Gov. Holcomb announces mask mandate changes and opening COVID-19 vaccines to 16 and older

Governor Eric Holcomb made several announcements during a speech Tuesday night on Indiana's battle with COVID-19.

Posted: Mar 23, 2021 6:35 PM
Updated: Mar 23, 2021 6:51 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Governor Eric Holcomb made several announcements during a speech Tuesday night on Indiana's battle with COVID-19. The governor plans to lift the statewide mask mandate and remaining COVID-19 business restrictions in two weeks, on April 6. On that day, the mask mandate will become a mask advisory. 

Related: COVID-19 Vaccines Information

Gov. Eric Holcomb also announced that on March 31 everyone 16 and older will be able to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination. Gov. Holcomb said in the Tuesday evening speech that the state’s steep declines in coronavirus hospitalization and death rates along with the growing number of people fully vaccinated justify the changes.

He said he hoped the state was seeing the “tail end of this pandemic” that has killed nearly 13,000 over the past year.

Holcomb said local officials would still have the authority to impose tougher restrictions in response to COVID-19 cases in their communities and that face mask use would still be required in K-12 schools for the rest of this school year. He urged residents to continue wearing masks in public and that bars and restaurants continue to space out their tables.

Holcomb has faced public pressure and from conservative state lawmakers to ease restrictions, especially after governors in Texas and other states have done so recently.

But some health experts worry it is premature to lift the statewide restrictions.

“We put a lot of restrictions in place last year, there was some initial hesitation by some parts of the population to comply with some of those orders,” said Brian Dixon, an epidemiologist at Indiana University’s Fairbanks School of Public Health. “And then what we saw in the fall is that rates went up, they skyrocketed because people were not following precautions.”

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box has said state officials are working to meet Biden’s directive to make all adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1, and blamed expansion delays on too few doses coming from the federal government.

The Republican-dominated Legislature is debating proposals to curtail a governor’s authority under the state’s emergency powers law to impose restrictions such as mask rules and business closures. Many conservative legislators want to cancel the public health emergency order issued a year ago by Holcomb, with a resolution to do so being sponsored by 28 Republicans in the 100-member House.

Legislative leaders haven’t yet taken up that resolution or any legislation that would roll back any restrictions imposed under Holcomb’s executive orders.

Republican House Speaker Todd Huston said Holcomb’s decisions on extending restrictions could influence steps lawmakers take before adjourning this year’s regular session in about a month.

“I think it is time that we can start moving forward on easing some of the restrictions that are in place, want to make sure we do it the right way and in the most appropriate way,” Huston said.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 947918

Reported Deaths: 15377
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1291181990
Lake635721103
Allen53899761
Hamilton44082449
St. Joseph42122590
Elkhart33803491
Vanderburgh30574449
Tippecanoe26915251
Johnson23727418
Hendricks22410342
Porter21832347
Clark17562231
Madison17492385
Vigo16302285
Monroe14545191
LaPorte14389239
Delaware14183222
Howard13971273
Kosciusko11498135
Hancock10935166
Warrick10737178
Bartholomew10635170
Floyd10514208
Wayne10077226
Grant9213204
Morgan8928160
Boone8463111
Dubois7791123
Dearborn769490
Henry7691133
Noble7466101
Marshall7409128
Cass7219118
Lawrence7026153
Shelby6647111
Jackson661386
Gibson6190107
Harrison609386
Huntington604495
Montgomery5853105
DeKalb581091
Knox5535104
Miami548888
Putnam543268
Clinton537465
Whitley529354
Steuben501768
Wabash488692
Jasper483861
Jefferson474492
Ripley457777
Adams446068
Daviess4231108
Scott409165
Clay394957
White393858
Greene393392
Wells389884
Decatur388797
Fayette378578
Posey362341
Jennings356056
Washington334747
LaGrange325175
Spencer321136
Fountain318455
Randolph317190
Sullivan309449
Owen287064
Starke282864
Fulton280454
Orange277859
Jay257038
Perry254152
Carroll245229
Franklin242838
Rush237030
Vermillion235050
Parke221420
Tipton212055
Pike211740
Blackford170534
Pulaski168551
Crawford147318
Newton145845
Benton143916
Brown135846
Martin130217
Switzerland126910
Warren115616
Union98511
Ohio80511
Unassigned0482

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