Holcomb announces Indiana to stay at Stage 4.5, won’t rule out mask mandate

Coronavirus

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that Indiana will remain at Stage 4.5 of its Back On Track reopening plan “for at least the next two weeks.”

Wednesday’s press conference took on a more somber tone as state officials stressed the continued danger of the coronavirus.

“COVID-19 is not going away any time soon,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb also announced he will revise his Executive Order with enhanced regulations on gatherings in the state with more than 250 people.

In her opening statements, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box announced cases over the past two weeks have increased, with supply and demand issues increasing wait times for lab results.

“I remain concerned over the number of overall COVID-19 infections,” Dr. Box said.

Dr. Box said that the 7-day average for positivity rate is increasing in Indiana. On Wednesday, the Indiana State Department of Health reported 700 new positive coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to 53,370, as well as an additional 10 deaths with a cumulative total of 2,592.

According to Dr. Box, Indiana is seeing delayed test results due to the national backup. She also said the state is seeing more young Hoosiers infected with coronavirus. 

“It is time for Hoosiers to decide to go back to more social distancing, to wear a mask, to wash their hands,” said Dr. Box.

The state has recently seen an increase in cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions due to COVID-19. The number of deaths has decreased in the state, but officials say it’s not a reason to roll back any precautions.

Kristen Kelley, the director of Infection Prevention at IU Health said Monday, “So far, we’ve already seen around 2,500 deaths in just under 18 weeks of COVID-19. That is almost 20 times as many deaths as we saw during the flu season.”

During the briefing, a #MaskUpHoosiers public service announcement video was played, and was followed by reporter submitted questions.

When asked about a potential statewide face-covering mandate, Holcomb said the state is still in a posture of working with local communities. “We’re not looking at the once-size-fits-all, we’re looking county-by-county.”

Holcomb cited LaGrange, West Lafayette and Marion Counties as examples, but would not rule out an Indiana mandate, however. He said, “If we find ourselves in a situation… like a Florida or Texas.. we might.” 

Holcomb also said the state would also consider a possible mask mandate in schools.

He was later asked if it’s still safe to open Indiana schools. Dr. Box responded, saying they don’t have a particular metric for Indiana school districts to go back. 

She said if Indiana climbs to a 10-15% positivity rate and stays there consistently, the state will re-evaluate what might need to be done and make strong recommendations.

Two weeks ago, Governor Holcomb announced Indiana was not moving ahead with Stage 5 of his plan, instead opting for a more cautious “Stage 4.5.” This decision was made due to an uptick in the state’s coronavirus cases.

Indiana stage 4.5 by FOX59 on Scribd

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