INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The governor of Indiana announced on Tuesday that he would lift the state mask mandate և COVID-19 business restrictions within two weeks.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said in a statement from his State House office that the state’s sharp decline in coronavirus hospitalization and mortality rates, with a growing number of fully vaccinated people, justifies the move, which begins on April 6.
Holcombe said he hoped the state would see “the tail of this epidemic” that has killed nearly 13,000 people in the state over the past year.
The date for the end of the mask’s term has been chosen to coincide with the end of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, now underway in Indianapolis, to provide more time to vaccinate people in high-risk health.
Holcomb says local officials will still be empowered to impose tougher restrictions in response to COVID-19 cases in their communities, while K-12 schools still require the use of face masks.
He urged residents to continue wearing masks in public և as bars and restaurants continue to spread their tables.
Although Holcomb faced public pressure to ease restrictions by conservative state lawmakers, especially after recent governors in Texas and other states did, he made no bold declarations of victory, urging residents to abide by the rules of business and others.
“Whether it be the lobby of a bank branch, the floor of a factory or an administrative district court building or town hall, they retain the authority to make decisions about COVID restrictions for their activities; they must be respected, complied with and understood by all who visit them.” said Holcomb. “When I visit my favorite restaurants or hold a public event, I will continue to wear a mask accordingly, that’s the right thing to do.”
But some health experts worry that it is too early to lift state restrictions, citing the sharp rise in hospitalization’s mortality seen by the state in September after the governor lifted business restrictions and re-established the crowd after winning a re-election in November.
“We set a lot of restrictions last year, and some sections of the population were hesitant to do so,” said Brian Dixon, an epidemiologist at Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health. “And then what we saw in the fall was that the pace went up, they went up in the sky because people were not backing down on precautions.”
Holcomb said that from March 31, the state will open vaccine eligibility for all 16 և senior residents, with additional mass vaccination clinics scheduled for April.
The state governor’s public health emergency will last until April, which Holcomb says will allow government officials to take swift action if needed to give the state access to hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.
Holcomb’s speech came on his one-year anniversary when he announced that he would be staying at the National House for six weeks. He described most of the 23-minute speech, outlining the state’s response to the initial wave of COVID-19 infections last spring, and the fall wave, which killed 103 people in Indiana in mid-December, bringing the death toll to 16. Increase in global deaths in 2020 compared to the previous year.
“Our business was left open when other countries closed,” Holcombe said. “We have shown that we can balance, we have shown that we will be persistent. And today we are in a better place. ”
Indiana coronavirus hospitalization and deaths have dropped by more than 80% since the peak of December.
However, Indiana still has an average of 10 deaths a day from the coronavirus, and health officials have raised concerns about more contagious options, such as one suspected of a recent rise in Michigan infections. The state Department of Health reports that only 18% of Indiana’s 16 or more residents were fully vaccinated by Monday.
Dr Richard Feldman, the state health commissioner under Democratic Gov. Frank O’Banon, said he was concerned that Holcombe was responding to pressure to open up the state economy more fully.
“From a public health: doctor point of view, I really believe we are not ready to fully open up,” Feldman said. “We are not ready to give up the distance, to wash our hands, and most of all, to reduce the mask. I do not think we are ready for that. “Our immunized population is small.”
The Republican-dominated legislature is considering proposals to limit the governor’s powers to impose restrictions, such as mask rules and closing businesses. Many Conservative lawmakers want to repeal the Holcomb Public Health Emergency Order, which is sponsored by 28 Republicans in 100 Republican chambers.
Holcomb’s decisions to extend the restrictions could affect lawmakers’ move to postpone a regular session by about a month before this year.
“We are excited about the end of the state mask mandate in early April,” said Republican House Speaker Todd Houston. “It is clear that Indiana is backing the data, listening to thousands of Hoosiers և businesses ready to return to work or reopen completely.”
Associated Press writer Casey Smith contributed to this report.