INDIANAPOLIS — The City-County Council voted Monday night to relax some of Indianapolis’ COVID-19 emergency health orders at the recommendation of Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine.
The council approval allows fully vaccinated residents to remove their masks, except for in certain situations such as hospitals and other medical settings, airports and public transportation including IndyGo and ridesharing services (Uber, Lyft, etc.).
The new public health order becomes effective at midnight, June 8.
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, 43% of Marion County residents are fully vaccinated as of Sunday, 45% had at least one dose of the vaccine, and the county’s positivity rate has dropped to 4.8%, just below Dr. Caine’s “gold standard” for progress against the pandemic.
“The most important thing is, if you are vaccinated, you do not have to wear a mask or do social distancing except for some exceptions,” she said. “Definitely any hospital, medical situation, you will have to continue to wear your mask. Public transportation, so if you’re at the airport, even our public buses transportation, you’re going to have to continue to wear a mask and do social distancing.
“This is by honor system.”
Several council members questioned Dr. Caine, asking if the mandate makes sense at all. They argued that it will be difficult to adequately determine who is vaccinated and who isn’t. At one point, Council member Brian Mowery got in a heated exchange with Council President Vop Osili. He was upset that the proposal itself did not reach council members until three hours before the meeting.
During the meeting, Mowery was told that protocols had been waived to allow the proposal to go forward, however, protocols were not waived to allow for more discussion or for his amendment request to fully open Marion County.
“We are offering an amendment that people of our constituents want to see. Many people are tired of restrictions, these egregious mandates, and they are ready to get lives back on track, to be 100% open anywhere,” said Mowery after the council meeting.
Dr. Caine said Indianapolis is ready to take a great leap back toward normal capacity for many public places as recent numbers show Marion County’s full vaccination rate climbing 7% during the first week of June.
The new order also loosens capacity restrictions.
“The bars are going to go from a 50% capacity indoors, to 75% capacity. Restaurants will remain at a 75%, but everybody for bars and restaurants will be at 100% capacity if you’re outdoors,” she said. “Some of you who are fitness nuts, you know, you love the gym – you’re going to go from a 50% capacity to 75%. Yoga may be your thing. You can go from 50% capacity to 75% classes. We’re now going to allow dancing in music venues.
“Our museums, our zoos are going to go from 50 to 75% capacity.”
Religious services will be back to 100% capacity, indoor sporting events will be open to 50% capacity and public pools will have 100% capacity as will summer camps.
Dr. Caine has said that if 50% of Marion County residents are fully vaccinated by July 4, the masks will come off for everyone.