When Gov. Eric Holcomb first laid out a five-stage plan for reopening Indiana in May, an ambitious date of July 4 was selected for the final phase of lifting restrictions.
As the weeks passed by, with COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths steadily declining, all signs pointed to a full reopen on Independence Day.
During the same time span, the virus wreaked havoc outside of The Hoosier State.
While Indiana’s numbers declined across most of the state, more deadly cases — and outbreaks — started popping up in pockets across the country.
Thirty-two states, including neighboring Michigan and Ohio, are dealing with flare ups while states like Arizona, Texas and Florida are battling sharp increases in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Health experts now say the virus in Florida and other Southern states risks becoming uncontrollable, with case numbers too large to trace.
Since the start of the Back on Track Indiana plan, Holcomb has emphasized he and the Indiana State Department of Health could hit the pause button, or move the state back a stage, if needed.
Last week, state health officials in Indiana started to see an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations — the top metric Indiana health experts have monitored — after a general downward trend through much of June. On June 26, there were 595 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Indiana. By Tuesday that number had climbed to 695. It stood at 668 on Wednesday and 644 Thursday.
During his weekly press conference on Wednesday Holcomb said he and his team have kept a close eye on data both inside and out of the state, and decided it’s best to delay a total reopen to July 17.
So, instead of moving to Stage 5, Indiana is hitting pause on some reopenings and advancing to “Stage 4.5.”
State officials made the right decision by erring on the side of caution.
During his press conference, Holcomb also unveiled a new PSA campaign called #MaskUpHoosiers, which aims to educate the public on the importance of helping slow the spread of the virus by wearing face masks in public spaces. The move came a day before Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Marion County would become the fourth county to require masks starting July 9.
While Holcomb and ISDH have advocated for mask use for months, they’re hoping that more people will start to get the message as the state inches closer to allowing full capacity crowds at indoor venues.
By pausing the advancement, officials can take more time to evaluate the current status of the virus within the state, and develop more measures to help prevent spread.
Other states have proven that disastrous outcomes can happen if reopened too quickly, and the same could happen in Indiana.
Hoosiers can be inconvenienced and wait the two weeks. It’s better to hit pause now instead of getting set back later.
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