Indiana has extended restrictions from Stage 4 of its five-stage Back on Track plan until July 18.
During a live stream on his Facebook page Wednesday, Gov. Eric Holcomb said the restrictions are being extended due to the number of COVID-19 patients being hospitalized and admitted daily increasing during the past week.
Holcomb said increases in positive COVID-19 cases in other states helped impact his decision.
“It’s very compelling when you see different counties, I used the word volatile earlier, it’s a very volatile environment out there around the country, and it is in the state of Indiana, as well. We’re not immune to that fact,” he said.
Holcomb said he didn’t want to overstate the decision because Indiana is still in a good position.
“A lot of this has to do with our conduct,” he said. “Other governors around the country are saying the exact same thing. They are pleading with folks to think about us. Think we, not just me.”
State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box further explained the decision.
“We look around the United States and in the state of Indiana at our contact tracing and we can see where individuals are getting infected and where they’re infecting other individuals,” she said.
“Oftentimes, that is in bars, where individuals are not social distancing. It is in areas where people are inside at close contact. It’s in big groups that are getting together. So the purpose of this was to say, ‘We see our number ticking up just a bit, but with what’s happening across the U.S., we don’t want to be there. We want to be conservative and smart about this.”
Both Holcomb and Box urged Hoosiers to wear masks and introduced a mask wearing effort on social media.
“It really is about protecting other individuals, and it can give you some protection also,” Box said.
She said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization both recommend the public to wear masks in public.
“… and I think that’s an important message for us to get out,” Box said.
Holcomb said wearing masks will help Hoosiers get through the pandemic quicker, but he has no plan of mandating masks because he believes in Hoosiers doing the right thing. Box said she believes mandating the use of masks could lead to an increased resistance and resentment toward them among residents.
From July 4 to 18, the state will enter what Holcomb is calling Stage 4.5 of his reopening plan.
Many of the restrictions from Stage 4 are carried over, such as social gatherings being restricted to only 250 people; restaurants being limited to 75% capacity; bowling alleys, movie theaters and other entertainment facilities being limited to 50% capacity; bars and nightclubs limited to 50% capacity; and entertainment sites like zoos and amusement parks being limited to 50% capacity.
A full list of restrictions can be found online at backontrack.in.gov.
Conventions, fairs and other outdoor gatherings will be allowed to continue as long as social distancing guidelines are followed.
Box also said state officials really do feel very strongly that kids can get back to school later this summer.
“That being said, our superintendents, principals and school systems all across the state are working very, very hard to bring students back in the safest way possible,” she said.
Box said in the very beginning, state officials felt kids wouldn’t get infected or wouldn’t show much infection.
“They had minor infections, and that seems to be the case,” she said.
Box said kids with their immune systems clear the virus up for the most part rather quickly.
“We thought they might be super carriers and infect everybody around them,” she said.
But that hasn’t been the case, Box said.
In Jackson County, the number of confirmed cases per day has remained steady with an average of around two new daily cases over the last two weeks. In total, 455 county residents have tested positive of the 5,555 tested. Three county residents have died as a result of COVID-19.