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If numbers rise, DeKalb County’s health officer will issue local mask mandate

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AUBURN, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) -- Now that Hoosiers 30 and older are eligible to sign up for the COVID-19 vaccine, and those 16 and older can sign up Wednesday, will there be enough doses to go around?

"We will put in a mask mandate only if we see a big surge following the return of people from spring break and vacations and Easter. And we certainly hope that there won't be that surge," Dr. Mark Souder said.

As DeKalb County's health officer, Souder warns that Indiana is not out of the woods yet from the coronavirus, even though local statistics are encouraging.

"There's a tendency to let our guard down when the numbers are so low," he said.

Souder says there's a national concern about the rising numbers of positive cases, and he's concerned about the numbers in Indiana.

He says 20-30% of the high-risk Hoosiers over the age of 70 and those younger with underlying medical conditions are still not vaccinated, partly because vaccine clinics don't have enough doses.

DeKalb County's health officer warns that Indiana is not out of the woods yet from the coronavirus, even though local statistics are encouraging.

The DeKalb clinic administers about 340 doses a day of the Moderna vaccine.

But with 16-year-olds and older being eligible for the shots beginning Wednesday, Souder's worried.

"Everybody's going to be in the same position trying to get all these people vaccinated in as short a period of time as possible, but it's going to take several long weeks and months, perhaps, to get that job done," he said.

DeKalb County resident Michael Ferrell says there were enough appointments at the time he wanted when he signed up.

But he wants people to remain cautious.

"I think people should still wear masks until everybody gets the COVID-19 vaccine. Even if that takes months from now? Yeah," he said.

Dr. Souder agrees, saying he thinks that Governor Holcomb made a calculated political decision, rather than scientific one, to move next week from a mask mandate to a mask advisory.

He says masks have been proven to work to prevent the spread.

"We would rather that the governor hadn't taken the mask order off just yet. My hope is that everybody will continue to wear their masks at least for another solid month yet so we know exactly what we're up against," Souder said.

The governor's mask mandate expires April 6.

To schedule a vaccine appointment at a county health clinic or at a pharmacy, you can go to this website or you can call 211.

Corinne Rose

Corinne Rose is a reporter for WPTA.

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