There are mixed signals coming out of the Indiana Statehouse as it pertains to the coronavirus.

Dr. Kris Box, the commissioner with the Indiana State Board of Health, announced this week that the COVID-19 variants and the number of positive cases of the virus are on the rise in Indiana.

This came at a time when Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that starting on Tuesday the mandate to wear masks in public was coming to an end.

Holcomb’s decision comes at a time when the number of cases and the numbers of people being hospitalized in the state are both rising.

As of Thursday there were 687,713 Hoosiers who tested positive for the coronavirus, a number that climbed by 1,240 on that date.

The coronavirus has caused the death of 12,642 Indiana residents and at the national level, the death toll now stands at 549,098.

The number of positive cases in Madison County increased by 19 on Thursday to a total of 12,084 since the start of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, 333 local residents have died from the coronavirus.

Several Indiana cities, including Indianapolis, have decided to continue the mask mandate for people in public along with the social distancing.

Hamilton County has extended the wearing of masks in the county building for 30 days.

Madison County is following the governor’s directive with a meeting of the local Board of Health set for April 14.

The governor of Kentucky asked Holcomb not to end the mask mandate in Indiana, a request that apparently fell on deaf ears.

Michigan is reporting an increase in the number of coronavirus cases because of variants in the disease.

Other states are reporting a surge in cases, which is not a surprise with spring break taking place and, of course, in Indianapolis the NCAA Tournament bringing thousands of visitors.

Pictures from along George Street in Indy and of the spring break crowds in Florida showed mostly younger people mingling close together with not many wearing masks.

So what will Gov. Holcomb do when a larger surge hits Indiana this spring and summer?

It will be difficult to re-implement a mask mandate and for Hoosiers to heed a renewed call to “hunker down.”

Health officials are urging people spending time with family members at Easter to wear masks, social distance and to conduct gatherings outdoors.

As more and more Hoosiers are getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, the wearing of masks in the public seems like the wise thing to do.

The pandemic won’t come to an end any time soon, or at least until the nation and Indiana reaches what is known as herd immunity.

To obtain “herd immunity” requires 70% to 80% of the population to be immunized.

That means approximately 5.4 million Hoosiers have to be vaccinated. As of Thursday, 1.1 million residents have been immunized.

We have a long way to go.

Ken de la Bastide is a senior reporter for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson.

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