By Leah Sander
INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb plans to ease gathering restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his regular COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday, Jan. 27, Holcomb said he would sign an executive order making the change on Sunday, Jan. 31.
The new rules will also be linked to counties’ positivity rates among people tested, or the red, orange, yellow and blue color codes it puts them in. The rules take effect Monday, Feb. 1, and are to run through Feb. 28 for right now.
Unlike previous rules which were based on an exact number of people allowed at events, the new rules are to be based on space capacity.
Those counties in red, with a 15% or higher positivity rate amongst those tested, or orange, with a 10-14.9% rate, may have events with 25% capacity. Those in yellow, with rates 5-9.9%, may have 50% capacity, and those in blue with under 5% may have 100%.
The state is still asking that masks and social distancing be used for all gatherings. Those hosting gatherings are asked to submit plans ahead of time to their county health department including the number of attendees and COVID-19 safety measures.
Holcomb said the change was related to the dropping number of COVID-19 cases. He pointed out that on Jan. 11 the state positivity rate was 16.5% and on Wednesday it was 9.1%.
State Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver provided statistics on the percentages of Hoosiers vaccinated or who have set up vaccination appointments for their first dose.
Among health care workers and first responders, that number is 60%. Among those 80 and older, it’s 51%, and among those 70 and older, it’s 57%.
She said the state is to help 4,500 people 70 and older who were only able to schedule a vaccination appointment after March 1. The state is to use 2-1-1 to help them get earlier appointments.
She also said the state hopes to allow those in the next age group, 65-69, to be vaccinated, “hopefully in the next week.”
State Family and Social Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Daniel Rusyniak also announced during the press conference that the Indiana National Guard is winding down its operations helping in nursing homes.
Guard members have been stationed in long-term care facilities since November helping with cleaning and other safety measures.
Rusyniak said all Guard members will have stopped their nursing home assignments by March 15, which should be after when all nursing home residents will have been able to get their second vaccinations.