EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke and local health officials announced Tuesday that beginning next week, the city will follow state guidance and will shift from a face mask mandate to an advisory. The change will happen on April 6.
“While there’s some very encouraging signs and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. This is not an all clear,” said Dan Parod, president of St. Vincent’s southern region.
Even though Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb is lifting the statewide mask mandate, area health officials are still urging everyone not to break certain habits yet.
“There are still ways to protect yourself when you’re in public. Wearing the mask, social distancing, if you’re not feeling well stay home when you’re sick. Those are the things that have worked and it shows,” explained Joe Gries, Vanderburgh County Health Department administrator.
The decrease in COVID cases and increase in vaccinations is why city leaders decided to follow the governor’s footsteps, scaling down to a mask advisory starting April 6.
“We are in a totally different place today than we were last July when we implemented a city mandate,” explained Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke. “The trends were going totally in a different direction. Today, the numbers are down, hospitalizations are down, deaths have decreased lately and we have 50 some odd thousand vaccinated.”
Mayor Lloyd Winnecke says 31% of Vanderburgh county residents have received at least one dose of their COVID vaccine. Dr. Gina Huhnke says the vaccines seem to be fending off COVID-19 variants too.
“And we haven’t seen a very significant spike in this community of any of the variants thus far. We will continue to monitor that though and that might be one reason why the mask advisory would be elevated again simply because of the increase in cases,” explained Dr. Huhnke from Deaconess Health System.
Even after the mask mandate becomes an advisory, face coverings will still need to be worn in healthcare facilities, city owned buildings, and on a METS bus.
“Private business and other institutions may require masks or they may not. It will be their decision,” Mayor Winnecke said. He is urging everyone to be respectful of local businesses owners who will still be requiring masks and community members who chose to keep wearing their mask.
“We’re not saying don’t wear masks. We are saying wear a mask, get the vaccine, but the city government is not going to mandate it,” explained Winnecke.
Eyewitness news has reached out to surrounding towns and cities to see if they will also implement a mask advisory. Tell City’s mayor says he is standing by the governor’s mask advisory as well. Other area leaders have not yet shared their plans.
(This story was originally published on March 29, 2021)