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Gov. Holcomb extends the mask mandate, State Health Commissioner test positive for virus

Gov. Holcomb announced on Wednesday during his weekly COVID-19 update that the Indiana mask mandate will be extended. State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box has contracted the virus.

Posted: Oct 14, 2020 3:02 PM
Updated: Oct 14, 2020 9:45 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s governor decided Wednesday against reinstating tougher restrictions on businesses and crowd sizes despite the state’s sharp increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and new infections, including a positive test for his top health adviser.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb announced he would extend his statewide mask order for another month while scolding those across the state who he said 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.

“Throwing caution to the wind, ultimately ends up costing us all," he later went on to add. "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 to this Saturday.

The state’s health commissioner, Dr. Kristina Box, announced by phone during the governor’s briefing that she, an adult daughter and her 23-month-old 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, and believed the infections stemmed from her grandson’s home day care site.

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 residence until he has the results. Some governor’s office staff members were also being tested.

Holcomb's Democratic challenger in the November election, Dr. Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner, said neither Holcomb nor President Donald Trump were showing leadership in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Myers said he wasn’t surprised Indiana’s coronavirus statistics were going in the wrong direction because many people were acting as if all activity was back to normal.

“It’s not possible in a health care crisis to, on the one hand, say, ‘We’ve got to be more vigilant, we’ve got to stop doing this, stop doing that’ and then, on the other hand, say, ‘Oh by the way, we’re going to leave it on the most-open stage there is,’” Myers said in an interview. “That’s inconsistent and no wonder the public is confused.”

Holcomb’s mask mandate and earlier executive orders limiting personal travel and businesses have angered some conservatives who maintain they will vote instead for Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater, who flatly opposes the mask requirement.

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.

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 the lifting of 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.

Holcomb said he would consider tougher restrictions for hot spots around the state but didn’t indicate any move toward such statewide actions.

“Just like everything else we do around here, we have to look at the root causes,” Holcomb said. “And assuming that some blanket response will solve it — that’s being proven inaccurate.”

Concerns over more coronavirus illnesses and hospitalizations prompted health officials in northern Indiana’s St. Joseph County to send a letter Tuesday asking that in-person religious services be stopped through March.

Five clusters of coronavirus infections have been traced to those attending religious services in the South Bend area since late August, deputy county health officer Dr. Mark Fox told the South Bend Tribune. The health agency has also recently warned some bars and restaurants to follow safety measures or face possible closure.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 708779

Reported Deaths: 13226
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion966191721
Lake51761946
Allen39224672
Hamilton34549405
St. Joseph34157541
Elkhart27356432
Vanderburgh22081394
Tippecanoe21853212
Porter17935299
Johnson17544374
Hendricks16822310
Clark12697190
Madison12353337
Vigo12219244
Monroe11469166
LaPorte11162204
Delaware10366184
Howard9664211
Kosciusko9134114
Hancock7990139
Bartholomew7893155
Warrick7691155
Floyd7563176
Wayne6906198
Grant6844171
Boone6556100
Morgan6405138
Dubois6085117
Marshall5786108
Dearborn570376
Cass5685102
Henry5579101
Noble542683
Jackson493569
Shelby479495
Lawrence4342118
Gibson429089
Harrison428570
Clinton419753
Montgomery418086
DeKalb411184
Whitley380239
Huntington379880
Miami372865
Knox366689
Steuben365757
Putnam353160
Jasper350946
Wabash347878
Adams338052
Ripley334668
Jefferson313180
White308454
Daviess289499
Wells286481
Decatur279092
Fayette277262
Greene270785
Posey268833
Scott261153
LaGrange253670
Clay253544
Randolph235680
Washington231031
Spencer228031
Jennings225047
Fountain208845
Sullivan207942
Starke204752
Owen192356
Fulton192039
Jay186429
Carroll185920
Perry180736
Orange177853
Rush170724
Vermillion166043
Franklin165635
Tipton161043
Parke144616
Blackford133831
Pike130334
Pulaski113845
Newton104234
Brown100140
Crawford97614
Benton97113
Martin82915
Warren79715
Switzerland7698
Union69910
Ohio55811
Unassigned0408

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