Republican council members call for repeal of mask mandate in Marion County

The Republican Caucus of the Indianapolis City-County Council plans to introduce a resolution calling for the repeal of the Marion County Public Health Department’s pandemic mask mandate, it announced Thursday.

The proposed resolution calls for advising the health department to repeal its mask mandate and refrain from closing a business or private school based on their mask policy. It would advise businesses and retailers that they can make their own mask policy and allow individuals to determine whether to wear a mask.

“The Marion County Health Department has been free to operate without any checks or balances for far too long,” Councilor Josh Bain, a Republican recently elected by caucus to represent District 20, said in written comments. “The fact that an unelected county official can shut down a business, private school or create a fine with the simple stroke of a pen without any oversight should be alarming to anyone who cherishes personal freedom and responsibility.”

Since July 9, face masks or coverings have been required in indoor places where people gather, including inside office buildings where employees don’t have an individual office and outdoors when social distancing isn’t possible.

The Marion County Public Health Department issued the mandate as coronavirus cases spiked this summer. The county mandate came before Gov. Eric Holcomb issued an executive order directing a similar mask requirement for the entire state. Indiana’s mandate, however, is not being enforced.

In Marion County, those who refuse to comply with the mask requirement face a fine of up to $1,000, although the department has repeatedly stressed it has taken an education-first approach to enforcement.

“Personal responsibility should be the guiding principal to encourage the mask wearing rather than prosecution,” the Republican council members said in a written statement.

The county health department declined to comment. It’s unclear if any individuals have been fined for not wearing a mask, but some businesses have faced fines (a spokesman for the department told IBJ he needed to check). And the department has threatened to close businesses that don’t adhere to coronavirus guidelines for reopening.

The mask mandate has been supported by Mayor Joe Hogsett, a Democrat who has repeatedly emphasized the importance of residents and businesses adhering to the rule.

“Like Governor Holcomb, Mayor Hogsett has relied on the guidance and expertise of public health experts to shape the policies and protocols necessary to keep residents safe,” Taylor Schaffer, deputy chief of staff for Hogsett, said in an email to IBJ. “Since the mask mandate was put into place, our community’s positivity rate has declined by nearly 50%, allowing events to occur, businesses to reopen, and our local economy to begin to recover. This sort of evidence-based response is critical when the lives of Marion County residents are at stake.”

Mask mandates have become politicized across the nation.

Bain said no one is arguing that masks don’t work. The resolution, he said, is about oversight and accountability.

“We trust our neighbors and business owners to serve on juries, civic organizations, PTOs, and school boards; however, apparently, the trust ends there,” he said. “The leadership in our county does not trust them to determine their own mask policy. Hundreds of businesses have permanently closed due to these overreaching mandates.”

The council, which has 20 Democrats and five Republicans, is next scheduled to meet Sept. 28. Bain said he hopes the health department will be responsive to his concerns.

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24 thoughts on “Republican council members call for repeal of mask mandate in Marion County

  1. “We trust our neighbors and business owners to serve on juries, civic organizations, PTOs, and school boards; however, apparently, the trust ends there,” he said. “The leadership in our county does not trust them to determine their own mask policy. Hundreds of businesses have permanently closed due to these overreaching mandates.”

    Sorry, but you can’t trust everyone. Same reason there needs to be seatbelt laws, cellphone usage while driving laws, etc. People are selfish and don’t care about the community.

  2. So David G., where should the line be drawn between personal freedoms and mandated restrictions? for example, should we require masks always moving forward? Because some people don’t cover their mouths when they cough, wash their hands properly or stay home when they are sick with a cold or the flu either…and they get other people sick. Where is the threshold for protecting others with executive orders and mandates versus the personal freedom of choice? And who gets to decide what that is?

    1. Cut the personal freedom crap. People are dying because people are too proud to wear a mask and stay home. If, in March, everyone stayed home, washed their hands and wore masks, we wouldn’t be in the this mess in the first place. My businesses are directly affected by people staying home and events being cancelled. I still support the shut down and forcing people to be responsible citizens.

      My rights are being restricted by the select few that feel they can do what they want at the expense of others. I personally know 3 people who have died from Covid. How many do you know?

  3. With hospitalizations and deaths at record lows, this resolution should pass. Isn’t time to let people decide mask policies themselves?
    Please repeal now.

    1. It will not pass, and the Republicans know it. What a waste of time on a stupid and irresponsible election year sideshow.

      And hospitalizations have stayed low because of health regulations like this one. It is such a simple thing to do, and it really is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. If my 76-year old father can wear a mask and go about his day, including going to restaurants, shopping, etc., then anyone else can do it, too.

  4. This is quite possibly the most ridiculous idea I have heard this week. The virus only wants to reproduce. It does not care about your ability to be reelected. Why have a brain at all if you are not going to use it?

  5. No one, including the health department, wants to have to mandate masks, but because some are too selfish, they’ve had to do so. I’m married to a physician who is mentally and physically exhausted by the hours and months spent battling this brutal virus. And then there are people like Josh Bain (and yes, I’m a Republican) who want to talk about “over-reach and rights being violated,” instead of acting like an adult and stepping-up to help their community in a time of need. None of us want to wear a mask, but the majority of us do so because we want to be part of the solution and not the problem. We don’t look at it as a mandate but rather as something that will help us get past this sooner than later. If we want to get the economy back up and running, if we don’t want businesses to close, and if we’d like this to be over at some point, stop complaining and pushing-back about doing something as simple as wearing a mask. Have some respect and compassion for those who’s health is compromised, for those who are sick, and for the hundreds of thousands of doctors and nurses who are exhausted. Stop complaining about your rights. You sound ridiculous, and YOU are the reason for the mandate. Shame on you.

