Indy plans to ease mask mandate, other limits

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis officials announced plans Wednesday to lift the city’s mask mandate for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and ease other restriction on June 7.

State health officials, meanwhile, lowered the coronavirus infection risk for several northern Indiana counties that they’ve been watching recently because of Michigan’s status as a national hotspot for new cases and hospitalizations.

Indianapolis changes

Indianapolis has kept more stringent coronavirus precautions in place even as Gov. Eric Holcomb ended the statewide mask order and other restrictions in early April.

Mayor Joe Hogsett said Wednesday the city’s mask order will remain in effect through the Indianapolis 500 with an expected crowd of more than 100,000 people on May 30, along with graduations and other events into early June.

“That’s another two-and-a-half weeks’ worth of shots in arms that will increase our community’s vaccination rate, further hampering the potential spread of the virus,” Hogsett said.

City health officials said they would recommend that even people fully vaccinated still wear masks in hospitals and on public transportation and that businesses will still be allowed to require masks for employees and customers.

Health officials expect a proposal to the City-County Council will raise capacity limits for bars from 50% to 75% and allow full capacity for religious services.

About 38% of Indianapolis residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, just below the statewide mark of 40%, according to the state health department.

Coronavirus risk

The state health department’s weekly tracking map updated Wednesday removed the orange risk rating for coronavirus spread — the second highest of the four levels — for three counties along the Michigan border that had such ratings last week.

All Indiana counties near the Michigan border now have the next highest yellow rating or the lowest blue rating. Michigan has had the country’s highest infection rate over the past month, but it has dropped significantly recently.

Three rural counties in separate parts of Indiana have orange ratings, while the state’s 89 other counties have yellow or blue ratings.

COVID-19 vaccinations have continued to stagnate in Indiana even as the state’s percentage of total population that’s been fully vaccinated is 13th lowest among the 50 states, according to federal Centers for Disease Control data.

Indiana’s vaccination rate has remained at about 32,000 people a day over the past week. That is down from the state’s peak of more than 50,000 a day in early April.

Indiana hospitals, meanwhile, reported have reported treating between 800 and 850 coronavirus patients a day in the past week. That is up from about 600 patients a day in March but far below the more than 3,000 a day that were being treated through much of November and December.

The health department has added 73 coronavirus-related deaths over the past week to the state’s toll, raising the pandemic total to 13,518. Indiana’s seven-day moving average of deaths has remained at just below 10 for about a month after averaging more than 100 a day for much of December.

Senator's dodge

Republican U.S. Sen. Mike Braun is continuing to decline to say whether he’s received the COVID-19 vaccination shot.

Braun described his answer to a reporter’s question Wednesday as a matter of medical privacy while not giving a yes or no reply to whether he’s been vaccinated.

“I don’t believe in a vaccine passport and that’s a personal decision, one private in nature,” Braun said.

But the senator said he still urged people to seek the vaccine shots.

“I personally think that unless you have a very good reason you should get a vaccination,” he said. “That’s what I said from the get-go."

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