State plan keeps movie theaters, playgrounds closed

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Movie theaters and public playgrounds will remain closed in Indiana for at least three more weeks under revisions to the state’s coronavirus reopening plan signed by the governor Thursday. The state’s business and gathering restrictions are being further eased for most of the state beginning Friday.

The state health department Indiana’s total number of deaths among people with confirmed or presumed coronavirus infections has topped 1,900.

Restriction changes

Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a new executive order for a second round of easing many restrictions that were first imposed under the statewide stay-at-home order that was imposed March 25.

The new order, which is in effect through June 13, allows social gatherings of up to 100 people and retail stores and malls to operate at 75% capacity. Gatherings have been limited to 25 people and stores to 50% capacity under the state’s first easing of restrictions that took effect May 4.

Gyms, fitness centers, community pools and campgrounds will also be allowed to open under rules limiting the number of people and for distancing and cleaning.

Holcomb’s plan announced earlier this month had targeted movie theaters and playgrounds for a late May reopening, but the revised plan delays theaters until at least June 14 and lists playgrounds as “to be determined.”

“We continue to remain vigilant about protecting Hoosiers’ health while taking responsible steps to further open our state’s economy,” Holcomb said in a statement.

The new order continues to limit restaurants to 50% capacity in dining rooms and summer youth camps can’t open until at least June 1. School buildings and grounds remain closed, as do bars, nightclubs and casinos.

Tougher local restrictions are still being allowed, with the new steps not taking effect until at least June 1 in Indianapolis, northwestern Indiana’s Lake County and rural northern Indiana’s Cass County, where a large coronavirus outbreak infected hundreds of Tyson meatpacking plant workers.

Virus deaths

The state’s 48 new confirmed COVID-19 deaths reported Thursday occurred as far back as May 2, increasing the total number of such deaths to 1,764, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

The state agency’s statistics also added one death for a total 149 people who have died from probable infections of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. That increases Indiana’s confirmed or presumed deaths to 1,913 since the first one was recorded on March 15.

Holcomb has cited a decline in the number of COVID-19-infected people hospitalized and the continued availability of intensive care unit beds to treat those most seriously ill for the state being able to further relax business and gathering restrictions.

The latest state statistics showed 410 COVID-19 patients were in the intensive care units of Indiana hospitals and that 39% of ICU beds remained available as of Wednesday. That’s 115 fewer coronavirus patients in those ICUs than on May 5, and 211 fewer than on April 23.

Unemployment grows

Indiana saw about 30,000 more people file for unemployment benefits last week as business struggles continue despite the easing of the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Job losses have slowed in recent weeks, but roughly 670,000 people have sought jobless aid in Indiana over the past nine weeks since business closures swept across the country, the U.S. Department of Labor statistics said Thursday.

The number of initial unemployment applications submitted in Indiana last week was about the same as the week before and well below the 100,000-plus the state received for three straight weeks in late March and early April. Indiana was receiving fewer than 3,000 claims per week and had a 3.2% unemployment rate before the pandemic hit the country.

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