Lenna Gottschild packages clean fabric masks in August 2021. Monroe County’s mask mandate will end when the county incidence rate drops below 50 per 100,000 residents. RICH JANZARUK/HERALD-TIMES
Lenna Gottschild packages clean fabric masks in August 2021. Monroe County’s mask mandate will end when the county incidence rate drops below 50 per 100,000 residents. RICH JANZARUK/HERALD-TIMES

Monroe County is the only Indiana county with a mask mandate. Depending on your perspective, local officials are either overreacting and overreaching — or the only leaders in the state who are acting responsibly.

However, compliance with the mandate appears to be slipping — and at an inopportune time: Cases are rising again in Monroe and contiguous counties, just as colder temperatures are pushing people to spend more time indoors, raising the risk of more infections of COVID-19 and other seasonal diseases such as the flu.

Monroe County’s incidence rate, or the number of new COVID-19 cases per week per 100,000 residents, rose to 123 Wednesday, up 9% from the previous week. The local mask mandate will be rescinded automatically once that number falls below 50, but local health officials don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

Penny Caudill, administrator of the local health department, said county officials adopted that standard, 50 weekly cases per 100,000 population, based on a table from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC:

  • • Low transmission means fewer than 10 weekly cases per 100,000 residents.
  • • Moderate transmission: 10-49.99.
  • • Substantial: 50-99.99
  • • High: Above 100.
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