Marion County mask mandate could change Monday

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MARION COUNTY — The Marion County mask mandate could be lifted as soon as this week for vaccinated Hoosiers. 

Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine is expected to ask the city-county council to approve changes to the public health order at the meeting Monday night. 

The changes would have a big impact public places like restaurants and stores. 

Owner of Black Sheep Gifts, Lisa Bennett says they will still require employees to wear masks at her store, but not costumers who are fully vaccinated. 

She says those who have not had their full dose should still wear masks, not just for the employees, but also everyone else in the store. 

“The main thing is that it’s been a very long year and all of the businesses who have survived have a little sigh of relief now. So, the hope is that removing this mask mandate will not see a spike in Coronavirus and take us backwards. If it does, that’s probably the scariest thing for small business owners, is the idea that we could have another surge and go through this all over again,” Bennett said. 

Dr. Caine says when it came to making this decision to ask for these changes her team looked at lots of data to check the community spread in the county, how many daily cases, and how many people were vaccinated. 

The Indiana state online vaccine dashboard didn’t update Sunday due to technical maintenance. 

But as of Saturday, more than 43 percent of all Marion County residents have received their full vaccinations, about 45% have received at least one dose and Marion County’s positivity rate has dropped to under five percent. 

“I’m ecstatic because we’re near the end of the tunnel where we can return to a lot of our normal activities. We are so close. But this is the hardest part of the race. This is like the marathon,” said Dr. Caine. 

Masks would still be required for those who are not fully vaccinated, but it will go on the honor system. 

“I have every confidence in our community that I think and hope that they’re going to do the right thing,” said Dr.  Caine.  

“Because this is so critical for our community, and I think it’s so critical for our loved ones that we want to have the ability to not only protect ourselves but our friends and our colleagues.” 

It’s not just masks off for those who are fully vaccinated, but Dr. Caine says she will also ask to increase capacity at certain places. 

Including 100% capacity at religious services, bumping up indoor bar capacity to 75%, indoor sports capacity to 50%, entertainment venues up to 75%, and public pools climbing to 100% capacity. 

Dr. Caine has set the goal for 50 percent of the county to be vaccinated by the 4th of July. The Mayor says at that point Marion County could remove most restrictions in place. 

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