INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that the statewide mask mandate would be downgraded to an advisory on April 6 along with all COVID-19 capacity restrictions.
Counties may still impose their own, stricter measures to combat the virus, which has killed over 12,500 Hoosiers and infected nearly 668,000 others.
The COVID mitigation executive order, which includes the mask mandate, expires on March 31 but Holcomb said he was extending the mandate another few days because of “state visitors,” including thousands of March Madness fans.
“And, most importantly, to continue to give Hoosiers with co-morbidities the opportunity to schedule or get vaccine,” Holcomb said about the five-day extension.
The Indiana State Department of Health will continue to provide counties with color-coded guidance maps based on community spread but local entities can set their own gathering limits and social distancing requirements for bars and restaurants.
Face coverings will remain mandatory in all state buildings and schools as well as vaccination and COVID-19 testing sites.
“Whether that is a bank branch lobby, on the factory floor, or a county courthouse or city hall — they retain the authority to make decisions about COVID restrictions for their operations,” Holcomb said.
The public health emergency declaration will be extended another 30 days from March 31 to allow for federal funding and increased administrative flexibility, Holcomb said.
Additionally, all Hoosiers 16 years and older will be eligible to receive one of three COVID-19 vaccinations on March 31, one month earlier than the federal deadline. Currently only those aged 40 and older qualify for the vaccine.
Holcomb said he expects and hopes all schools will provide full, in-person instruction for the 2021-2022 school year, given additional local, state and federal resources.
“Our current cases, positivity rate, hospitalizations and deaths have all dropped drastically since mid-January. And three vaccines have been approved and put to use,” Holcomb said.
One year ago, on March 23, Holcomb issued a six-week “Hunker down” order limiting business operations in an effort to control the rapidly spreading virus. As of his Tuesday address, nearly 1.5 million Hoosiers have received their first vaccine dose and another 970,000 are fully vaccinated.