    1. ^^^This.


      The health department already has the power to shut down businesses that don’t protect the public health (i.e. by dumping hazardous materials, or by having pests in kitchens, or operating in unsafe buildings). Just like police have the power to give tickets for seat belt violations, speeding, and other unsafe behavior in public.


      These “absolute freedom” nuts need to get over themselves, take personal responsibility, and become part of “We the People”.

  6. I actually agree with Wesley. If my Republican Party is going to be relevant in Marion County/Indianapolis again, it needs to reject Trumpian politics. Indy Republicans are perfectly fine with taxpayers being soaked with corporate welfare schemes, but being required to wear a mask because we’re in the middle of a pandemic…well that is too much??? Are you kidding me? The Republican Party of Marion County needs to start standing up for taxpayers.

    1. YOUR Republican party has already lost in Marion county. Your Republican party doesn’t have the votes to win anything in the City-County Council.

  7. The other day Trump mentioned “Herd Mentality”. I think I am starting to understand what it is. It seems that all Republican Politicians are now infected with it, and it is seems to be contagious.

    If we weren’t in the middle of pandemic caused by an airborne virus, I could see how an intelligent person might see a mask mandate as over-reach. Apparently the “herd mentality” has caused these people to miss a few of those facts?

  8. We’ve been on a mask mandate for over two months and what has it accomplished? None of the important metrics (hospitalizations and deaths) changed even though testing and new cases have gone up by 50%. I can wear a mask until a vaccine comes out if that makes everyone feel good, but I’m more concerned about all the businesses suffering needlessly with the Covid restrictions. Let them work again.

    1. The mandate has accomplished a lower positivity rate, thus proving its effectiveness. Think of how low it could go, and thus be less necessary if nut-jobs would comply. THEN, businesses could open sooner. See how you get from A to B to C?

    2. How is any business “needlessly suffering” from a mask mandate? I go about my day, work, shop, buy food, and I see plenty of people like myself who have zero problem doing something simple like wearing a mask in public to protect their health and the health of others. This is just an election year side-show by the Republican caucus, and it is sad to see what the GOP has been reduced to both nationally and in Indianapolis.

      I guess the Republicans want to ensure they permanently stay a minority on the City-County Council because the majority of voters can see through their nonsense and do not judge it favorably at all.

  9. With the Democrats in charge. The mask mandate probably wont be repealed until after the elections unless they think it will help them get re-elected. Democrats rarely do anything unless it profits them one way or another.

  10. I was downtown today from 10-2. It was a ghost town. I was shocked. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. In the past, there would have been thousands of people walking around, enjoying lunch on the steps of the memorial on the circle, etc. These restrictions are crippling businesses. Meanwhile, Market Street is being destroyed to put in a pedestrian walkway. I still don’t know why the administration thinks NOW is the right time to engage in an unnecessary multi-million dollar fiasco. By contrast, the suburbs are doing well–lots of people driving around, shopping at malls, eating at restaurants, etc. I truly fear what Indianapolis is going to become if the City-County Council does not change its perspective and start focusing on the restaurants, hotels, venues, etc. that draw people downtown.

    1. Many/ most of the downtown businesses are operating remotely and are not shut down. Many of those who are coming into the office bring their lunch now or have it delivered to avoid contact with the mask-less.

    2. What planet are you from? Wearing masks has nothing to do with businesses struggling. Normal people who are not death-cult fanatics or partisan loons wear masks in close quarters with others and go about their day. My dad is in his mid-seventies, born and raised on the Westside, and a devout Catholic. In short, he is not some far-left person. And, guess what? Just like the rest of his friends and neighbors, he has ZERO problem wearing a mask in public because he understands science and wants to protect himself and others. And, he fully supports it being a health mandate, just like we had many other health mandates pre-Covid. He lost my great aunt to Covid, also a dear family friend who was only in his 40’s, and he saw his sister and brother-in-law get very ill. He understands the disease is real and still a threat.

      Taking simple precautions to protect your health and the health of others is a minor inconvenience the vast majority of Hoosiers are willing to shoulder so they can do their civic duty and help us all get through this pandemic.

      It is simply sinful that the Republican caucus on the City-County Council would waste their time promoting irresponsibility and the endangerment of others when there are serious and pressing issues the city needs to address. This is nothing more than a sideshow to appeal to whatever dwindling looney-tunes base they still have. God will judge them, and it will not be favorably. And, the majority of voters will also judge then unfavorably and ensure they permanently stay a minority on the City-County Council.

    3. Did you stop to think that nobody is downtown working in offices because they don’t want to die? Get the Pandemic under control (and one of those ways is wearing masks), and people will feel more comfortable going about their normal business.

      The US is still #1, and not in a good way when it come to the Pandemic. Our countries top leaders are MIA, worse yet they are actively making things worse by politicizing simple health precautions.

  11. Relax Republicans,your man will probably win again.So you do not need to make it look like everything is fine and dandy and normal.Lets get this virus whipped and not worry about getting him elected wear a mask!

  12. I agree with Kelly, Christopher, Dan M. and all who use science and common sense. This virus isn’t going to disappear or go away as I wish Trump would. As long as people are griping about their rights while ignoring the rights of others, the U.S. statistics will not improve.
    This is not Peggy A., or should not be, about Democrats vs Republicans. Or as Trump callously says, Blue States, like those people don’t count as Americans. It is about Americans thinking about fellow Americans and working together to deal with this virus.

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