Dr. Bethany Wait

Dr. Bethany Wait, Elkhart County health officer, speaks about the local COVID-19 situation in this March 12, 2021, file photo.

ELKHART — Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait reported Wednesday that another variant was found in Elkhart County this weekend by the Indiana Department of Health Laboratory.

The B.1427 variant is the second variant found in the county. This mutation of the novel coronavirus was identified first in California.

The first variant, B.1.1.7, was discovered in Elkhart County March 17. It is from the United Kingdom.

Wait said the case is still under investigation and more information will be provided to the public as it is known.

The B.1427 variant is more easily transmittable, which could lead to more infections and increase hospitalizations and deaths, according to information provided by Wait. Genetic testing will continue to be performed on specimens collected in Elkhart County. Wait added that the presence of this variant in the community makes vaccinations even more essential.

“Please consider vaccination of COVID-19 if you are eligible,” she stated in a news release. “All vaccines are still effective against the variant. If you feel sick, please get tested. The free testing facilities are located at the Concord Mall, Shanklin Park in Goshen, and the Anglemyer Clinic in Nappanee. Be vigilant with mitigation efforts. Wear a mask, be socially distant, wash your hands often, and use hand sanitizer in-between hand washings.”

CLARIFICATION ON REPORTS

Also, Dr. Wait wanted to clarify reports that have been circulating in news and social media posts concerning face covering requirements.

At the beginning of December of 2020, Elkhart County enacted a mandatory face mask ordinance along with restrictions that followed Gov. Eric Holcomb’s executive orders. On March 24, Holcomb announced those restrictions would end April 6, however, county’s could choose to make their restrictions more strict if they desired.

Elkhart County’s restrictions will also end April 6. However, the health officer can still require face masks or other mitigation if deemed necessary. That has not happened yet. Wait is still considering options.

“Elkhart County is aware of Governor Holcomb’s anticipated executive order to modify the state’s COVID-19 mitigation directives effective April 6, 2021,” Wait stated in a news release. “Our Health Department is still waiting to see the official requirements and recommendations set forth in the anticipated executive order. Recent news and social media posts have suggested that I have announced a final decision regarding mitigation directives and the continuation of face covering requirements following April 6, 2021. This is not true.

“As the Elkhart County Health Officer, I continue to work directly with the State Department of Health and local government officials to evaluate what is next in Elkhart County. The Elkhart County Health Department will release an official statement after we have had time to review the anticipated executive order from Governor Holcomb. Until then, residents of Elkhart County need to continue following the state and local mitigation directives currently in place.”

In an interview on Goshen News Now podcast, Wait said that she is speaking with the commissioners, mayors and others before making a decision. She believes the answer is in the middle somewhere, more like if a business owner wants customers to wear a mask, then the customer should comply or not go to the business. She still urges people to wear masks and continue with COVID mitigation measures until Elkhart County is in a better position. On Wednesday, Elkhart County had a positivity rate of 7.0%, the highest in our local region, and remained at yellow on the state’s COVID metrics map.

The important focus right now, she said, is vaccinations. The more people who get vaccinated, the sooner normalcy can return.

For more of that interview, look for the podcast on goshennews.com.

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