INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s governor is set to announce a decision Wednesday on extending the statewide face mask mandate as the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and rates of new infections have continued recent sharp increases.
Concerns over the coronavirus spread prompted health officials in northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County to ask that in-person religious services be stopped through next March.
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Wearing a mask may be uncomfortable, but we all need to #MaskUpHoosiers.— Indiana State Department of Health (@StateHealthIN) July 13, 2020
Prolonged use of face mask should not interfere with your normal breathing and will help prevent you from spreading #COVID19. pic.twitter.com/rox6Va7JdJ
The letter sent Tuesday urged religious services be carried out virtually because of colder weather and the approaching influenza season.
Five clusters of coronavirus infections have been traced to those attending religious services in the South Bend area since late August, deputy county health officer Dr. Mark Fox told the South Bend Tribune.
The health department has also recently warned some bars and restaurants to follow safety measures or face possible closure.
St. Joseph and neighboring Elkhart counties have reported recent increases in coronavirus illnesses that have filled much of their available hospital space.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb announced three weeks ago that he was lifting nearly all of Indiana’s restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes.
He left in place the mask mandate, which is currently set to expire Saturday.
Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations have grown 70% over the past three weeks and the state’s seven-day rolling average of new confirmed infections are up 90% during that time, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
State health officials have reported 111 coronavirus-related deaths over the past week through Monday.