Brad Byrd InDEPTH: Mask mandate pushback

Coronavirus Watch Indiana

(WEHT) — Governor Eric Holcomb’s statewide mask mandate is set to go into effect July 27, but some are saying he doesn’t have the authority to make that rule.

Brad Byrd talked to Indiana Republican State Senator Jim Tomes, one of five lawmakers who wants that mandate stopped.


Brad Byrd: This is InDEPTH. First, let me share a story with you. I remember growing up watching those TV spots, urging people to install seatbelts in their cars. Then in the 1970s, the major automakers had to implement a federal mandate called interlocks – you couldn’t start your car unless you had your seatbelts on. There was a public outrage. Congress stepped in and it was killed. Here we are almost 50 years later, buckling up is like closing your door before you drive. Doing so saves lives. Now, another public health versus constitutional rights issue is before us – wearing face masks. Joining me tonight is Indiana Republican State Senator Jim Tomes of Evansville. Senator Tomes, thank you so much for joining us tonight. Governor Holcomb his mask mandate set to go into effect on Monday. You and four other GOP lawmakers are wanting that mandate stopped. So does the Attorney General. Why?

Jim Tomes: Well because the question that’s generated a lot of phone calls and text messages, and the questions kept coming in is ‘can the governor do that?’ So we asked the AG to give us an opinion on that. And the way he wrote that, basically, it’s just saying that [Holcomb] does not. With regard to the emergency declarations, the statute does allow the governor to mandate masks, but he cannot impose a penalty, because that is that is passing a law and that can only be done through the legislature.

BB: If they could decriminalize this, so to speak, would you support it?

JT: I’m not a big supporter of the mandatory mask wearing. I know there’s a lot of people here that are, are wearing them and it’s their choice to do so. But there are also a lot of people in our society that doesn’t want to be forced to wear them, they don’t want to wear them and they need to be heard as well and they have reasons that they prefer not to wear them. It’s become a divisive issue here and I even heard the Illinois governor yesterday on your broadcast claim that those who don’t wear a mask are the enemy and that certainly is a very repulsive comment to make to citizens. So the folks that want to wear them, that feel safe by wearing them, that’s fine. I think the ones that don’t want to wear them right now because there’s a lot of questions as to how effective these masks are. I know I get calls about that people ask me, I have not done research on it. I’m not the one that does the testing on these things. But there is a lot of questions that hasn’t been answered with regard to wearing the masks.

BB: As far as the research goes, health experts throughout the nation are almost universally telling us and when I say us, not just the media, but the American people, that just the data alone supports putting a mask on especially since the early summer holidays. Of course, as you well know coronavirus is once again going up in certain states, it’s going up right here in Evansville. With that said, is there any flexibility that you could have in mandating a mask if it could protect people’s lives?

JT: Well, I’d have to have some questions answered and I’m speaking on behalf of people that’s called me and texted me and emailed me about this and the discussion some of the senators have had. For example, when they say that the masks that people are wearing is what protects people, I do know that there’s a lot of masks out there in the market right now people are wearing that if you read the disclaimer on those masks, it tells you that they are not medically approved and they will not protect against viruses or illnesses. I mean, when you buy them, if you order them, if you look at the small print on those and the package that they are shipped in, that’s what it said. And a lot of people are wearing those. So even the fact that people are wearing masks is not necessarily a mask that is medically approved. I don’t know if anybody that is checking that, I don’t know if anybody is looking at those masks, taking them off of somebody or looking at the type of mask to see if it is a medically approved mask. You know what I mean?

BB: All right. Well, Senator Tomes, I wish I had more time on this segment. I don’t, but perhaps you and I could sit down again perhaps next week, when and perhaps if this mandate actually goes on the books, and we can discuss more about what the legislature is doing and some of the arguments that you’re presenting. Senator Tomes, thanks a lot for joining us tonight.

JT: You’re welcome, thank you.

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