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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb opened Wednesday’s press conference by remembering former Indiana Governor Joseph Kernan who passed away in the morning.

“He would always say ‘Call me Joe’. This is a man who you wanted in the arena to face those challenging times. A man who would say yes to good causes,” said Holcomb. “I will miss that sparkle in his eye. I will miss that warm, Hoosier smile. We send much love his way.”

During the COVID-19 update, Holcomb announced Indiana will be staying in Stage 4.5 of its Back On Track opening plan until August 27th.

“I want to be safe, not sorry. We’re hopeful but we have to do everything we can. This virus will take what we give it. It is incumbent on us to be on our best behavior,” said Holcomb.

The governor also announced the extension, and stressed the word extension, of the  moratorium evictions and foreclosures until August 14.

The briefing comes as Indiana continues to see high numbers of new COVID-19 cases in the state daily while schools decide on how to begin classes. Since the governor’s last update, Indiana has broken its single-day record for new cases twice.

He once again announced his support of local officials in enforcing more stringent guidelines. Last week, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced stronger COVID-19 restrictions in Marion County due to an increase in positive cases, particularly among young adults. A statewide mask mandate began Monday for all Hoosiers above 7 years old.

In the question and answer session, Holcomb was asked again about Hoosiers and other Americans not complying with mask mandates. He said, “Wearing a mask is a new phenomenon for us … we live in a country where we love our freedom … but you have to take this seriously because it’s taking us seriously. This is just science to me.”

Holcomb said he and the Lt. Governor will have some updates next week in terms of tourism and the direction Indiana is heading.

The governor was joined by other state officials, including State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box, Executive Director of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Agency Jacob Sipe, Department of Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne and Chief Medical Officer for the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) Dr. Daniel Rusyniak.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Box stated that the 7-day average for positivity rate continues to grow in Indiana, up to 6.8% as of July 21, compared to 6.5% as of July 4. She said new features will be added to the state dashboard to better show this data.

Dr. Box urged the importance of Hoosiers participating in Indiana’s contact tracing efforts. She shared several examples, including a bachelor party and a prom, in which people were exposed to COVID-19 but individuals are refusing to cooperate with contact tracers, making it extremely difficult to slow the spread.

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 630 new COVID-19 cases in the state Wednesday, along with eight additional deaths. Those numbers bring the statewide totals to 64,299 and 2,733 respectively.

Dr. Rusyniak of FSSA gave an update on data collection from long-term care facilities across the state which accounts for about 80% of all employees. Rusyniak announced only 1% of Indiana’s long-term care staff tested positive for COVID-19.

He added that Indiana is now asking for information from long-term care facilities dating back to March 1. He also addressed rumors that the state has been manipulating data by stating, “We have never underreported or hid data. We have always reported aggregate data that facilities have submitted to us.”

Workforce Development Commissioner Fred Payne and Director Sipe of the Indiana Housing Agency gave department updates and spoke on fraudulent claims related to  unemployment and again announced the deadline for Indiana’s energy assistance program to help with utility costs is Friday, July 31. Hoosiers can call 211 for more info or click here.

Holcomb added to their comments by addressing Hoosier opportunities in the state’s workforce. “There’s not just hope out there, there’s real opportunity. There’s careers out there,” said Holcomb.

Also on Wednesday, Indianapolis Public Schools announced it will recommend starting the school year virtually starting on August 17. That plan will be voted on during a board meeting Thursday evening.