Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Department officials said Thursday that they’re mandating face masks be worn in public in Marion County.
Beginning July 9, face coverings will be required to be worn in indoor places where the public gathers, such as in office buildings and retail stores. They’ll also be required outdoors when it’s not possible to socially distance. Hogsett said the order won’t go into effect until July 9 to give residents time to get masks, but officials recommend residents who aren’t already wearing them start now.
“This isn’t complicated. It’s a piece of cloth. It’s a piece of cloth that could save your life and the lives of those around you, and it’s the right thing to do,” Hogsett said.
The mandate comes as Marion County prepares to enter Stage 4.5 of the state’s Back on Track plan, announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday. The state is strongly recommending—but not mandating—Hoosiers wear masks and has launched a marketing campaign aimed at encouraging face coverings.
As part of Marion County’s new public health order, events larger than 1,000 people will be required to submit a risk mitigation plan to the Marion County Public Health Department for approval. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities will remain closed to visitors, and overnight camps will not be allowed.
Although Indiana’s recent counts of COVID-19 cases have not skyrocketed as they have in other places, such as Arizona and Florida, Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said cases in states surrounding Indiana are on the rise. In Michigan, for example, they’re up 92%, and in Illinois they’re up 21%.
“We have to understand we’re just a plane ride or car travel away,” she said. “We have to be conscious of what’s going on around us.”
The percentage of COVID-19 tests that are positive in Marion County has been pretty steady but ticked up slightly since mid-June. As of Tuesday, there had been 11,387 positive cases in Marion County and 679 deaths. There has also been a shift in the demographics of cases in Marion County.
From March 16 through April 15, people between the ages of 20 and 39 made up 27% of the cases. The latest data, from June 21 through June 27, shows that age range now accounts for 49% of cases.
At first, enforcement of the mask mandate will focus on education, Caine said. But if an individual or business willfully defies the order, they could be fined.
Masks won’t be required on children ages 2 and under or for people who have medical issues that prohibit them from wearing a face covering.
For residents who don’t have a mask, the city is providing them. Visit indy.gov/masks to request a free face covering.
“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, not those who whined about it.”