(FISHERS, Ind.) — A mask requirement in Fishers has taken effect, three days ahead of Governor
Holcomb’s statewide order — at the same time the Hamilton County sheriff is rebelling against Holcomb’s directive.
At least two police chiefs and three sheriffs have announced they’ll refuse to enforce Holcomb’s order, adopting Attorney General Curtis Hill’s argument that Holcomb lacks the authority to issue it. Several of those statements use chunks of identical wording, vowing to enforce “the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Indiana, and those laws which are put into place by our elected legislators.” Hamilton County Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush goes a step further, declaring the order “null and void.”
Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness says the political and constitutional sparring among Holcomb, Hill and
Quakenbush is unrelated to Fishers’ order. Like a mask mandate in Indianapolis, the Fishers order doesn’t make it a crime to not wear a mask — it’s a health code violation, enforced by the health department, not police.
Fadness says there are no fines attached, at least for now. He says the goal is to educate people about
the importance of masks in preventing the spread of coronavirus and increase their use. For businesses which don’t enforce the requirement, the health department could seek a court order to force compliance. Fadness says fines are an option down the road if people don’t comply voluntarily.
Fishers has accounted for nearly half Hamilton County’s coronavirus cases over the last two weeks. It’s averaging nine new cases a day, twice as many as a month ago. On Friday, the county set a single-day record with 53 new cases as the state surpassed 1,000 cases in a day for the first time.
Fadness says the city can’t revive its economy until the virus is under control, and says masks are an
easy and obvious way to do it. He says his inbox has been evenly divided between people upset about the mask order and people thanking him for it.
The city health department board approved the mask requirement on Monday. Fishers broke away from the Hamilton County Health Department and established its own earlier this year.
Holcomb has said he doesn’t intend to send “the mask police” out to write people up for violations.
Violations of the state order carry the potential of up to six months in jail and a thousand-dollar fine, under a state law making intentional defiance of an emergency order a misdemeanor.