Holcomb Mandates ‘No Penalty’ Statewide Face Covering For Hoosiers

Governor Eric J. Holcomb has signed an executive order requiring Hoosiers to wear face coverings in most public settings. The effort is a move to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“As we continue to monitor the data, we’ve seen a concerning change in some of our key health indicators,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Hoosiers have worked hard to help re-open our state, and we want to remain open. By masking up, we can and will save lives and slow the spread of COVID-19.”
A mask or other face covering may be factory-made, sewn by hand, or improvised from household items such as scarfs, bandanas and t-shirts. The mouth and nose should be covered.
The executive order will require face coverings for anyone 8 years old or older in the following places:
•Public indoor spaces and commercial entities
•While using public transportation or other vehicle services such as a taxi or ride share
•Outdoor public spaces when it’s not possible to socially distance from people not in the same household
Additionally, face coverings will be required in schools for students in the third grade and above, faculty, staff, volunteers and anyone else in schools. Masks are also required for co-curricular and extra-curricular activities with exceptions for strenuous physical activity.
The order will have exceptions for medical purposes, disabilities, exercising, and eating and drinking.
The state will approach enforcement of the face covering requirement with an emphasis on education. The executive order states a penalty can be levied under the authority of state law. Local governments may impose more restrictive guidelines.
The mandate was immediately met with support from the business and medical communities.
“The Indiana State Medical Association applauds Gov. Holcomb’s courageous leadership to require face masks for all Hoosiers throughout the state,” said Dr. Lisa Hatcher MD, president of ISMA. “This mandate is a necessary step to reverse the rising trend of COVID-19 and protect Indiana’s health care system from further strain. Face masks are a proven and effective tool to prevent transmission of the coronavirus and will allow Hoosiers to more safely visit their doctors for the preventive and ongoing care needed to stay healthy.”
“Too many Indiana companies, employees and their families are in their fifth month of financial turmoil. That will not change and our economy will not be on the full road to recovery until some certainty is brought to this uncontrolled pandemic,” said Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kevin Brinegar. “The wearing of masks is a proven strategy for protecting others and enhancing our health – both physical and economic.”
“Governor Holcomb’s order is a necessary step at this time in continuing to reopen Indiana safely,” Brinegar said.
When Holcomb first announced the order on Wednesday, he said violating the order would be a Class B misdemeanor, but he had emphasized “the mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets.”
In a major shift from what he announced late Wednesday, the state and local health departments will be charged with “enforcing compliance through education,” according to the executive order. Violators won’t face jail time or a fine.
Holcomb did not elaborate on why he changed his mind, but in the days late last week since he announced the mandate on Wednesday, leaders and politicians from his own party had pushed back.
Outgoing Attorney General Curtis Hill, Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, Sen. Mark Messmer, R-Jasper and Hamilton County Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush were among the Indiana Republicans who publicly questioned Holcomb’s legal ability and decision to implement a mask mandate in order to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Other Republican sheriffs and chiefs of police reportedly refused to enforce the mandate.