Governor Eric Holcomb’s announcement mandating masks in public beginning on July 27 came one day after local health officials suggested a mask mandate for Franklin County.

Both announcements came with support from some and criticism from others. Soon a Facebook post began circulating announcing there would be a group meeting today, July 23, at the old firehouse in Metamora to discuss “taking a tactful stance against the mask mandate.”

Metamora resident Dave Simons is behind organizing the meeting.

“My intention was to have a meeting place that was like a town hall for citizens to voice their concerns and have an open forum to discuss the process,” Simons said. “You can sit in front of the TV and watch the news and get really mad. I want to shed light on where that energy needs pointed to.”

Simons said the tone for the meeting will be set in the beginning to ensure people know this isn’t about being Republican or Democrat or other hot topics, but instead what our civic duty is as American citizens.

“Every citizen has a civic duty to voice concerns, but you have to do it tactfully,” Simons said.

Courtney Powell from Brookville was initially planning on attending the meeting if the mandate could result in a Class B Misdemeanor when not followed. Powell stated she had no problem with a private business choosing to mandate masks because she still has the choice not to wear a mask and take her business elsewhere. However, she does not think the state or local government should have the authority to impose fines or jail time.

Shan Willis, who is also planning on attending the meeting, feels like many have the wrong impression of the meeting.

“The problem is this meeting is being described as a “patriot/fight the system/militia” meeting, and that’s not at all what it is,” Willis said. “ It’s concerned citizens discussing our stance on it. Nothing more.”

At the state level, a petition has been started and can be found at petitions.whitehouse.gov. and gives Indiana constituents a voice disagreeing with the mask mandate. The petition calls for the White House “To rescind the executive order put in place by Governor Holcomb of Indiana on the mandatory mask order put in place.”

The stance on the petition page states:
“Due to the abuse in power with no validation that science mandates that the cloth masks have been clinically proven to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we the people of Indiana, ask Governor Holcomb to rescind this executive order on mandatory masks starting on Monday, July 27, 2020.
The CDC and the World Health Organization have not stated that the masks have been 100 percent effective against the spread of COVID-19. Secondly, this order was without the consideration of anyone with major health issues who may not be able to wear masks and/or make it impossible to wear them. Thirdly, there is no consideration in this order on the associated dangers of long periods of mask wearing. Fourthly, the state and state officials cannot make mask-wearing an order without asking about a condition. (HIPAA).”

The goal of the petition is to get a response from the White House by obtaining 100,00 signatures by Aug. 21. The petition has 359 signatures as of 12 p.m. on July 23. Once the petition reaches the required threshold, it will be put in a queue to be reviewed by the White House. Others can still sign the petition while it is waiting for a response. When the White House responds, everyone who has signed the petition will get an email from the White House to inform constituents the petition has been reviewed and responded to.

However, not all FC residents feel as strongly about taking a stance against masking up. Sharon Wessel of Metamora, who lost her cousin to COVID-19, is welcoming the mandate.

“I’m glad everyone is mandated to wear a mask in public places,” Wessel began. “It might just save the life of a loved one. How soon people forget that we’ve lost a beloved family member to this horrible virus. I believe we should follow the science.”

Unfortunately, science seems to be another widely debated topic on social media since organizations have changed their stance on masks and effectiveness throughout the pandemic. The most current information on the CDC website states:

“Cloth face coverings are recommended as a simple barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from traveling into the air and onto other people when the person wearing the cloth face-covering coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice. This is called source control. This recommendation is based on what we know about the role respiratory droplets play in the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19, paired with emerging evidence from clinical and laboratory studies that shows cloth face coverings reduce the spray of droplets when worn over the nose and mouth. COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet), so the use of cloth face coverings is particularly important in settings where people are close to each other or where social distancing is difficult to maintain.”

Under the “recent studies” tab on the CDC website’s COVID-19 page there are 19 studies listed with evidence supporting the CDC’s stance on cloth face coverings. The objective of one study was to examine homemade masks as an alternative to commercial face masks. The study was conducted in August 2013 by Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness. The study shares the methods used to conduct the study, the results and conclusion.

Results: “The median-fit factor of the homemade masks was one-half that of the surgical masks. Both masks significantly reduced the number of microorganisms expelled by volunteers, although the surgical mask was three times more effective in blocking transmission than the homemade mask.
Conclusion: “Our findings suggest that a homemade mask should only be considered as a last resort to prevent droplet transmission from infected individuals, but it would be better than no protection.

To read the information provided by the CDC in its entirety and other studies listed, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in Metamora at the former Metamora Volunteer Fire Department site. Simons said there wasn’t a ton of space inside, but if attendance was too large, it could be moved to the new MVFD.

Simons welcomes attending but wants to ensure the community knows this isn’t about push-back or compliance, but discussion on how to move forward in our community with any issue and what platforms can be used for change in the community.