No mask mandate in Allen County as officials push for vaccines


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Allen County will not mandate face coverings in public places.

Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter said Thursday in a joint news conference with Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry and other business and community leaders that the county had come a long way since the virus surged over the winter with the widespread rollout of a vaccine.

“We’re in a much, much better place than we were in November, but the pandemic is not over,” Sutter said.

Sutter said he had the option to place a “broad mandate” for face coverings in the county, but he was not going to do that. He said he reserved the option if the virus spreads.

Masks will still be required in county and city buildings, as well as schools and vaccine and testing locations. Private businesses will be allowed to require masks as they see fit.

Last week, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said statewide restrictions including venue capacity limits and the mask mandate would be lifted April 6. At that point, local governments will be responsible for any restrictions, the governor announced.

Sutter said the county has seen a slight increase in COVId-19 cases over the past several weeks and he’s concerned about a spike because of holiday gatherings and spring break travel coming up combined with the Governor rolling back the state mask mandate.

On Wednesday WANE 15 sat down one-on-one with Mayor Henry Wednesday. He said he’s “uncomfortable” with the Governor’s April 6th mask mandate lift. He thinks a decision like that could afford to wait a few more months, “within 90 to 120 days.”

“I personally feel that that [April 6] might be a little soon,” he expressed. “So I think there might be a little bit of disagreement as to timing but I’m thinking within 120 days or so we should be probably in a position that we could make a very deliberate decision as far as masking. Herd immunity that’s a little more difficult to predict. I think we’re going to get to a point where those that want to be vaccinated will be vaccinated and we’re getting to the point where I truly believe COVID-19 will be in our rearview mirror within a very short period of time.”

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