St. Joseph County face mask enforcement now in effect

Published: May. 5, 2020 at 5:30 PM EDT
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As Indiana's stay home order ended, a new order by St. Joseph County Health Department began on Tuesday.

The new order requires anyone out in the public, at any businesses, or in enclosed spaces that do not allow for physical distancing, to wear a face mask. It also requires each business, open to customers, to have at least 60 percent alcohol based hand sanitizer ready to go at each entrance.

However, over the last 24 hours, enforcing the order is becoming more of a challenge in some areas throughout St. Joseph County.

"We can't have police officers responding to calls that says they aren't wearing masks or someone didn't use hand sanitizer," Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood said in response to the newly issued order.

Wood's comments also caught a lot of attention on Twitter after tweeting Monday that the "Mishawaka Police Department will not be enforcing face mask and hand sanitizer orders."

The tweet also advising residents to follow CDC recommendations -- which indeed recommends wearing face masks in public.

Mayor Wood clarified his tweet with 16 News Now on Tuesday.

"In that same tweet, I said that our citizens and businesses should be responsible to follow those CDC guidelines. I wanted to put some clarification out there that the police department will not be enforcing these orders because we are busy doing our day to day operations as it is and that keeps us as busy as we can be," Wood says.

Day-to-day operations also keeping the St. Joseph County Police Department as busy as they can be.

A spokesperson for the department issued a statement Tuesday:

"Compliance will have to come from the health department and businesses themselves. Police do not have the authority to ticket or cite citizens or businesses with non-compliance of the health department order. Sheriff encourages everyone to stay calm and civil regarding this matter. The last thing we want is for police to be called out to a situation where people are fighting or turn violent over cloth masks."

Mayor Wood adding to that statement saying he hopes residents do everything they can to keep themselves and others safe.

"I highly encourage everybody to just do the right thing. Be responsible, be good citizens, follow guidelines. We're also trying to work those in and still get back to business here in Mishawaka," Wood says.

St. Joseph County health officer Mark Fox did respond to Mayor Wood's tweet last night saying two words "Stay healthy."

16 News Now did reach out to Fox for comment but he has not responded.

The St. Joseph County Health Order is in effect until July 4th.

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