Virus hospitalizations jump as mask order step nears

By The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and rates of new infections continued sharp increases in statistics released Tuesday as the governor faces a deadline on whether to extend the statewide face mask order.

The jumps have come since Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb decided three weeks ago to lift nearly all of Indiana’s restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes, which his Democratic election challenger has called on Holcomb to reverse in order in hopes of slowing the coronavirus spread.

Holcomb told WANE-TV in Fort Wayne that he would announce a decision Wednesday on the mask mandate that he first issued in July that is currently set to expire Saturday.

Holcomb said one reason for the increased COVID-19 spread is people letting down their guard at gatherings such as weddings, sports events or house parties when they can be around others who are infected but might not be experiencing symptoms.

“We need to underscore the point that our actions and our inactions have consequences, whether they’re good or bad,” he said.

The 1,288 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Monday marked the ninth straight day topping 1,000 after not reaching that high since the end of May, the Indiana State Department of Health reported. Such hospitalizations have grown 70% since Sept. 21. Indiana hospitals had 382 coronavirus patients in their intensive care units — a 50% increase during that time.

State officials added 27 more coronavirus deaths on Tuesday to raise the state’s death toll to 3,822, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases. That’s an increase of 111 deaths in the past week.

The health department’s daily update showed Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of new confirmed COVID-19 infections continued growing at record levels, reaching 1,601 as of Monday. That’s a 90% increase from three weeks earlier.

The city of Chicago said travelers arriving from Indiana must stay inside for two weeks, starting Friday.

Democratic governor candidate Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner, said tougher restrictions needed to be reinstated in Indiana. He has also repeatedly called for a more strict mask mandate, as the one Holcomb has issued includes no penalties for violators.

“Gov. Holcomb’s current plan is clearly moving us in the wrong direction,” Myers said.

Holcomb’s mask mandate and earlier executive orders limiting personal travel and businesses have angered some conservatives around the state who maintain they won’t support his reelection and will, instead, vote for Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater, who flatly opposes the mask requirement.

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