By Patrick Forrest
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb has signed an executive order removing the statewide mask mandate but allowing counties and more local regulations to remain in place. Despite this development the city of Gary and Lake County will continue to require masks throughout the month of April at least.
“Mask use is strongly encouraged for everyone to continue wearing especially with the variant and with all those that have traveled who may have contracted the virus in their travels and may bring the virus back,” said Letty Zepeda, administrator of the Porter County Health Department. “For food establishments it’s encouraged as people’s perception that good hygiene is being practiced goes a long way.”
In Lake County, the Board of Health convened for the purpose of discussing Governor Holcomb‘s announcement to replace Indiana‘s mandatory face mask executive order with a face mask advisory on April 6, 2021. In light of Governor Holcomb’s State-wide face mask advisory, the Lake County Board of Health is rescindlng any prior face mask mandates established by the Lake County Health Department.
The Lake County Health Department continues to strongly recommend the continued wearing of face masks in public indoor spaces, including businesses, retail establishments, gyms. exercise facilities, churches, governmental offices as well as outdoors when safe distancing is not passable.
“We will continue to monitor the COVID-19 case statistics in Lake County and initiate all possible actions as necessary to control the community spread of the virus,” a department spokesperson said in a statement. “The positive efforts by all community members and businesses has brought us to a point where the return to living without the hardships and destruction mused by the pandemic is in sight.”
Despite the good news of life coming back to normal, new research has led to questions surrounding the opening of schools.
Dr. Michael Osterholm, the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and also a member of Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Advisory Board during the time between Biden being elected president and inaugurated, has come forward to re-evaluate his previous advice.
Osterholm previously supported sending children back to school. He said the virus was not a major threat to children. Now, the situation has changed.
“Please understand, this B.1.1.7 variant is a brand new ball game,” Osterholm said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “It infects kids very readily. Unlike previous strains of the virus, we didn’t see children under 8th grade get infected often or they were not frequently very ill, they didn’t transmit to the rest of the community.”
The new information is not changing the reopening announcement with Gary Community School Corporation however as stated by Dr. Paige McNulty.
“The Gary Community School Corporation will continue to follow the guidance of the Health Commissioner and CDC,” McNulty said in a statement to the Crusader. “If there is a significant spike in cases, we will adjust in-person learning accordingly.”