Local leaders urge Hoosiers to be prepared and avoid “mask confusion”

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INDIANAPOLIS – As county officials announce plans on whether they will lift or maintain local mask mandates, health and municipal leaders are urging Hoosiers to avoid “mask confusion” by being prepared for different situations.

In Johnson County, for example, the county decided to follow state requirements and shift the mask mandate to a mask advisory.  Mask wearing is still encouraged but will not be required or enforced in county government buildings or businesses.  However, the cities of Franklin and Greenwood are maintaining a mask requirement inside municipal buildings.  Greenwood city buildings are also closed to the public through the end of this month.

“We just really want to be cautious,” said Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers.  “We want this to stop, and we want to get back to some sense of normalcy, but I want my employees safe and healthy and that’s the most important thing.”

Johnson County is currently in the “yellow’ with a 7-day positivity rate of 5.5% on the state’s map for Covid-19 metrics.  Surrounding counties are in the “blue” range.  Mayor Myers says he plans to reevaluate the situation in early May before deciding whether to lift mask requirements and reopen city buildings to the public.

“I want to see the county get into the blue, and see it maintain there for a week or so,” Myers said.

Other area counties are either maintaining, lifting, or partially lifting their local mask mandates.  Boone County health officials announced today they will follow the state’s lead and shift to a mask “advisory.”

“We’re entrusting different groups and different cities and things to make their own decisions, to make the decisions that they think are best for them,” said spokesperson Claire Haughton.  

However, Haughton agreed that Hoosiers should be prepared to wear a mask even if their home county is no longer requiring it, especially as local businesses decide whether to require that customers keep them on.

“Just continue to be flexible, and just to continue to approach others with a sense of grace and understanding,” Haughton said.

Several local restaurants and shops in downtown Franklin still have signs in their widows, asking customers to wear masks when they enter.  Greenwood resident, Manda Beretta said she’s relying on signage like that to avoid walking into an awkward situation.

“I remember, just this morning, walking up to a business and wondering is this still required,” she said.  “Is it required the entire time I’m in here?”

If not required to wear a mask indoors, Beretta said she would make that decision in the moment.

“If it’s pretty crowded, I would probably keep it on,” she said.  “If it’s not crowded, then I would probably not wear it.”

At Ann’s Restaurant, near the Johnson County Courthouse, General Manager James Klein is requiring his staff to wear masks.  However, customers can leave theirs in the car.

“We’re American citizens and we’re free, so it’s not up to me to decide whether or not you need to wear a mask, I mean that is your own personal decision,” Klein said.  “All I can control is my staff.”

“I think it is confusing, and I guess it’s everybody’s decision,” said Franklin resident Debbie Mohr.  “As for me, I will continue to wear my mask for a while.”

The CDC still recommends wearing a mask indoors and in public, even where it’s not required.  Local leaders say your best plan is to make sure you have a mask with you when you leave home, especially when traveling to different communities.

“I’ve probably got two in my pocket right now,” Mayor Myers said.  “They’re in my car, they’re in my truck, they’re in our house.  We have them everywhere because you never know where you’re going to need them.”

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