Concerned about rising Covid positivity rates, increased hospitalizations and nearing the 50 Covid death mark in LaPorte County, Dr. Sandra Deausy today announced a series of measures she’s dubbed “Project Vigilant” using her authority under state law to fight further spread of the Covid-19 virus. (Indiana Code Section 16-20-1-24 provides that local health officers may “forbid public gatherings when considered necessary to prevent and stop epidemics.”  Indiana Code Section 16-20-1-25 also allows a health officer to “abate” any condition that may “transmit, generate or promote disease” including the authority to seek a court injunction.)

“Step 1 in Project Vigilant was to authorize letters going out to all businesses in LaPorte County to remind them of their obligation to ensure that masks are worn in public spaces where commerce is being conducted, the masks must cover the nose and mouth and those serving the public must always wear masks – no exceptions.  I’ve also reminded business owners there is no legal immunity currently, which means they have workers’ compensation liability if an employee becomes infected due to their lack of enforcement and the business can be sued by patrons who become sick because masking wasn’t enforced.  I’ve made it clear that if we get reliable reports that a restaurant, bar or business establishment selling any kind of food such as a convenience mart is not adhering to guidelines, we will use our authority to pull their permit and shut them down. Period.”

“Step 2 in Project Vigilant is to encourage members of the public that if they “see something, say something.”  First bring it to the attention of the manager or owner of an establishment or the host of a party, function or gathering – including a religious service or a non profit event –  and if nothing is done to ensure masking and social distancing, then call the department.  We’ve set up a hotline at the department at 219/362-2525 where residents can report businesses, events or functions that are non compliant with CDC masking and social distancing guidelines.

“Step 3 in Project Vigilant is I’m requiring anyone holding a function in excess of 250 persons to run the arrangements past the Health Department as we did before moving to Stage 5 statewide.  The super-spreader wedding in St. Joseph County that is reported on in Friday’s South Bend Tribune which has resulted in the isolation or quarantine of nearly 40 nurses and hospital staff who attended the event and did not wear masks is a reminder of how critical it is that everyone comply with the mask mandate particularly when participating in a  party or social function.”  (See attached.)

Dr. Deausy observed that “on last Sunday’s Meet the Press, Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota told Chuck Todd that “the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic.”   

The Health Officer concluded by saying that  “I will use any of the significant authority I have under Indiana law to reduce the spread of this virus and will insist on universal mask wearing and social distancing. No exceptions.”

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