SOUTH BEND, Ind. – In addition to the many economic hardships the coronavirus brought with it, a local handyman is also facing another setback.
John Goetz, owner of Goetz Family Handyman, claims the St. Joseph County’s public health mask arrangement caused him physical, financial and emotional harm.
In the lawsuit, Goetz said he could not wear a mask because he claims he has chronic fatigue syndrome, which makes him short of breath and makes it difficult for him to breathe while wearing it.
“The representatives of the people should not stand on the sidelines,” said Goetz lawyer Arie Lipinski. “You have no choice. I think it is something that the legislature should decide on based on the people, the majority and the common good.”
Goets also stated in a complaint to the county that his health was neglected by several companies, no accommodation was offered and he was either forced to leave the company or to wear a mask.
He said this made him unable to do the requested work for his own business and as a result he hurt him financially.
Goetz ‘attorney Arie Lipinski said for these reasons they would take action against the county to make the mask order unenforceable.
“It is strictly legal, it is not a challenge based on the effectiveness of masks. It is not a challenge of how dangerous or deadly COVID is. It is a challenge to the health department and the agency of officials,” Lipinski said.
But how likely is it that the mask mandate will be completely unenforceable?
“You know that we believed that until the environment related to COVID fundamentally changes, we will still have a limited number of tools to combat COVID,” said Dr. Mark Fox, assistant health officer for St. Joseph County. “Until there’s a major change that you know we’ll still have a public health policy on masks.”
St. Joseph County’s Assistant Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said the public health mask regulation lists exemptions for people suffering from medical or health problems, but nothing specific for companies to follow.
“The St. Joseph County’s masks public health code has clear exemptions, so there are exemptions for people with underlying medical conditions,” said Dr. Fox. “The Public Health Regulation does not specify how companies should respond to the recruitment of a person citing a medical exemption. Many of them offer roadside access or delivery or some other way of accessing their goods without having to enter the store. ”
Dr. Fox generally said that complaints about mask orders are not uncommon.
“We have received a lot of complaints from companies that don’t really stick to it or require their customers to stick to it. I mean, I’d probably estimate nearly 1,000 complaints since July,” said Dr. Fox. “What the public does not see are the massive complaints that have been made about you that you are not following the mask sequence in public spaces.”
St. Joseph County plans to meet Tuesday evening to discuss updates to a mask ordinance that would include fines for violating the mask ordinance.