Businesses could be fined in mask ordinance

NOW: Businesses could be fined in mask ordinance

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind.-- Tuesday night, the St. Joseph County Council voted 8-1 in agreement to an updated mask ordinance in the county.

This mask ordinance was presented back in July, but was never voted on and never officially went into effect. Over the last 4 months, many tweaks have been made before finally being voted on last night.

“In late April early May, we introduced the public health order that’s the mask mandate but it’s had no enforcement mechanism,” St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said. “In July, in an effort to have some enforcement mechanism, the ordinance to allow, to create the mechanism to impose fines for non-adherence with the mask order was introduced and it’s been kicked down the road every month.”

The mask ordinance and the existing mask order are two different things, but go hand-in-hand.

The Public Health Order requires people to wear a face mask in a public space or in a place of business where you can’t stay at a 6-foot distance. Exceptions to not wearing masks include children aged 5 and younger or people with health conditions. It also requires businesses to have hand sanitizing stations of at least 60% alcohol available to customers.

Whereas the mask ordinance, if approved, would essentially allow the county to fine businesses, not individuals, who do not comply with the rules within the mask order. Businesses who refuse to comply can be fined from $50 to $250.

“What the ordinance does is it basically enshrines the mask mandate as in the ordinance. So that it’s no longer just the stand-alone public health order but have an ordinance as masks are mandated and there’s a mechanism to fine,” Dr. Fox said. “It has some practical application, hopefully at an increase in mask compliance but it also has kind of the importance visual that yes it’s enforced by the elected officials as one of our most effective mechanisms to control the spread of COVID.”

One restaurant owner said, she’s not feeling too concerned about the possibility of this ordinance getting approved.

“I really think it’s a good thing honestly because I think there are people that like customers that maybe come in and not wear a mask on and if there’s a mandate for us to wear them then I feel like more people will gather,” L Street Kitchen Owner Meg Lacarrubba said.

However, she said there’s a lot of work that needs to be done in other places of business in the county.

“I think people start to get lax and probably why we’re having this uptick a little bit,” Lacarrubba said. “I’ve heard from customers about other places where they’ve walked in and the servers didn’t have masks on or whatever and that’s why they come here and they keep coming back because they know we do take it seriously.”

The ordinance still needs to go through one more voting process with the Board of Commissioners to get approved. They’re set to meet next Tuesday, November 17.

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