The Journal Gazette
Thursday, April 01, 2021 12:51 pm

Health commissioner: 'Better than we were, but not completely done'

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

Allen County's top health official wants area residents to keep doing what they've been doing to combat COVID-19.

Dr. Matthew Sutter, county health commissioner, said Thursday he won't impose mandatory mask wearing in the county when the statewide mask mandate becomes an advisory Tuesday.

But some things won't change, he and other local officials stressed Thursday during a news conference at Citizens Square.

All county and city offices will continue to require employees and visitors to wear face coverings. Face-coverings also will continue to be required in state offices, schools and vaccine and testing sites. Private businesses and offices also may continue to require masks.

And residents should continue to practice social distancing and hand-sanitizing, stay home when they're sick and get vaccinated as soon as possible. 

Sutter said he would reimpose restrictions if cases and hospitalizations spike. The latest directives from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb give local officials that option.

"We're at a much, much better place than we were in November," he said. "But the pandemic is not over."

Sutter said the number of those over 65 being vaccinated is heartening because seniors have borne the brunt of severe illness, hospitalizations and death.

"And my take is that even if we see a huge surge at this point, I don't think we will completely overwhelm the hospitals," he added.

That is why he took the option of not imposing a broad, countywide mandate. But Sutter said cases have had seen an uptick in recent weeks, and spring break and the Easter holiday might lead to more cases.

Allen County Thursday reported 79 new cases, bringing the county's total to 37,976. No new deaths were reported to add to the total of 663.

If the county gets into the orange category -- the second-most-serious in the state's color coded system -- "with a significant increase in hospitalizations," Sutter would consider reinstating restrictions.

Sutter would also do that and put "other restrictions" in place if the county goes back into red, the most serious category, he said.

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