Gov. Holcomb signs executive order requiring face coverings; drops misdemeanor penalty


INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WANE) Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb on Friday signed an executive order requiring face coverings as a means to slow the spread of COVID-19, however the order does not include a provision that would allow for criminal penalties.

The executive order will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and is scheduled to last for 30 days until Wednesday, August 26 unless Governor Holcomb determines it needs to be modified, extended or rescinded. It outlines in detail under what circumstances face coverings should be worn including requirements for mask wearing in schools

“Hoosiers have worked hard to get where we are today with businesses open and people back at work. We want to keep it that way. We don’t want to dial things back. Face coverings can and will help us blunt the increase of this virus,” Gov. Holcomb said.

Under the executive order, state and local health departments will be responsible for enforcement through education about the importance of wearing face coverings. The executive order does not include criminal penalties. During Wednesday’s weekly COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Holcomb had indicated non-compliance could result in a class B misdemeanor.

While Gov. Holcomb has not indicated why the penalty part of enforcement was dropped, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an advisory opinion Wednesday where he stated that before a certain conduct is determined to be subject to criminal penalty it should be debated in the state legislature. Hill believes Holcomb should call a special session of the General Assembly.

In a news release announcing the signing of the executive order, the governor’s office stated that Holcomb has used data to reach decision and cited the following current data:

  • An increase in overall hospitalizations from approximately 600 a day near the end of June to approximately 800 now
  • The highest number of cases in a single day with 1,011 Hoosiers reported positive today
  • A rise in COVID-19 positivity across the state from a low of 3.6% a month ago to nearly double that percentage now
  • Some counties, which early on had minimal positive cases in some instances, now reporting regular double-digit positive cases

Under the executive order, local governments can impose more stringent restrictions.

The executive order directs every individual in Indiana to wear a face covering. The executive order defines a face covering as a cloth which covers the nose and mouth and is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears or is simply wrapped around the lower face.

The face covering should be worn under the following circumstances:

a. inside a business, public building, or other indoor place open to the public. This does not extend, however, to private offices, private workspaces or meetings in which six feet of social distancing can be achieved and maintained between people not in the same household.

b. in an outdoor public space wherever it is not feasible to maintain six feet of social distancing from another person not in the same household; or

c. using public transportation or while in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle.

There are a number of exemptions outlined in the executive order, many outlined in the section regarding mask requirements in schools. Under no circumstances are children under the age of two ever required to wear face coverings.

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