How Will St. Joseph Co. Mask Order Be Enforced?

May 5, 2020

A volunteer helps to hand out free face masks in Mishawaka on Apr. 20th, 2020.
Credit Justin Hicks / WVPE Public Radio

The St. Joseph County, Indiana health order requiring residents wear face masks in public started Tuesday. But there’s been some confusion about how and if the order can be enforced.

The order requires people to wear a face mask when entering a closed public space or when social distancing can’t be maintained. It also requires businesses to provide hand sanitizer to customers. 

 

Andrew Jones is a lawyer in St. Joe and surrounding counties. He says health departments are given the power to create these orders to keep people safe during a health crisis.

 

“When you have a situation where my personal health is put at risk by the actions of other people, that’s where the government has the responsibility and the right to get involved to protect me.”

 

Jones says someone could be unknowingly putting another person at risk by not wearing a mask.

 

He says businesses have the right to refuse customers not wearing a mask unless it’s for a medical or religious reason. 

 

Charlie Rice, another lawyer in St. Joe County, says the order puts businesses and residents in a difficult position.

 

“My concern is if you make an order to do something which is impractical or you cannot enforce, it promotes an attitude of disregard of the law in the first place which you should never do.”

 

Local police departments have stated they don’t plan on enforcing the health order. 

 

Enforcement will be up to the health department. Deputy Health Officer Mark Fox says businesses could be shut down or fined as a last resort for persistently violating the order.

 

The order is in effect until at least July 4th.

Contact Annacaroline at acaruso@wvpe.org or follow her on Twitter at @AnnacarolineC16

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