La PORTE — With coronavirus cases spiking across the country, La Porte’s mayor is ordering masks for all employees and customers inside businesses to keep it from happening in the city.

Mayor Tom Dermody on Friday issued an executive order requiring that all customers and employees wear face coverings inside retail buildings to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“Our community has seen comparatively low numbers throughout this pandemic, but it is far from over,” Dermody said.

“Our numbers are beginning to run as the anticipated second wave approaches, and we want to be prepared.”

He says masks will help keep things running.

“The last thing we need is for the economy to shut down again, so we are being proactive in hopes that this measure will help prevent the spread of the virus and minimize the impact of the second peak in La Porte.”

Under the executive order, customers and employees will be required to wear a mask or face covering in enclosed businesses unless they have a medical exemption.

In spaces where a face covering would prevent the delivery of goods or services, such as a restaurant, face coverings will not be required as long as social distancing of at least 6 feet can be maintained.

In addition, retailers will be required to provide hand sanitizer at all entrances and near high-touch surfaces.

Dermody said Jeff Batchelor, the city’s director of code enforcement, is prepared to enforce this order.

“Our numbers are rising throughout the country and this is not something we are going to take lightly,” Batchelor said.

“My team and I will be going around the city to ensure this executive order is being followed. We don’t want to ticket people, but we will if that’s what it takes to keep our community safe.”

The executive order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday, and run through Friday, Aug. 7.

“For those of you that believe I’m infringing on your personal freedoms and rights, I’m sorry,” Dermody said in announcing the order on a Facebook livestream Friday.

“I would ask that if you can’t wear a mask for yourself, please wear one for your brother, your wife, your children, your grandparents, for those elderly people that still can get around in our community and are most vulnerable.”

Dermody’s announcement came as the La Porte County Health Department reported 20 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last two days, and the county’s 27th death.

As of Friday, the county has 408 confirmed public cases, 195 Westville Correctional Facility cases, and 8 Indiana State Prison cases – a total of 611 cases.

Of the new cases, 14 were in Michigan City, 4 were in La Porte, 1 was in Westville, and 1 was in unincorporated New Carlisle. Of the 20, 15 were women, 8 were over age 70, and 8 were under 50.

The death was a Michigan City woman younger than 50, who died at Franciscan Health Michigan City on Wednesday.

Overall, as of Friday, the county had confirmed 193 cases in Michigan City, 162 in La Porte, 20 in Westville, 9 in Rolling Prairie, 4 each in Mill Creek, Hanna and Union Mills; 3 each in Trail Creek, Kingsford Heights, Wanatah and LaCrosse; and 1 in unincorporated New Carlisle.

The Indiana State Department of Health on Friday announced that 748 more Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 9 more have died.

That brings the statewide total to 50,300 cases, 2,555 confirmed deaths, and 193 probable deaths, based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test was on record. The state total includes 605 cases in La Porte County.

As of Friday, 550,562 tests had been reported to ISDH, up from 542,292 on Thursday. There have been 8,531 tests reported in La Porte County.

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