Howard County’s local disaster declaration due to a public health emergency has been extended into August.

The county commissioners approved the extension, which now goes until Aug. 7, at their meeting Monday. The extension doesn’t change anything as the county is still adhering to Gov. Eric Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana Plan. The state is currently under Stage 4.5 of the plan.

What it does do, though, is allow the commissioners to make changes to the amount of people allowed at social gatherings, business occupancy rates and other related actions that the county took in March when the pandemic first hit.

“This just allows us to be in a position should things flare up and get out of control again we’d be in a position to take action,” Commissioner Paul Wyman said.

County officials continue to recommend residents to wear masks when indoors in public, though have stopped short of making it a requirement.

Kokomo Mayor Tyler Moore said he and county officials feel it’s still best to follow Holcomb’s lead, who has launched “Mask Up Hoosiers” campaign to encourage state residents to wear masks when in public, though he too has stopped short of requiring it like New Jersey, Kansas, Texas and other states have.

“Right now, because our hospitals have been able to maintain the level of cases we have and many of those not requiring the hospitalization….and because folks are already themselves are being respectful and wearing masks in and around when they’re shopping and out in public, at this time the plan is to continue to follow the governor’s lead,” Moore said.

Howard County has seen a slight uptick in positive cases recently, with 17 positive cases confirmed and one ICU admission and one non-ICU admission over the Fourth of July weekend.

The county's COVID-19 death toll is 63, according to the local health department. About 50 of those are long-term care facility and nursing home related deaths.
© 2020 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.