INDIANAPOLIS — EDITOR'S NOTE: When Gov. Eric Holcomb first announced the statewide mask mandate, he said failure to comply could result in being charged with a misdemeanor. This story has been updated to clarify the version of the signed executive order does not mention criminal penalty for failure to wear a mask.
Wearing a mask is now becoming a part of everyday life.
Come Monday, July 27, it becomes a statewide mandate, although anyone who disobeys won't be charged with a crime.
Governor Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday a statewide mask requirement would take effect in Indiana next week. Holcomb signed the order Friday. The order leaves enforcement up to state and local health departments and does not include criminal penalties for not wearing a mask.
During his briefing Wednesday, Holcomb said the state would continue to approach the pandemic and the mask mandate as an act of education and "appealing to one's civic duty and public good. You might even say public pride and being part of the solution and it will continue to be."
Holcomb added, "the mask police will not be patrolling Hoosier streets."
"We don't want it to get to the point where misdemeanors come into play. They have around other states, but we don't think we're there yet," Holcomb said during a Wednesday briefing.
While Holcomb said there will be no "mask police," if anyone violates the order, some police departments say don't call 911.
"What we don't want is to be dispatched repeatedly on calls of someone's in a business without a mask or someone's on the sidewalk in a group without a mask," said Martinsville Police Chief Kurt Spivey.
Spivey said other departments have been inundated with calls about mask issues. People have been calling his department commenting on their stance to the mandate.
He said concerns or complaints should be directed to the county or state health department.
"We're just like any other small agency in the state of Indiana. We have to balance our manpower and staffing with our run load and our calls for services, and that becomes difficult at times," said Spivey.
Spivey said his department will not respond to calls that only relate to a mask, but if a disturbance happens, or a customer refuses to leave a business which requires a mask, Spivey says that could result in criminal trespassing.
Spivey explained his department's policy on masks in a post on Facebook Wednesday. After the statement was released, Spivey said, “We’ve gotten calls from everything from 'you’re violating our civil rights' to 'thank you for standing up against the governor,' and neither one of those are the case. It’s just simply us stating how we’re going to handle this within the city of Martinsville,” said Spivey.
Whiteland police posted a similar letter on their department's Facebook page Thursday.
Attorney General Curtis Hill said Holcomb should have called for a special legislative session to consider the statewide mandate.
In a statement, Hill said the issue is not about wearing a mask.
“The wisdom of wearing masks — or of laws requiring such measures — is not the issue here. Rather, the issue is whether we are following the proper and constitutional processes for enacting laws and whether we are respecting the distinct roles of each branch of state government," Hill said.
The attorney general said the issue "should receive considerable debate by the legislative body that represents the people of the state" before determining that not wearing a mask is a criminal offense.
Holcomb said his goal is to help reduce the number of COVID-19 cases.