FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As COVID-19 cases surge in Allen County, many residents are wondering whether restrictions like a mask mandate may be put in place again.
WANE 15’s Chris Darby took the question to Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Matthew Sutter on Wednesday.
Sutter said he may consider issuing a public health order if the county falls into the ‘orange’ advisory level for community spread with a “severe strain on the healthcare system,” or in the ‘red.’ Allen County, along with much of the state, was listed as ‘orange’ in the state Department of Health’s latest county metrics map on Wednesday.
Sutter said, though, that any public health order would be “complicated” by a new state law (Senate Bill 5) passed this May that curtails the ability of local health departments to issue and enforce such orders. The Allen County commissioners would need to approve a public health order, Sutter explained.
“That complicates the decision quite a bit,” said Sutter. “For now what I’m trying to do is get the word out: this is serious. The pandemic is not over.”
Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters told WANE 15 that it was too early to discuss whether they’d approve such an order, and they’d cross that bridge when or if they come to it.
Sutter said this is “largely a pandemic of the unvaccinated at this point.” He urged residents to again wear a mask and practice social distancing, and to reconsider their social plans.
“This spike continues to increase and the curves are still straight up,” Sutter said.
On Wednesday, the Allen County Department of Health reported 262 new COVID cases and 4 new deaths tied to the virus. Statewide, 80 percent – 73 of 92 counties – of Indiana counties are in the ‘orange’ or ‘red’ advisory level for community spread.