INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s statewide mask order will remain in place, but tougher restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes aren’t being reinstated, despite recent sharp increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and rates of new infections in the state, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday.
Holcomb, a Republican, said some people were showing disregard for the safety of others, putting the ability of schools to remain open and the health of those most at risk of severe illness from the virus in jeopardy.
“Those inactions are costing, just to be blunt, health care costs, lost wages, business failures. Don’t kid yourself, we’re all paying this bill,” Holcomb said. He went on to add,“Throwing caution to the wind, ultimately ends up costing us all. It is the literal definition of whistling past the graveyard, pretending this isn’t around us.”
Holcomb decided three weeks ago to lift nearly all of Indiana’s restrictions while extending the mask mandate, which was scheduled to expire Saturday. His new order will extend it for a month.
The state's health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, also announced that she, an adult daughter and young grandson tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. Box said she didn't yet have any symptoms, while her daughter and grandson have mild symptoms.
Holcomb wore a face mask during the online briefing from his Statehouse office for the first time, saying he would be undergoing a coronavirus test later Wednesday and planned to quarantine at the governor’s office until he has the results.
Democratic governor candidate Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner who is challenging Holcomb in November's election, has said tougher restrictions needed to be reinstated. He has also repeatedly called for a more strict mask mandate, as the one Holcomb has issued includes no penalties for violators.
The state health department on Wednesday more than doubled the number of counties designated as higher-risk locations for coronavirus spread. Twenty-two of Indiana’s 92 counties were placed in orange or red levels under the agency’s weekly tracking map update, while nine counties were at those levels last week.
The highest-risk counties are scattered across the state, with clusters in northeastern Indiana, some rural counties west of Lafayette and those around Evansville in the southwestern corner.
Indiana’s remaining 70 counties received yellow or blue ratings based on the number of new cases per 100,000 residents and the percentage of tests confirming COVID-19 infections.
The 1,357 COVID-19 hospitalizations as of Tuesday put Indiana at its highest level since mid-May, the Health Department reported. Such hospitalizations have grown by two-thirds since Sept. 22 — the day before Holcomb announced lifted most statewide restrictions.
State officials added 14 more coronavirus deaths on Wednesday to raise the state’s death toll to 3,836, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases. That’s an increase of 109 deaths in the past week.
The Health Department’s daily update showed Indiana’s seven-day rolling average of newly confirmed COVID-19 infections was nearly 1,600 as of Tuesday, an increase of 85% increase from three weeks earlier.