INDIANAPOLIS – In a sweeping move Tuesday, Mayor Joe Hogsett said nearly all COVID-19 restrictions would be lifted by July 1 in Indianapolis and Marion County.
“Indianapolis is where we need to be to lift restrictions,” Hogsett said. “It was a long time coming. But Indy is ready.”
Hogsett cautioned that the pandemic isn’t over yet—people are still getting sick and ending up in the hospital. However, the positivity rate is low and hospitalizations are down significantly.
Last week, Dr. Virginia Caine with the Marion County Public Health Department said all trends were heading in the right direction. Looking at the data points again, she said Tuesday that she believes “we’re in the position to fully reopen Indianapolis.”
The positivity rate in Marion County has dipped below 2%, and the county has been under Caine’s “gold standard” of 5% for 40 days. On average, Marion County is seeing about 26 COVID-19 cases per day, representing a significantly low spread of infection.
The county is seeing about 23 cases in the emergency room; at the pandemic’s height, that number was around 1,000 cases. First-time hospital admissions currently average about two cases a day.
Gyms, sporting venues, tattoo parlors, hair salons, bars, restaurants and other entertainment venues will be allowed full capacity.
The change allows the Indianapolis Colts to have full capacity for upcoming games. The team is the last NFL franchise to make the announcement. It also applies to events at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Victory Field, and the Indiana State Fairgrounds, among other venues.
Masks are no longer required, although they are encouraged for unvaccinated individuals in indoor spaces or situations in which people aren’t sure who’s vaccinated and who’s not.
Local businesses will still be able to mandate masks if they so choose. Places that fall under federal regulations will follow federal guidelines—meaning masks are still required at Indianapolis International Airport, for example.
Caine said the changes are possible because of the thousands upon thousands of people who’ve received the COVID-19 vaccine. She concedes there is more work to do. More pop-up vaccine clinics are on the way, as are outreach programs for harder-to-reach populations. Of particular concern is the vaccination rate among the younger population, Caine said. Those rates fall well below those for older residents.
Caine put Marion County’s overall vaccination rate at 40%, which is lower than all surrounding counties. Hamilton County, for example, is at 55% percent while Boone and Hendricks are at 54%. Hancock sits at 52%. Shelby (43%), Johnson (43%) and Morgan (41%) also have higher rates than Marion.
As for guidance for schools, Caine said that was still a few weeks away. Younger students aren’t eligible for the vaccine yet, and health officials are keeping a close eye on the delta variant.