INDIANAPOLIS — If Democratic candidate Woody Myers becomes governor, he’ll impose a true mask mandate — with penalties — he said Friday.
Myers is running against incumbent Republican Eric Holcomb and Libertarian Donald Rainwater for the state’s highest elected office.
During an interview with CNHI Indiana newspapers, the former state health commissioner didn’t spell out exactly what the consequences would be for those defying his mask mandate to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Jail time wouldn’t be considered, he noted.
“We don’t have a mask mandate,” Myers said of Holcomb’s reluctance to establish penalties. “We have mask guidelines.”
Myers, a medical doctor, said the state didn’t take the proper steps early in the coronavirus pandemic, when other states did, to allocate testing resources and to acquire personal protective equipment.
“A mask protects yourself and others,” he said. “It’s the best protection we have today.”
The positivity rate for the coronavirus in Indiana has surged in recent weeks. On Thursday, 2,320 more positive tests were reported in Indiana, shattering the previous record of 1,935 set on Oct. 9.
Myers said Gov. Holcomb has opened the state too quickly, recklessly exposing more Hoosiers to the coronavirus.
“I would go back to Stage 4 and in some counties back to Stage 3,” he said. “It’s a confusing system. When people heard we were at Stage 5 they assumed everything was all right. People are confused and the governor punted on the decision for political reasons.”
Indiana is in a public health crisis, Myers noted, saying that the state’s reserve funds are meant to be used in such an emergency.
“We need to be using the CARES Act funds for additional testing,” he said. “There have been no details from the governor on how those funds are going to be used.”
Myers expressed concerns about an increase in Indiana coronavirus cases requiring hospitalization within the past week.
“The hospitals are in big trouble,” he said. “Look at the hospital census before we enter the flu season. What happens when those beds run out? We don’t want to be in a situation like New York was earlier.”
Myers said he would consider calling in the Indiana National Guard to help hospitals.
“They can set up field hospitals very quickly,” he said. “We may need that before the flu season hits in November. I hope we don’t have to do that.”
Following the recent announcement by both Illinois and Ohio that Indiana residents traveling to those states should self-quarantine for 14 days, Myers said those states’ governors realize Indiana doesn’t have policies in place to protect the public.
“Other states are afraid of us,” he said. “They’re looking at the numbers and see what is happening in Indiana.”