Local handyman suing county over mask order

NOW: Local handyman suing county over mask order

SOUTH BEND, Ind.— Along with the many economic hardships the coronavirus has brought on, one local handyman also dealing with another setback.

John Goetz, owner of Goetz Family Handyman, claims that the St. Joseph County public health mask order has caused him to suffer physical, financial and emotional harm.

In the lawsuit, Goetz said he isn’t able to wear a mask because he claims he has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which leaves him with shortness of breath and makes it difficult for him to breathe while wearing one.

“The people representatives should not be left standing on the sidelines,” Goetz Attorney Arie Lipinski said. “They don’t have a choice I think that it’s something that the legislative body should be deciding based on the people, based on the good of the majority, the public good.”

Goets also states in a complaint to the county that his health condition has been disregarded by multiple businesses, offering no accommodations and either forcing him to leave the business or wear a mask.

He said this has left him unable to perform requested work for his own business, and in result, has left him financially hurt.

Goetz’s Attorney Arie Lipinski said for these reasons, they’re taking on a case against the county to make the mask order unenforceable.

“It’s strictly legal in nature it’s not a challenge based on the effectiveness in masks, it’s not a challenge to how dangerous or deadly COVID is, it’s a challenge to the public health department and public officers’ authority,” Lipinski said.

But how likely is it to make the mask mandate fully unenforceable?

“You know our position has been that until the underlying conditions related to COVID have changed in some fundamental way we still have a limited set of tools to combat COVID,” St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said. “Until there is some fundamental change you know we will still have a public health order regarding masks in place.”

St. Joseph County Deputy Health Officer Dr. Mark Fox said the public health mask order does list exceptions to people who have a medical or health conditions, but nothing specific for businesses to follow.

“The public health order related to masks for St Joseph County has clear exceptions so there are exceptions for people with underlying conditions,” Dr. Fox said. “There’s nothing specified in the public health order about how businesses should react to the setting of someone citing a medical exemption, a lot of them provide some sort of curbside access or delivery or some other way to access their goods without having to enter the store.”

Dr. Fox said, generally speaking, mask order complaints aren’t unusual.

“We have received a lot of complaints of businesses that are not really adhering to it or requiring that their customers adhere to it I mean probably I would guess close to 1,000 complaints now since July,” Dr. Fox said. “What the public doesn’t see is the massive complaints that have been expressed about you know the noncompliance with the mask order in public spaces.”

St. Joseph County plans to meet Tuesday night to discuss updates to a mask ordinance, that would establish fines for violations to the mask order.

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