Do I Have To Wear A Face Mask? What You Need To Know About Indiana's New Mandate

Jul 23, 2020

Masks are required in indoor public spaces, commercial entities or transportation services – like taxis, ride sharing services and public transportation.
Credit Lauren Chapman / IPB News

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday Indiana would join neighboring states in a statewide mask mandate, starting Monday, July 27. He signed the executive order on Friday.

When am I required to wear a mask?

Masks are required in indoor public spaces, commercial entities or transportation services – like taxis, ride sharing services and public transportation. Masks are also required in outside public spaces when you cannot socially distance – maintaining at least six feet of distance. 

Masks in schools are required for third-graders and older, faculty and staff, volunteers and anyone else in schools. Face masks are also required for co-curricular and extra-curricular activities.

Basically, if you're outside of your home, you should probably have a face mask you can use. 

Who is supposed to wear a mask? 

Anyone 8 years old or older. Though, masks are strongly recommended for ages 2-7.

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What counts as a face mask?

The executive order defines face coverings as "a cloth that covers the nose and mouth, and is secured to the head with ties, straps, or loops over the ears, or is simply wrapped around the lower face." 

What are the exceptions for wearing a mask?

The executive order outlines several exceptions, though it also does encourage people under these exemptions – medical or otherwise – to wear face shields as an alternative to masks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend face shields for normal everyday activities or as a substitute for cloth face coverings. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around the sides of the wearer’s face and extend to below the chin.

  • Children younger than 2 years old should not wear a face mask because of the risk of suffocation. The CDC says they should not use face shields.
  • Children older than 2 years old and younger than 8 years old are exempt, though encouraged to wear face masks.
  • People with medical conditions, mental health conditions or disabilities which prevent wearing face coverings.
  • People who are deaf or hard of hearing, or someone who is communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, where the ability to see someone's mouth is essential for communication.
  • People for whom wearing a face mask would create a risk to the person related to their work, as determined by local, state or federal regulators or workplace safety guidelines.
  • People eating or drinking, or seated at a restaurant or other retail food establishment to eat or drink.
  • People exercising or playing sports, and who can maintain six feet of distance from other people.
  • Someone in a swimming pool, lake or other body of water – and who can maintain six feet of distance from other people not in their household.
  • People driving alone or with passengers who are part of the same household.
  • While obtaining a service which requires temporary removal of the face mask for security surveillance, screening or a need for specific access to the face – for example, visiting a bank or receiving health-related or personal care services. However, removing face coverings must be temporary and limited only to the extent necessary to obtain service.
  • Upon request by law enforcement or court-related proceedings.
  • People who are incarcerated.
  • People experiencing homelessness.
  • People giving a speech for a broadcast or to an audience if the person can maintain six feet of distance.
  • People attending religious services, as long as they are maintaining six feet of distance.

How is this mandate going to be enforced? 

State and local health departments will be responsible for enforcing compliance through education about the importance of wearing face coverings. The executive order does not include criminal penalties.

This change was made between the announcement of the mandate and when the governor's office officially released the executive order.

How long is Indiana enforcing face masks?

Governor Holcomb says, as long as it takes. He said the mask mandate is aimed at avoiding reimposing previous COVID-19 limitations. The executive order is in effect until at least Aug. 26. Local governments may impose more restrictive guidelines.

Why is Indiana mandating face masks?

The governor’s office said contributing factors were getting students back to school, the recent increase in COVID-19 positivity rates, the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and outbreaks in neighboring states. 

Do face masks actually work?

Yes. Face masks prevent you from spreading respiratory droplets to others. Indiana State Department of Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver said some studies suggest wearing a mask reduces the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 by up to 80 percent.

However, that is only effective if you are properly wearing a face mask: Face masks should fit snugly to the sides of your face, covering your nose and mouth, and secured under your chin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said “cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced when cloth face coverings are used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.”

This story has been updated.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.