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Marion County Health Department stepping up mask enforcement, social distancing guidelines

Effective immediately, Marion County businesses, venues and individuals in violation of the public health order could face a $1,000 fine.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Marion County Tuesday morning. 

The Marion County Health Department is stepping up enforcement of the mask mandate and social distancing requirements.

Effective immediately, Marion County businesses, venues and individuals in violation of the public health order could face a $1,000 fine.

"The education and warning period is over," Dr. Caine said. “No warnings this time. No $50 fines. We immediately going to a $1,000 fine."

“The time for warnings is over,” Hogsett said. 

Caine said more egregious or repeat offenders could face higher fines of $1,500 per day — or even be shut down. She said there are between 10 and 20 people investigating reported violations.

Marion County COVID-19 update 8-11-20

LIVE: Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and MCPHD Director Dr. Virginia Caine are giving an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Posted by WTHR-TV on Tuesday, August 11, 2020

So far, the Marion County Public Health Department received more than 400 complaints and issued two citations. The latest citation was given to the Indianapolis Speedrome, where spectators packed the venue over the weekend without social distancing or masks.

The other citation came a few weeks ago when a barbershop was accused of violating the mask mandate three times. 

Hogsett referred to the Speedrome Tuesday.

"Packing the stands without masks is beyond discouraging," said Hogsett. 

Marion County Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine confirmed during the webinar that the health department is looking into three incidents, including the stands at the Speedrome.

"Their selfishness is an insult to the families of the 3,000 Hoosiers who have lost their lives while infected with this virus," said Mayor Hogsett. 

"We have some really high risk individuals out there," said Dr. Caine.

Violations can be reported to the Marion County Public Health Department during business hours at 317-221-5500 or through email at healthdept@marionhealth.org.

The health department plans to have more health officials in the county monitoring the public and enforcing the mandate.  

Many have asked if a mandate be enforced if it’s not a law. According to the American Bar Association, state and local governments have more authority than normal during a pandemic. They use the example of non-smoking ordinances that protect the health of the general public. 

"This virus is a long-term test of our unity — a test that we can and we will pass," Hogsett said in the press conference. 

According to Caine, testing has increased in Marion County, but hospital admissions are decreasing. She also said Indianapolis is averaging one death per day — down from 12 per day during the peak. 

Caine also said we are starting to plateau in new cases. She said minority populations continue to be those most likely to be diagnosed. 

In March, one percent of positive cases came from people ages 0-19. In July, that number rose to 12 percent.

In July, 50 percent of positive cases in Marion County were between ages 20-39. 

Caine outlined the following in the latest public health order: 

  • Bars and nightclubs remain closed.
  • Outdoor dining remains at 50 percent capacity.
  • Indoor dining at restaurants remains at 50 percent capacity.
  • Table service is required at restaurants. There will be no bar service.
  • Masks are required when not eating or drinking.

The following protocols will go into effect immediately in regards to fall sports: 

  • No more than 250 people are allowed in the stands.
  • Masks are required when in the stands. 
  • There will be no congregating at concession stands. 
  • During football, masks must be worn while on the sidelines, there will be no handshake at the coin toss and social distancing of 6 feet will be required at all times in the team box.

On Monday, Hogsett revealed part of his proposed 2021 budget, which included a $16.3 million COVID relief funding package with an expansion to the rental assistance program of $7.5 million. 

Also included in the mayor's coronavirus relief funding package is $300,000 in supplemental completion grants for students at Ivy Tech or IUPUI who can not afford college due to the pandemic.

RELATED: Mayor's proposed 2021 budget includes more funding for rental assistance

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