The Elkhart County Health Department has issued a mandate requiring individuals to wear a face covering in all indoor areas open to the public, all outdoor areas open to the public where a distance of six feet from individuals outside of their household cannot be maintained, and all private indoor or outdoor areas where a distance of six feet from individuals outside of their household cannot be maintained.
Since it was issued, many of my constituents have raised concerns regarding the constitutionality of this order and have questioned whether it is enforceable by an act of a county health official. Therefore, on Tuesday, June 30, I sent a letter to Attorney General Curtis Hill asking for legal clarification on the ECHD face covering mandate.
In response to my letter, the Attorney General notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing masks for people over the age of 2 to lower the rate of transmission. And, it was for this reason – to offer guidance on the importance of wearing masks or other face coverings – the ECHD issued the county face covering mandate.
However, the Attorney General also points out that the ECHD does not intend for the order to be enforced and specifies that “actions that contradict (the) order do not create grounds for residents or law enforcement to stop, detain, issue a citation, arrest, intimidate, or harass individuals that do not comply with (the) order.” This is not, however, to say that business and property owners cannot enforce face mask requirements on their property, as failure to comply with a property owner’s guidelines constitutes trespassing.
I hope this clarification brings peace of mind to Elkhart County residents, and I will continue to work with state and local officials as the situation progresses.
Editor’s note: Blake Doriot is a state senator and lives near Syracuse.