On July 22, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a statewide mask mandate to begin July 27 for everyone in Indiana age 8 or older in indoor public spaces – including transportation services and public outdoor places where social distancing of 6 feet isn’t possible.
Exceptions include those who have a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, participating in strenuous physical activity or while eating or drinking.
Holcomb initially stated not wearing a face mask would be considered a Class B misdemeanor
days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines) – and stated, ““Please know that the mask police will not be patrolling Indiana streets.” – but then rescinded any criminal penalties after much criticism.
The mask mandate has been met with a variety of responses. Several elected officials, including Speaker Todd Hutson, expressed surprise while others applauded the decision.
Indiana’s Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an advisory opinion stating the governor overstepped his authority with the mandate. The opinion does not block Gov. Holcomb’s action.
Sheriffs in at least four counties publicly stated they would not enforce the mandate when Gov. Holcomb previously stated it would be a misdemeanor to not wear a mask.
In Floyd County, Dr. Thomas Harris of the Floyd County Health Department – with approval of the Floyd County Board of Health – announced a mask mandate was to begin on July 24 – three days prior to Gov. Holcomb’s mandate. In a press release, Harris wrote that masks must cover the mouth and nose in indoor areas open to the public, including transportation services; private indoor or outdoor areas where social distancing of 6 feet can’t be maintained; enclosed public spaces and places of business. Individuals who are exempt include children 2 years old or younger, people who are hearing impaired and need to remove masks or facial coverings to communicate, individuals in respiratory distress, or anyone who has been advised, in writing, by a primary care provider not to wear a mask due to health concerns.
Multiple law enforcement agencies issued statements requesting violations of the mask mandate be made to local health departments instead of calling authorities, which has since been affirmed by the governor.
Pundits from all over the country are making the rounds sharing their opinions about the mandate– for and against.
And you only need to jump on social media for a moment to find a variety of responses: Some decry the order as far too late.
Some express enthusiastic appreciation for the mandate.
There are posts that claim adherence means acceptance of personal liberties and freedom being stripped away.
There are posts filled with heartfelt pleas to others to wear masks and examples of first-person accounts with COVID.
There are status updates from people who would prefer not to wear masks but will anyway.
There are quotes from famous historical figures, professional athletes, celebrities and notable people weighing in for or against.
There are memes, made up statistics, conspiracy theories and claims the mass media is perpetuating fake news.
There are Tik Tok videos, live rants, figurative soap boxes, political cartoons and pics of kids – and kittens, puppies, dogs, cats – donning masks with statements representing all perspectives.
Regardless of where you stand, one thing is for sure: the face mask is a sign of the times – but will it define us?
Tell Us: What do you think about masks and the mandate issued by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Responses may be shared in the next issue of Extol.