The Mask Mandate issued yesterday by Floyd County’s Health Officer is on hold in order for the Floyd County Commissioners to decide if that’s the action they approve.
Dr. Thomas Harris issued the mandate on Wednesday afternoon for all Kindergarten thru 6th Grade students to begin wearing masks for the next 30 days.
With school starting this week around Indiana, the number of Covid-19 cases is on the rise again and officials are concerned with the CDC’s recent advice on mask-wearing for students and teachers, but with little local direction.
The local health departments feel the power to give direction and advice has been taken away, and in many cases, the county commissioners haven’t been in communication with the health officers, which is needed in order for them to make decisions.
According to Harris’ statement, the commissioners believe the mandate should not go into effect because of a new law that was passed in Indiana that requires county or city leaders to approve local health orders that are more stringent than a state public health order.
Across the Hoosier state, all COVID-19 mandates have ended. Gov. Eric Holcomb has left the decision about whether to issue new mandates at the local level to local leaders.
Harris did not elaborate on the decision by the commissioners, nor did the commissioners themselves issue a statement on the mandate.
In May Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed Senate Bill 5 – an action that would take away powers from local health officials. The Indiana General Assembly voted 36-10 to override the veto.
The Indiana House then also voted to override the veto.
Senate Bill 5 has to do with pandemic restrictions at the local level that the legislature passed to target local health departments.
The bill allows city councils or county commissioners to override any pandemic restrictions that are imposed by local health departments which are more strict than restrictions from the state.
Currently, there are no restrictions or mandates from the state, despite an uptick in Covid-19 cases around Indiana in the last week.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance last week to recommend students and teachers wear masks at school.
The bill also says a local order may not take effect, or remain in effect unless the order is approved by a county council.
Because the bill took effect immediately, local orders more strict than restrictions from the state are considered void until approved by a county council in places with a county health department, or city council in places with a city health department.
Holcomb explained he vetoed the bill because he didn’t want to jeopardize the flexibility of local health officials as the state continues to recover and more Hoosiers get vaccinated.
The sponsor of the bill, Sen. Chris Garten, R-Charlestown, said the measure would ensure local elected officials have a say in restrictions imposed on their communities.
“I would have hoped that such sweeping change could wait until we gathered all the relevant experts and stakeholders to strike the right balance regarding local health authority during emergencies and avoid discouraging laudable service in the field of public health, especially knowing that it’s locally elected officials who appoint the local department of health board that hires the local health director in the first place,” Holcomb said in a statement released after the votes.