(TNS) - Dec. 2—Businesses failing to comply with Elkhart County's orders to control spread of the coronavirus now can face fines set forth by an ordinance passed by the board of commissioners.
The commissioners on Monday passed an ordinance to add monetary fines for violations of the county's orders regarding the wearing of masks, social distancing, unauthorized gatherings and other rules set forth by the ordinance enacted last month. The ordinance and the fines apply to the actions of both customers and employees, with businesses fined for violations by either.
On Tuesday, the commissioners met to amend Monday's ordinance to have it go into effect on Dec. 17, following the required publication of its terms.
The list of restrictions in Elkhart County already were in place. Commissioners said in their meeting that the fine ordinance was a strong measure to try to get people to comply with ways to mitigate the COVID-19 infections seen to be straining the area's hospitals and causing disruptions with people required to quarantine.
The ordinance states that first-time violators will receive a written warning. For second violations, those not in compliance will face fines ranging from $50 for failure to have face-covering requirement signs at entrances to $250 for hosting large gatherings that do not comply with approved COVID-19 safety plans. The cumulative fine amount would be limited to $2,500.
For third or subsequent violations, fines would be imposed not to exceed a maximum of $5,000 total.
The county health department, the health officer, the emergency management director or a duly appointed person from these areas will enforce the terms of the ordinance. The orders will be in place until the ordinance is rescinded by commissioners or the public health order is rescinded.
In related matters, the Elkhart County Administration Building and the Elkhart County Public Services Building in Goshen were ordered closed on Monday by the commissioners. The business to be conducted in those buildings will be done by appointment only.
Commissioners at Monday's meeting expressed hope the businesses would support the county's efforts to keep people safe in the pandemic.
Commissioner Suzy Weirick last month spoke at a Candid Conversation Zoom meeting of county business, healthcare and governmental leaders, saying she was concerned over the medical stresses the pandemic had on the community. She said at that time a local hospital was not accepting patients because of the number of patients.
She said her work in deciding ways to help the community was based on trying to get people to wear masks and social distance themselves.
"Our intention is to make sure that the community is still as open as possible," she said.
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