State to move to next stage of reopening

By TOM DAVIES
The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Movie theaters, bars, museums and amusement parks across Indiana will be allowed to reopen Friday for the first time in nearly three months, as the governor announced Wednesday that he was moving up by two days the next stage of easing the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

A new state order will allow social gatherings of up to 250 people and retail stores and malls to operate at full capacity, Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said. Gatherings have been limited to 100 people and stores to 75% capacity for the past three weeks as such limits have been gradually lifted since early May.

Restaurants will be allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms, while bars, nightclubs, movie theaters, bowling alleys, museums and amusement parks can open at half capacity. Casinos can resume operations starting Monday under safety plans submitted to the Indiana Gaming Commission.

Public playgrounds can reopen Friday, but festivals and parades ares still prohibited.

This Indiana reopening stage had been scheduled for Sunday. Officials said the earlier action was possible because of continuing declines in the number of people hospitalized for the COVID-19 virus and the availability of intensive care unit beds to treat those who are most seriously ill.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, warned that precautions were still needed to stem the coronavirus spread even as most of the business and travel restrictions first imposed in March are lifted.

“It doesn’t really mean that we go back to the normal — no masks, no social distancing, no careful handwashing, alcoholing your hands,” Box said. “All of those are critical.”

Holcomb said he was still targeting July 4 as the date for when most gathering size and activity restrictions will be eliminated.

That comes even as Indiana has seen at least 128 coronavirus-related deaths during June, boosting the state’s death toll to 2,355 since the first fatality was reported in mid-March, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Holcomb first declared a public health emergency for the state on March 6 and followed that with a statewide stay-at-home order closing nonessential businesses beginning March 25. The stay-at-home order was lifted on May 4 as the initial easing of restrictions began.

“We can’t let up,” Holcomb said of safety precautions. “We can’t act like this virus isn’t continuing to spread across the state of Indiana, but we have the intensity at a managed level.”

 




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