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A box of disposable masks is open and available at Wabash City Hall, where they are now required.

On Friday, July 24 Governor Eric J. Holcomb signed Executive Order 20-37 to require face coverings beginning Monday, July 27 to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to Rachel Hoffmeyer, press secretary.

The executive order also outlines the requirements for mask-wearing in schools.

The executive order does not include criminal penalties.

Local reactions

State and local health departments will be responsible for enforcing compliance through education about the importance of wearing face coverings.

Andrea Zwiebel, executive director of Wabash Marketplace, said Wabash merchants have a Facebook group and they created an action plan.

“Eric Schoening, Melissa Denney and Tracy Monce worked on poster designs. Pettit Printing made free copies of the posters. We assisted with poster distribution and provided disposable masks for merchants to have on hand. We’re continuing to evolve. I think we’re getting pretty good at it,” said Zwiebel. “First Friday is approved by the Wabash County Health Department.”

Zwiebel said effective Sat. Aug. 1, vendors and shoppers at the Wabash Farmers Market are required to wear face coverings. This change is in response to Holcomb’s Executive Order stating that face coverings are required “in an outdoor public space wherever it is not feasible to maintain 6 feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household.”There are a handful of exclusions including children under 8 years old and medical conditions.

Zwiebel said the Downtown Wabash Farmer’s Market is endorsed with the “Hoosier Hospitality Promise” to take a leadership role in protecting the community. Businesses endorsed are held to the highest level of sanitizing, monitoring staff health, and prioritizing community wellness. The program is championed by Indiana Destination Development Corporation.

On Friday, July 24, Wabash County Commissioners Barry Eppley, Jeff Dawes and Brian Haupert said beginning Monday, July 27, Wabash County Government buildings will follow the governor’s mandate by requiring all employees to correctly wear an appropriate face covering in indoor public spaces and in outdoor public spaces where social distancing is not available.

“Each department head is responsible for what they require within their own office,” they said.

The following guidelines should be included:

All work stations must maintain a minimum of 6 feet from the public and other employees.

Employees who are working and stationary and maintain a solidarity working environment while social distancing, may remove their mask.

When an employee needs to leave their workstation, to go somewhere else in the building, they must wear a mask.

Employees engaged with the public must wear a mask.

Employees in vehicles by themselves or with another employee are not required to wear a mask if mutually agreed.

When outside, if able to maintain social distancing employees do not need to wear a mask. If unable to maintain social distancing, employees must wear a mask.

“These guidelines may be modified as details of the governor’s mandate become known,” they said. “Signs will be posted on the building doors to state that masks are required.”

By the numbers

“Holcomb has used data to drive decisions since the state’s first case of the novel coronavirus in early March,” said Hoffmeyer.

At this time, the state faces:

An increase in overall hospitalizations from approximately 600 a day near the end of June to approximately 800 now

The highest number of cases in a single day with 1,011 Hoosiers reported positive as of Friday, July 24.

A rise in COVID-19 positivity across the state from a low of 3.6 percent. a month ago to nearly double that percentage now.

Some counties, which early on had minimal positive cases in some instances, now reporting regular double-digit positive cases.

The executive order is in effect until at least Aug. 26. Local governments may impose more restrictive guidelines.

For more information, visit https://www.in.gov/gov/2384.htm.

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.