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Hoosiers React To First Day Of Indiana’s Mask Mandate

John Boyle

Indiana’s statewide mask mandate went into effect Monday, requiring Hoosiers to wear face coverings in a number of social settings.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the decision last week to require those over the age of 8 to wear face coverings while inside businesses, public indoor spaces, and outside at public spaces where social distancing cannot be done. Students and employees of schools will also be subject to the mandate.

On the first day of the official order, many people in southern Indiana seemed more than happy to comply while out shopping. Some approached business doors, only to turn back to their vehicle to retrieve a mask, though a few still entered without masks.

John Hood, who lives in Louisville but works in Clarksville, said he thinks the mask mandate should’ve been in place a long time ago, and that it could’ve prevented the recent spikes seen in Indiana and across the river in Louisville.

Indiana has 62,907 total cases of COVID-19. Last week saw record-breaking numbers, including the highest daily total of the pandemic so far on Thursday.

“I think if people really put this into consideration, we could get over this thing a lot sooner instead of just letting it slip and slip and slip,” he said. “And, you know, just looking at the numbers in the charts themselves, I mean, it’s staggering how much of an increase we have. So to not want to abide by that, that just don’t make any sense. It’s cynical.”

Some said they’ve already been wearing masks, but they did note that compliance by their peers can vary from town to town and establishment to establishment. Cortni Shelton, who was shopping in Clarksville, has been wearing a mask from the beginning, noting early suggestions from health organizations like the CDC.

Shelton expects there to be some push-back against the mandate within the state, though. For many people, She thinks it might take being personally affected by the disease to truly understand its impact.

“People are hard-headed,” she said. “Even like, if you give them the serum or whatever it is, they’re still going to doubt it. It’s always going to be something, so it really depends on how severe it gets. Like if it comes down to the end of the day that literally it’s taking a mask to save people, then maybe that might change something. But until then, if it’s not affecting anybody like personally, they’re not really going to take it seriously.”

Some who have disagreements with the mandate or doubt some of the science, like Jackie Braxton, still wore a mask Monday. Up until the mandate, her husband hasn’t.

To her, it’s an issue of freedom. She also believes that slowing the spread of the virus is not a good thing for the public, as she thinks infection is inevitable as the pandemic progresses.

“Why would we want to slow it down?” Braxton said. “That only extends all of this. If you’re in a car and you start slowing down, it’s going to take you longer to get to the end or to your destination. If our destination is to get rid of the virus, then that doesn’t make sense to me.”

While Holcomb’s original order made failure to wear a mask a misdemeanor, he has since walked that back. Now, there are no penalties specified for non-compliance.

People like Hood and Brandon Davis, who lives in Sellersburg, think a criminal charge is a bit excessive, but a small fine of $50 or under could help boost compliance. Davis added that while citizens are required to wear masks, he encourages them to have fun with it and express themselves through art and style.

“I’m liking everyone’s fashionable masks, like that guy right there,” Davis said. “He has a pretty cool mask on. I’m liking the fashion statements people are making with them.”

The statewide mandate joins other recent government action in Southern Indiana. Last week, the Floyd County Health Department issued its own mandate, and the New Albany City Council passed a resolution strongly recommending the use of masks one week prior.

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