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Monday, March 8, 2021

No mask? Face a fine

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The adjustment period is over. Individuals — not just businesses — now risk a hefty fine for failure to comply with Marion County’s mask mandate, which took effect July 7. 

During a press conference Aug. 11 , Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said individuals and businesses not complying with the mask mandate potentially face a $1,000 fine. Until now, only businesses were fined for not enforcing face coverings or social distancing.

“The time for education and warnings is over,” Caine said. “We’re looking to increase the number of people going out into the community to enforce [the mask mandate]. … We need to get your attention.”

The rate of COVID-19 cases, emergency room visits and hospital admissions for COVID-19 in Marion County has decreased over the last week, Caine said. However, Caine urged county residents to continue to practice social distancing and wearing masks in public. 

“If we relax, these trends can change quickly,” Caine said.

During the press conference, Mayor Joe Hogsett cited frustration at county residents not taking the pandemic seriously, specifically referencing an incident at Speedway’s Speedrome on Aug. 8. 

The Speedrome was filled to capacity for a race, far exceeding the health department’s 25% capacity guideline and has been fined $1,000 for the infraction. 

“The sight of spectators at a venue packing the stands without masks is beyond discouraging,” Hogsett said. “We have spent months clawing our way to where we are. To see others possibly squander that in the course of just one afternoon is painful.”

Caine also gave high school athletics the green light to continue and said schools should look to the Indiana High School Athletic Association’s guidelines for how to proceed safely. Caine did say spectators should be limited to 250 people in the stands at one time, with social distancing measures and a mask requirement. 

“In terms of the capacity in the stands, part of the problem is when you get a really large group of individuals together, our concern is that we might see a substantial number of people congregating together,” Caine said. “We want to look at community spread, so we want to keep those numbers at 250 until we get a feel for that.”

According to Caine, the Latinx community in Marion County has been hit hardest by COVID-19, with 2,240 individuals testing positive per 100,000 people. African Americans in Indianapolis make up the second most affected demographic with 1,380 cases per 100,000. Overall, Caine said data from the past seven days shows signs of improvement throughout the county. 

“Some of the data shown today shows signs of progress, but we need to keep practicing safety measures,” Caine said. “… We are closely monitoring data to make sure that our actions are keeping our children safe as they are returning to school, and to keep the whole city safe as we strive for a new normal.”

Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.

 

A woman wears a face mask in public to help slow the spread of COVID-19. (Photo/Curtis Guynn)

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