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St. Joseph County face mask ordinance one step closer to getting final approval

Published: Sep. 22, 2020 at 11:30 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A St. Joseph County face mask ordinance is now one step closer to getting final approval after a county council meeting Tuesday night.

County councilwoman Diana Hess said they were not able to pass the ordinance at the meeting because the health department had to make some revisions, but it was approved in committee.

It will hopefully go to full council in October for the final vote.

To start with the basics: A mandate is a public health order and an ordinance would give health officials authority to enforce the public health order.

After community input, the newly-revised ordinance would now focus solely on business establishments and would no longer fine individuals.

“We have a mechanism through our website for people to file complaints, or express concerns about some place they think is not complying. Our team will follow up on those, first to verify it and, again, still our focus is on education. How can we do this better? If we get repeated complaints or if people are reluctant to take any steps to try and improve, then the ordinance would allow a provision to place a fine on them," said Deputy Health Officer with the St. Joseph County Department of Health Dr. Mark Fox.

While it is unclear if this ordinance would apply to schools and sporting events, it would apply to churches that host indoor services, according to the health department.

The St. Joseph County Health Department said the highest number of transmissions has been in churches.

Another topic that has been discussed for some time now is hazard pay for over a dozen departments.

The county council attorney was asked to write a single ordinance that will be discussed at a future meeting.

One department requesting this pay: The St. Joseph County Coroner’s Office.

“We still have to determine the positive identification, the cause and manner of death, and by doing that we have to do the head to toe exam so we are in full contact with the deceased,” said St. Joseph County Coroner Mike McGann.

16 News Now has been following this story from the beginning and will stay with it until a decision is made.

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