported Andy Kostielney, president of the county Board of Commissioners, said he asked Einterz to set up a meeting Tuesday between the Unified Command team, South Bend Mayor James Mueller and Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood.

State statute empowers the county health officer to close schools, churches and social gatherings, Einterz noted.

The Tribune reported COVID-19 hospitalizations were the highest level since late April Friday. Last week, deputy county health officer Dr. Mark Fox said there was no obvious cause of the increase in COVID-19 cases.

Einterz said the health department has begun to issue abatement orders — an official notice telling the establishment steps must be taken to improve conditions — to some bars and nightclubs in the county recently, where officials have found conditions that can further the spread of the virus.

Health department inspectors have found “individuals packed shoulder to shoulder and not wearing masks and in violation of the governor’s orders,” Einterz said.

The abatement orders outline the necessary actions and give establishments three days to comply or face closure.

Einterz said some requirements such as closing a dance floor would be immediate.

“I think there was a misconception on the part of the public and some of the establishment owners and managers that going to Stage 5 meant that everything was open and it was business as usual,” Einterz said.

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