The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 24, 2020 1:00 am

State moving Saturday to Stage 5

Drops most restrictions, keeps masks, social distancing

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana will move to Stage 5 of its COVID-19 recovery plan Saturday – dropping most restrictions on businesses and gathering sizes but keeping in place a requirement for face coverings.

Full details will be posted today, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday.

In general, there are no capacity limits for restaurants, bars, entertainment venues and other businesses but social distancing is still required. Gatherings of more than 500 must get approval from the local health department.

“I want to say thank you. We don't get here without adjusting our routines – all those actions, masking up, washing hands, have an effect,” Holcomb said. “We have been very steady Eddie, very methodical, very data driven.”

He pointed out that the current positivity rate is holding around 4% with about 15,000 Hoosiers tested a day. Contact tracing is also ongoing.

As of Wednesday, 728 new cases were added statewide along with 10 new deaths. Allen County had 35 new cases but no new deaths. There was one new death in Wells County for a total of three. 

Statewide, only two counties are in the top two categories of spread.

Stage 5 will run through Oct. 17. Holcomb said theoretically he could roll the state back to Stage 4.5 if numbers spike, but he has not done so in other stages. At most he paused the stage and didn't move forward.

Holcomb's general election opponent – Democrat Dr. Woody Myers – disagreed with Holcomb's decision.

“Moving to Phase 5 is the wrong step – we need more vigilance, not less,” Myers said in a statement. “It was only recently that Indiana had the highest one-day total of cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic.”

He said with the arrival of autumn, public health experts are warning about an increase of cases.

“Listening to the Governor's press conference today, you'd never know that Hoosiers are still dying from COVID-19, are experiencing economic collapse, calling 211 for help with rent, utilities and food assistance and that Black and (Latino) families are two times more likely than white households to have fallen behind on housing payments,” Myers said. “The pandemic isn't going away anytime soon – Gov. Holcomb's decision today is simply wrong.” 

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box doubled down on the administration's commitment to masks and face coverings.

She said there is ample evidence worldwide that people without symptoms can spread the virus without knowing it. Small respiratory droplets spread the virus when people talk, sneeze, sing and cough, Box said, and smaller particles may be aerosolized.

But Holcomb won't make legislators wear masks when they come back to the Statehouse despite it being part of the building's current rules and the statewide executive order. Lawmakers “rule their own roost,” he said when asked if they would be required to comply.

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