Evansville to adopt citywide mask mandate

Local News

EVANSVILLE, Ind (WEHT) — Mayor Winnecke announced that people will soon be required to wear face masks in Evansville. Face coverings will be required in indoor public spaces, and Winnecke says his administration will encourage businesses to require employees and customers to wear face masks.

That mandate will go into effect Wednesday, July 15. The mayor said more details will be released early next week, ahead of the mandate going into effect.

“The recent spread of the virus in our community is dramatic. I think wearing face coverings is one easy way to stop the spread and avoid future drastic actions no one wants to take,” said Winnecke.

Winnecke says the mandate plays into how to safely reopen schools in August.

“The successful reopening of EVSC schools is going to be dependent upon the successful precautions that everyone in our community takes. Frankly for those that don’t want to do this, my question to you is ‘If not this, then what?’ Help me understand how we are to reverse the trend of increases of positive COVID-19 cases if we just continue to do what we’ve done,” said EVSC Supt. Dr. David Smith.

Winnecke says law enforcement will not be redirected from normal duties to enforce the mandate unless it’s part of a physical dispute. Winnecke says he is not considering issuing fines right now is people do not follow the mandate.

Transcription

Last Thursday, many of you joined us in this room to discuss the status of COVID-19 in our community.

Dr. James Porter from Deaconess Hospital explained the positivity trend was going the wrong way amongst those being tested in Vanderburgh County. Dr. Ken Spear, our County Health Officer also cited specific examples of age groups and gatherings contributing to the increase in cases.

At the time, we collectively implored the community to be vigilant and take steps to stop the spread of the virus.

Since that meeting, the issue of wearing face masks has dominated public dialogue, and in some cases, been an extremely divisive issue.

Let’s be candid. We all have the same goal and that is to stop the spread of the virus.

We also want schools to reopen, as well as businesses to open at full capacity and rebound from a devastating business climate.

I have consistently held that with all that government is doing — from testing to tracing to offering best practices on how to reopen —- government should not also require citizens to do what’s right.

I’ve also said that the time may come with our numbers — the day-to-day data that shows how the virus is spreading in our community — we may have to issue a directive.

From the beginning of the pandemic, I have relied on the expert guidance of our medical community and the Reopen Evansville Task Force.

Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer has pulled together a stellar medical advisory group that has offered guidance on every possible issue during the pandemic.

We met again early this morning. Unanimously, the medical professionals recommended that we proceed with a mask directive to help slow the spread of the virus, and to protect the public health.

I concur with that recommendation.

Today’s results, along with the numbers of the past several days, support the guidance from our medical advisory group, who represent Deaconess Hospital, Ascension St. Vincent and the Vanderburgh County Health Department.

These are the health experts in our community. Like any other health issue, we listen to our Doctors advice to get better.

So, what does that mean? For many of us, it is simply means continuing to wear a mask.

An Executive Order is being drafted with a directive to wear a face mask to begin next Wednesday, July 15th, although anyone not already wearing a mask can certainly start today.

The details of the order will be released next week in advance of the start date, but by and large, face coverings will be required in indoor public spaces, and we will strongly encourage businesses to also require them.

I know there will be a lot of questions about enforcement. Let me just say that law enforcement will not be re-directed from their duties, unless of a physical or public dispute.

Let me be clear, at this time, we are not considering fines.

I look at this just like the stay at home order. We relied on our fellow citizens to do the right thing and exercise personal responsibility.

The recent spread of the virus in our community is dramatic.

Wearing face coverings is one easy way to stop the spread AND avoid any more drastic actions.

Just this morning, the general manager of a major regional employer requested that we order a complete shutdown of our community until we have improvement in our numbers. But THAT is not practical.

We will continue to reopen our community and schools by taking the necessary safeguards to ensure public health.

The start of school is right around the corner, and I know that Dr. Smith and his team are making multiple contingency plans. I also know that he and his team understand the health benefits from masks.  (EVSC Superintendent David Smith speaks)

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(This story was originally published on July 10, 2020)

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