Indianapolis will require masks in public, starting next Thursday.
Marion County becomes the fourth in Indiana to require masks. The health department order requires masks indoors when you leave the house, unless you’re alone or eating. Outdoors, masks aren’t required if you can social-distance effectively — for instance, if you’re jogging or biking. Otherwise, they’re required for anyone three and up unless you have a medical condition that precludes it.
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett acknowledges the mask will be inconvenient for some and says he sympathizes with those who feel overwhelmed by the changes the virus has brought to everyday life. But he says he has no sympathy for arguments a mask requirement is an unjust burden or an infringement of civil rights. He says the evidence is clear that masks significantly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus.
“This isn’t complicated. It’s a piece of cloth. It’s a piece of cloth that can save your life and the lives of those around you,” Hogsett says. “If you are willfully choosing to not follow this order, you are dead wrong, in the fullest sense of that expression.”
Those who violate the ordinance could face fines, though neither Hogsett nor Marion County Health Department director Virginia Caine specified an amount.
Hogsett says Indy required masks in the flu pandemic a century ago, and the death rate was .3%. The county’s coronavirus death rate right now is 20 times that, with 680 deaths so far.
Caine says Indiana’s infections have gone up 2% in the last two weeks — but every neighboring state is up at least 20% in that time. Michigan and Ohio have nearly doubled.
Hogsett says the one-week delay in the effective date is to allow time to get the word out, and to give people time to get masks if they don’t have them. Indy already has a program to request a free mask from the city.
Three of the four counties with the highest rates of infection in the state — Elkhart, Marion, and LaGrange — have now required masks. Saint Joseph County also has a mask requirement.