IN Focus: Holcomb, Carson, Spartz discuss fight against COVID-19, debate over infrastructure

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — Despite Indiana’s ongoing rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Eric Holcomb says he will not impose a statewide mask mandate.

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, new cases and hospitalizations stand at rates Indiana has not seen since February. The state’s COVID-19 positivity rate has topped 9% over the past week.

When we asked Holcomb about the surge Wednesday, he said he is not considering any statewide restrictions.

“We are not going to have a mask mandate statewide,” said Gov. Holcomb.

Holcomb said he is focused on making sure Hoosiers have access to the COVID-19 vaccine and the correct information on the virus and vaccinations.

“The goal that the state of Indiana has is to make sure they have that access,” Holcomb said. “It’s easy, it’s free. That they have access to the data that should direct them on how to be safe.”

Holcomb said local communities are welcome to impose their own safety guidelines.

“We’re not going to mandate people staying inside,” Holcomb said. “We are not going to mandate everyone doing one thing when this is different per community.”

As of Wednesday, every county in Indiana falls under the CDC’s recommendation that everyone wear a mask in indoor public places, regardless of vaccination status.

Even without a mask mandate in effect, doctors are still urging everyone to follow that guidance.

“It’s fairly clear that masks can still stop it, but if you’re not masked, there’s a really good chance you could catch it, even through momentary contact,” said Dr. Paul Calkins, associate chief medical executive for IU Health. “And there is some evidence that even people who are vaccinated can pass the virus along.”

Meantime, more elected officials are joining Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call on the FDA to grant the COVID-19 vaccines full authorization.

“I think he, like myself, we share an interest in making sure Hoosiers are safe and Americans are safe as well,” said Rep. André Carson (D-Indiana).

Carson said whether it’s about vaccines or masks, he believes combating misinformation is critical in the fight against COVID.

“Now, with the delta variant, I think all hands need to be on deck,” Carson said. “I think we need to push out, push away from the misinformation that’s out there that trivializes the expertise of health care professionals.”

One of the least vaccinated groups in Indiana is kids between the ages of 12 and 17. Congresswoman Victoria Spartz (R-Indiana) said she believes full FDA approval of the vaccines would make parents more confident about getting their children vaccinated.

“I think regular approval will help much more parents to make that decision if they decide to do that,” Rep. Spartz said.

Spartz said she also believes it’s about making sure Hoosiers have accurate information, adding that she feels transparency in the FDA’s approval process will be key to getting more people vaccinated.

“I think that is a parent’s choice we should provide to people, but I think we have to provide transparent information that parents can make this decision so then more parents will feel more comfortable,” said Spartz.

In the video above, Carson and Spartz are also asked about the infrastructure bill headed to the House after it was passed on a bi-partisan basis in the U.S. Senate last week.

We also discussed the legislation with Sen. Mike Braun (R-Indiana), and with his predecessor, former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana), who has been touring the state making the case for the legislation.

Braun voted against the measure along with Sen. Todd Young (R-Indiana), who had initially voted to move ahead procedurally with the legislation before ultimately voting against the bill.

Sen. Young commented on his vote during a roundtable discussion on rural broadband needs with staff members at NineStar Connect in Greenfield Friday.

“You look at the broader bill, which I and a bunch of others voted to advance so that I’d have a seat at the table, the promise was it was supposed to pay for itself without increasing taxes, and we were close to doing that,” Young told the group. “But they moved away from that stated goal, and it doesn’t come close to paying for itself now. And you had these other provisions put in place. And you had Speaker Pelosi tie it to a three-and-a-half trillion dollar bill.”

Sen. Young added that he would “continue to advocate on Hoosiers’ behalf and your behalf for robust investments in broadband.”

We wanted to ask Sen. Young about his vote against the infrastructure bill, but a spokesperson told us he was unavailable for an interview.

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