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Indiana's mask mandate takes effect in bid to slow virus

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — State health officials added three more coronavirus-related deaths to Indiana’s pandemic total on Monday, the same day the governor’s statewide mandate for wearing face masks took effect.

The new COVID-19 fatalities occurred since Friday and pushed Indiana’s total to 2,906, including confirmed and presumed cases, since the state's first death was recorded in mid-March, the Indiana State Department of Health said. Gov. Eric Holcomb pointed last week to the renewed growth in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations in announcing the statewide mask order that's aimed at slowing the virus' spread. The Republican governor’s executive order issued Friday leaves it up to state and local health departments to enforce compliance because he dropped a criminal penalty from the mandate after criticism from some law enforcement officials and conservative lawmakers. An additional 561 confirmed virus infections were also announced Monday by the state health department. That is the lowest total in more than two weeks, although fewer test results are typically reported during weekends. Indiana's seven-day average of new cases and its number of COVID-19 hospitalizations remain higher than a month ago, when those numbers started rising following declines from previous peaks in April and early May.

The number of newly reported infections topped 1,000 on Friday for the first time since the outbreak hit Indiana during March.

Indiana’s average deaths remain about 20% of the late April and early May peak, but health officials have said they worry about that growing in the coming weeks with additional infections and hospitalizations.

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