Indianapolis officials ordering mandatory face masks
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Face masks will be required in all public places in Indianapolis beginning next week, despite a recent decline in confirmed coronavirus cases among residents, city officials announced Thursday.
Mayor Joe Hogsett said the new mandate taking effect July 9 will require face coverings in all indoor public spaces unless a person is alone in an office or eating at a restaurant. Masks also will be required outdoors when social distancing can’t be maintained, such as sitting in the stands of a sporting event or standing in line at an ice cream shop, he said.
The mandate for the state’s largest city follows similar mask requirements introduced in St. Joseph, Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northern Indiana because of COVID-19 outbreaks.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday that he would not issue a statewide mask mandate, but he encouraged everyone to wear face coverings as he delayed lifting capacity limits in place for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues until at least July 18.
Hogsett, a Democrat, said wearing a mask was a simple way to slow the spread of the coronavirus and save lives.
“That means, if you are willfully choosing to not follow this order, you are dead wrong in the fullest sense of that expression,” Hogsett said. “This weekend, we celebrate those who did the difficult things to preserve personal freedom. We don’t celebrate those who whined about it.”
The city has seen its new confirmed COVID-19 infections fall from an average of 150 a day in early May to about 50 a day in late June, according to the Marion County Health Department. The county leads the state with 680 coronavirus-related deaths but the daily fatality rate has dropped from about 12 in late April to fewer than two in late June.
City officials said the one-week delay in requiring face coverings was aimed at spreading the word about the mandate, which will apply to anyone older than age 2. Violators could face fines but officials said educating the public about their importance was their goal.
“If we are going to see large groups of gatherings of people and a significant number of them are not wearing masks, we will have to intervene,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, the county health department director.