By Leah Sander
WARSAW – Indiana is progressing in the reopening of the state, but masks are still part of the equation.
During his weekly press conference, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the state is moving from stage 4.5 to stage 5 as the state continues to slowly ease away from COVID-19 restrictions. That is to begin Saturday and run through Oct. 17.
However, it’s not the same form of stage 5 Holcomb announced earlier this year. Notable is the fact masks will still be required, and Holcomb defended the decision.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box noted during the news conference that there’s “ample evidence that people without symptoms can definitely spread the virus.” She also said that COVID-19 spreads through infected droplets and masks help limit that spread.
“I know no one wants to wear a face mask,” said Holcomb. “I mean this is different especially for Americans and Hoosiers. I get it. It’s not my preference either, but it’s not my preference that the pandemic is on top of us either and follows us around. And while our numbers are tracking in the right direction, enabling us to further open up, it’s because of (wearing face masks).”
Box also cited figures from the state and Marion and Elkhart counties related to masks. They showed a drop over time in the number of cases from when masks were mandated.
Of other guidelines for stage 5, one change is that social gatherings and meetings no longer have limits on the number of people allowed to attend. Those having events bigger than 500 people still need to give their local health department a plan ahead of time for approval.
Restaurants, bars and nightclubs may open fully, said Holcomb, but there still must be spacing between tables and those at bars and nightclubs must be seated with social distancing in place.
Venues may open back up and senior centers and congregate centers may reopen with Family and Social Services Administration guidance. Places that provide personal services and gyms, fitness centers and workout facilities may operate normally.
Box also showed the first look at how the new COVID-19 dashboard for schools would look. That should be up by the end of the month, she said. She also said the third round of the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health’s partnership study with the state starts next week.
Hoosiers should have already been contacted to participate in the testing. It’s the first time those as young as 5 will be surveyed as well.