INDIANAPOLIS (AP/WXIN) — In a press conference Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb made several announcements regarding the state’s COVID-19 response. Here’s a quick look:
- March 31 – Plans to extend vaccine eligibility all Hoosiers age 16+
- March 31- Will extend the state’s public health emergency another 30 days
- April 6 – All decisions about venue capacity will be in the hands of local officials
- April 6 – The state’s face mask mandate will turn into an advisory
- Schools will still be required to use masks through the end of the school year
As long as Indiana receives a large increase in the amount of vaccine as outlined by the federal government, Gov. Holcomb says he plans he plans to extend vaccine eligibility to all Hoosiers age 16+ on March 31. Additional mass vaccination clinics will be scheduled for April and the state will implement a large employer vaccination program.
The stay-at-home order was lifted after six weeks, but complaints from the public and some conservative state legislators have continued about the face mask mandate that Holcomb first issued in July. Holcomb’s current order continuing the mask mandate and crowd restrictions in counties based on the risk of coronavirus spread is set to expire April 1. However, starting April 6, the state mask mandate will become a mask advisory.
Face coverings will remain mandatory in all state buildings and facilities and in all vaccination and COVID testing sites until further notice. K-12 schools will continue under current requirements through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.
Governor Holcomb also announced during the speech that he will renew the state’s health emergency through the end of April, and current restrictions through April 5. Starting April 6, all decisions about the capacity of events will be up to local officials.
Local governments, private businesses and other entities may institute more stringent guidelines. The Indiana Department of Health will continue to provide county level, color coded metrics to provide easy to understand information about whether virus levels are increasing or decreasing locally.
“When I visit my favorite restaurant or conduct a public event, I will continue to wear a mask,” Gov. Holcomb said. “It is the right thing to do. Hoosiers who take these recommended precautions will help us get to what I hope is the tail end of this pandemic.”
Customers in restaurants, bars and nightclubs will no longer be required by the state to be seated. Six feet of spacing between tables and other seating will still be recommended as is spacing between non-household parties.
As schools have started to return to in-person learning, Governor Holcomb said he hopes all K-12 schools will offer full in-person learning for all students for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
Indiana’s coronavirus hospitalizations and death rates have fallen by more than 80% since their December peaks. Despite that improvement, Indiana is still averaging about 10 coronavirus-related deaths per day and health officials have continued urging mask wearing and social distancing amid concerns about more contagious coronavirus variants. The state health department reports only 18% of Indiana residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated.
Indiana has recorded nearly 13,000 coronavirus deaths, which were the main cause of a 16% increase in statewide deaths in 2020 from the year before.
(This story was originally published on March 23, 2021)