Law enforcement not expected to help enforce Elkhart mask ordinance

NOW: Law enforcement not expected to help enforce Elkhart mask ordinance

ELKHART, Ind.--- Elkhart County Sheriff Jeff Siegel and Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Lydia Mertz say law enforcement was never expected to help enforce the county mask mandate. The mandate allows businesses to be fined up to $5,000 if they don't comply.

"I don’t think that an ordinance, issuing fines to business that are found to be lacking in some of those categories is the best way to go," said Siegel. 

Mertz says enforcement would mainly be the responsibility of health officials.

"It’s really always going to be on the part of the cities and counties, code enforcement officers, or the health department, our food inspectors are in restaurants anyway,"

Siegel says his deputies would intervene and deescalate disputes over mask wearing in a situation where tensions were high.

"We will certainly respond to try to deescalate or mitigate that situation so we don’t end up with real or legitimate criminal activity like a battery or a disorderly conduct," said Siegel.

While Siegel and Mertz have differing opinions on how mask wearing should be enforced, both agree that Elkhart residents must take personal responsibility to slow the spread of COVID in the county.

"If a business wants you to wear a mask, then put a mask on, but if you see someone not wearing a mask, you don’t know their situation," said Siegel.

"It takes hard work, and it takes doing things that we’re not used to like wearing a mask and distancing and washing our hands a lot more than we’re used to," said Mertz.

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