Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday the state will delay by at least two weeks its move to Stage 5 of its "Back on Track" reopening plan.
Instead, from July 4 to 17, Indiana will move to what Holcomb called Stage 4.5.
While much will remain the same, the state will give the "green light" to such outdoor events as fairs and festivals as long as provisions are made to conduct them safely.
Indiana is largely holding steady, with somewhat of an uptick in daily COVID-19 positivity rates, Holcomb said, but "not to the extent we've seen in some other states," including some neighboring states.
Some states are experiencing surges, the governor said. "This virus is on the prowl. In some places it's gaining momentum."
Some states that have re-opened are going back and closing certain facilities or parts of their economies.
"We don't want to find ourselves in that situation," Holcomb said.
Under Stage 4.5, K-12 school preparations for the 2020-21 academic year should continue, according to the state's "Back on Track" website.
State officials also announced that outdoor visitation is required at assisted living facilities and nursing homes beginning July 4 and indoor visitation may begin. Hospital visitations with precautions are encouraged.
In Vigo County, Roni Elder, Health Department spokeswoman, said in response to the governor's announcement, "I think they are trying to be cautious moving forward," given the big surges in some other states.
She believes that is a good move. "With how everything is going in other places, it's silly to think that it's not possible it could happen in Indiana," she said.
Basically with Stage 4.5, much is staying the same as it was in Stage 4, with modifications for outdoor events, parimutuel horse racing and conventions.
Resumption of outdoor events such as fairs and festivals "shouldn't be a problem" as long as people socially distance and wears masks if they're close to other people, Elder said.
"People need to see the importance of wearing masks and social distancing," Elder said.
Under Stage 4.5, bars and nightclubs may continue operations at 50 percent capacity as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines. Dining room food service may continue operations at up to 75 percent capacity as long as social distancing is observed. Bar seating in restaurants may continue operations at 50 percent capacity.
Connie Wrin, owner of the Verve nightclub in downtown Terre Haute, said of the announcement, "I expected that decision from the governor. I'm just hoping we can get control of this [COVID-19] so we don't get shut down again. That would be devastating for all the bars and restaurants."
Wrin had an announcement of her own Wednesday. She decided to cancel the popular Blues at the Crossroads festival this year because of concerns about COVID-19.
No mandatory mask order
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Woody Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, said Holcomb’s decision to ease restrictions increased the danger of greater coronavirus spread.
“Our focus should be implementing a statewide mask order and encouraging Indiana to stay home,” Myers said in a statement. “In addition, Indiana still needs to expand testing and prioritize our disproportionately impacted communities.”
St. Joseph, Elkhart and LaGrange counties in northern Indiana have issued face mask mandates because of outbreaks in the area.
Holcomb said he would not issue a statewide mask mandate but encouraged everyone to wear face coverings.
“We know it works,” he said. “I hope people don’t look at it as inconvenient but look at it as cool, like I’m doing my part, my patriotic duty to try to get us through this sooner rather than later.”
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said a mask order could backfire.
“My concern is it sometimes makes people almost more stubborn and stand their ground,” she said.
Indiana’s monthly deaths involving confirmed coronavirus infections dropped by more than half during June. Figures released Wednesday by state health officials reported at least 393 such deaths in June — down from 910 during May and 1,040 in April.
Indiana has had 2,650 deaths of those with confirmed or presumed infections since mid-March, according to the state health department.
Holcomb said he believed it was better to pause Indiana’s reopening rather than possibly face needing to backtrack later.
“This gives all of us a little more additional time to manage our way through this,” he said.
— Tom Davies of the Associated Press also contributed to this report