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Mask opponents disagree with St. Joseph County mask mandate extension

Published: Apr. 6, 2021 at 6:15 PM EDT
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ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WNDU) - The words “troubling” and “unilateral” were used to describe St. Joseph County’s decision to extend its face mask mandate through May 27th.

A total of 16 citizens spoke about masks during the public hearing portion of today’s meeting of the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners.

“If you have facial hair, as you can see, wearing a mask is little or of no value,” said a bearded Steven Witmer.

“People need to be out from under this thing. It’s gone on way too long,” added Carole Kelly Havens.

All the speakers attended today’s meeting electronically. Jack Goetz took a mathematical approach to his argument against masks. “Basically, you have a, at current rate, you have a one in 200,000th chance of getting coronavirus from a store visit.”

When members of the public finished sounding off, it became clear that not all the critics were in the crowd. “I think the overall consensus again is, it should of just been an advisory, not an attempt to do a mandatory thing,” St. Joseph County Commissioner Derek Dieter told 16. “And people, if you want to wear a mask, wear a mask, if you don’t, that’s fine. Businesses, I’m sure everything would probably be the same. You have to have a mask in the store but, but again, letting people make their own decision is the way I view it.”

Commissioner Dieter and Commissioner Fleming today signed and sent a letter to the St Joseph County Health Officer, calling his decision to continue a mask mandate “troubling”, “disconcerting,” and “unilateral.”

Commissioner Dieter says Dr. Robert Einterz met beforehand with local elected leaders, Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood, South Bend Mayor James Mueller, and St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners President Andy Kostielney, along with Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Rea, and that everyone agreed that dialing down the mask mandate was the way to go.

“The health department, they are county employees, but the commissioners, like, we can’t fire them,” Dieter said. “You know, it’s his decision. He’s attempting to do what he believes is best for all. But the elected officials in the community were on one page, and then he went on another.”

Dr. Einterz decline comment. While he did extend St. Joseph County’s mask mandate, the order does contain language saying that the mandate would not be “renewed, revised, or extended” beyond the May 27th date.

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