Gov. Eric Holcomb has rolled the dice on the issues of dropping his mask mandate and eliminating building capacity restrictions. Time will tell if his decision comes back to hit Hoosiers hard.
The good news is that statewide COVID-19 cases and deaths have been falling. The current situation is much more positive than when grim numbers were recorded in November and December. On Dec. 29, 2020 the state’s highest daily death toll reached 124. The state’s zenith of positive cases for a day was 8,428 on Dec. 12. Since then both statistics have been falling. There were 20 new deaths reported in Indiana Thursday. New cases amounted to 1,136 that day. Yet the new cases reported Thursday were nearly triple the number reported March 14, showing there is a spike occurring.
Counties have similar downward trends with small spikes occurring now and then. However, the overall situation is far better than the infection rates and deaths that occurred last fall and into the winter.
Vaccinations are now becoming a big factor in halting the spread of the virus in Indiana. As of Friday, nearly 1.2 million Hoosiers had received both doses of multi-dose vaccines. Another nearly 75,000 single-dose vaccines had been administered. So, 1.3 million of the state’s 6.7 million residents have been inoculated against COVID-19. That number is by not enough to halt the virus in its tracks, but will begin to slow the rate of transmission.
"This is by no means … a ‘mission accomplished’ moment," Holcomb said Wednesday while announcing the coming end to the mask mandate and capacity rules. "This is a ‘proceed with caution’ (moment). Hoosiers know what works and will continue to lead by example."
Well, Mr. Governor, maybe.
As we have seen in Elkhart County during this long, awful pandemic, some people have refused to wear masks or be vaccinated, which is poor health practice, but is their right. Now that the state’s mandates for masks and building capacity are ending, we worry the loosing of the rules may expand the number of people who believe the pandemic is under control and infection is highly unlikely.
We are also in the spring break season, which is combined with Easter. These two events will bring people together outside their normal circle of friends and family and lead to more exposures to the virus. Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Bethany Wait has been warning local families to limit their contact with the public when they return from spring break trips, especially if the trips were to Florida. Wait said that state has a higher incidence of COVID-19 variants in circulation and Hoosiers could bring those back with them and quickly infect their families and friends with the variants.
While Holcomb has decided to end his mandates, he cannot control individual Hoosiers. So, if traveling residents return with variants in their bodies, a new surge in cases could occur.
The proverb "timing is everything," applies to the ending of the governor’s mandates. It would have been better if the rules were ended at the end of April or the start of May to allow for the spring break travelers and for more Hoosier vaccinations. But that did not happen. In a few weeks we will see the results of the governor’s roll of the dice.