IN Focus: Gov. Holcomb talks COVID-19 surge, redistricting

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INDIANAPOLIS – This past week, Gov. Eric Holcomb took questions on Indiana’s COVID-19 surge and whether private businesses should mandate their employees get vaccinated. Plus he and state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle discussed the start of the redistricting process.

As more private businesses return to mask mandates, and a few require the vaccine for employees, Gov. Holcomb said Tuesday he’s “not against” private employers mandating their workers get vaccinated.

“Private businesses have to figure out a way to most safely conduct their business,” Holcomb said.

Some Indiana business leaders like Kevin Brinegar, president and CEO of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, are encouraging businesses to follow the CDC’s guidance when it comes to COVID-19 safety precautions.

Holcomb said he’s not considering any statewide restrictions amid the rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

“I’m considering just what I’ve shared and at this point, we mentioned that last year we spent about $3 billion dollars,” Holcomb said. “We spent about $300 million just on the testing and the tracing and the vaccination access.”

He added state officials are monitoring “the hospitalization rates on more than a daily basis, and we’ll continue to make sure that we have the resources that are available and that will guide our decisions.”

Gov. Holcomb is continuing to encourage Hoosiers to get vaccinated.

“I hope those numbers will encourage more people to do what the millions of us that have been vaccinated have done, and that’s not to say it’ll be 100% guaranteed you’ll never get it, but you can read the numbers and see that 99+% if they do, they’re not being hospitalized and they’re surely not dying,” Holcomb said. “So that’s the true and surest way that we all get not just through this, but out of it.”

Holcomb also addressed the federal government’s new two-month ban on evictions and the rental assistance available.

“Fortunately in the state of Indiana, we have the funding, and we have the resources,” Gov. Holcomb said. “Now people do have to take the initiative to apply for that, but some of the money, there’s two different buckets of money: There’s money that was sent directly to the bigger metropolitan areas in our state, and then there was money sent to the state. If the local community’s funds are depleted, the state has the funding available to replenish.”

The redistricting process got underway Friday with the start of listening sessions held by state lawmakers working on new maps for Indiana’s congressional and state legislative districts.

“We as the legislature have constitutional and statutory obligations that we are going to follow to the letter of the law,” said State Rep. Timothy Wesco (R-Osceola), who chairs the Indiana House elections and apportionment committee.

Wesco said the process will be fair, but not everyone feels that way. Several Democrats have expressed concerns about gerrymandering.

“It’s likely that the Republican majority will use this as an opportunity to seal in again their supermajority and draw the boundaries in a way that gives them an advantage,” said State Rep. Matt Pierce (D-Bloomington), who also serves on the House elections committee.

Gov. Holcomb maintains the redistricting process will be conducted fairly and legally.

“I’m confident that we’ll have a transparent, open, public welcome, input welcome, and the process will be fair,” Holcomb said. “I won’t sign anything that’s not constitutional.”

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