IN Focus: State’s mask mandate becomes ‘mask advisory’ this week

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — With Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announcing the end of the statewide mask mandate, local health officials have been weighing the decision whether to continue requiring masks at the county level or follow the state.

Local health officials have until April 6 to make their decisions. Johnson County is one of the counties that has decided to follow the state’s lead. Johnson County Health Officer Dr. Craig Moorman said they made their decision partially based on recent trends in COVID-19 cases and positivity rates.

“On the one side, it’s nice to have things standardized statewide,” Moorman said. “But on the other end, all our counties are different, so I’m glad to have some flexibility.”

Meanwhile, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced the greater Indianapolis area will not lift its mask mandate nor remove capacity restrictions until health officials in Marion County call for an end to the public health order brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

When asked for a response to President Joe Biden’s appeal to governors, state and local leaders to reinstate mask-wearing requirements if they have lifted them, Holcomb’s office replied: “The state continues to move ahead” with its plans to end the mandate on April 6.

In the video above, Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) and State Sen. J.D. Ford (D-Indianapolis) share their views on the mandate’s expiration, and other issues making news at the state and federal level, including the looming battle over the governor’s emergency powers.

Governor Holcomb announced during his speech that he will renew the state’s health emergency through the end of April, and current restrictions through April 5. Starting April 6, all decisions about the capacity of events will be up to local officials.

Face coverings will remain mandatory in all state buildings and facilities and in all vaccination and COVID testing sites until further notice. K-12 schools will continue under current requirements through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. 

Local governments, private businesses and other entities may institute more stringent guidelines. The Indiana Department of Health will continue to provide county level, color coded metrics to provide information about whether virus levels are increasing or decreasing locally.

President Biden laid out hopeful new steps last week to expand coronavirus vaccinations but also echoed the stern warnings of a top public health official who told Americans she has a recurring feeling of “impending doom” that a fourth wave of the virus may be coming.

“This is deadly serious,” Biden said, urging governors to reinstate mask mandates and other restrictions that some states have been easing.

Biden addressed the nation from the White House, declaring, “If we let our guard down now, we can see the virus getting worse, not better. People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing.”

Biden delivered a direct appeal to governors, state and local leaders to reinstate mask-wearing requirements if they have lifted them, and said he encouraged leaders to pause plans to further ease virus-related restrictions.

“Please, this is not politics, reinstate the mandate if you let it down,” he said.

The CDC stressed that people need to keep protecting themselves with masks and social distancing. Experts say they’re disturbed by what they’re seeing across the country, like the large crowds gathering in Miami during Spring Break.

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