AUBURN — DeKalb County will not require people to wear masks in public places, now that Indiana counties can make their own COVID-19 rules.
“DeKalb County will not impose a mask mandate unless conditions change or new science indicates a necessity,” county Health Officer Dr. Mark Souder said Tuesday.
As personal advice for people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19, “Mask-wearing can be considered optional until there’s evidence that there’s a variant that’s causing disease,” Souder added.
He asked residents to respect the rules of businesses and stores that choose to continue requiring masks.
“Every institution has the right to make its own rules and guidance,” Souder said.
He said he “stands 100% behind” the decision by local schools to continue their mask mandates through the end of this school year.
“They’ve been very effective, and leaving them in place to the end of the school year is extremely wise,” Souder said.
Several areas of information and research about COVID-19 remain unsettled, he said.
Remaining questions involve how long immunity lasts from a vaccine or from fighting off a COVID-19 infection. Vaccines may differ in their duration of effectiveness, he added.
“Are we seeing mutations and variant strains here? Are variant strains being covered by the current vaccines?” Souder asked.
“It’s really important that we assist the elderly and at-risk persons to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” especially if people lack transportation or need help in scheduling a shot, he added.
“It is really important for people not to schedule more than one shot,” Souder said. “It’s causing a great deal of headache and wasted time.”
People can cancel unneeded appointments by the same method they signed up, at outshot.in.gov or by calling 211.
Giving credit to DeKalb County’s vaccination site at the DeKalb County Fairgrounds in Auburn, Souder said, “I really want to praise and thank all of our volunteers and the hardworking Health Department staff. Without them, this would not be possible” to relax mask rules.
Souder related the story of a local woman in her 40s who developed sinus drainage, a headache and light cough, but dismissed them as allergy symptoms. When she was tested as she checked into a local hospital, she discovered she was COVID-positive.
“You don’t know if you’ve got COVID until you get tested,” he emphasized.
That’s why even if masks are optional, they still are advised, he said.
Souder concluded, “While DeKalb County is winning the COVID war, this pandemic is not over, and we must remain vigilant.”