Officials cite lack of resources as obstacle in mask mandate enforcement

(WISH) — If you see someone without a mask, don’t call the police. That’s the message some departments are sending out as the statewide mask mandate is set to go into effect on Monday.

Now health departments are sending the same message. Several health departments don’t have the resources to have employees run around telling people to wear a mask, so it’s not something those departments can enforce.

Monday, masks will be required across the state of Indiana per Gov. Holcomb’s mandate. But Martinsville’s police department won’t be the ones enforcing it.

“If we’re dispatched for reasons other than just someone not donning a mask, then they’ll respond to that,” Martinsville Police Chief Kurt Spivey said.

They say it’s not a political decision. Just like other departments across the state, they’re diverting calls about anti-maskers to local and state health departments.

“It’s manpower versus your run load and we don’t have the manpower to handle numerous calls for mask issues,” Spivey said.

News 8 asked the Johnson County Health Department how they’d be handling calls, and got a similar response: they don’t have the resources.

“At this point, we just plan on answering people’s questions,” said Betsy Swearingen, director of Johnson County Health Department. “Reinforcing the importance of wearing the mask.”

Swearingen says even if they had the resources, they still don’t have the power to ticket people for not wearing a mask.

“The mask police won’t be out in force,” Swearingen said. “I hope they’re not forcing the health departments to be the mask police. We’re not going to run right out with our box of masks and make sure that they have a mask. We really are going to rely on the public to be personally responsible and do the right thing.”

Health officials say if there is someone without a mask and it’s bothering you, don’t call. Try to settle it by talking to them or talking to someone who can do something.

“If you’re at an establishment, reach out to the owner of the establishment,” Swearingen said. “Reach out to the manager of the store that you’re in. Let them know that people aren’t adhering to the rules and maybe they can help us help these people wear the stuff that they’re supposed to be wearing.”

Officials at a couple of health departments News 8 spoke with say the situation is still fluid as they look through the governor’s executive order and a lot can change over the next week.