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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: 709455

Reported Deaths: 13234
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion967001722
Lake51824946
Allen39279673
Hamilton34580406
St. Joseph34207541
Elkhart27376432
Vanderburgh22091394
Tippecanoe21886212
Porter17952299
Johnson17556374
Hendricks16837310
Clark12705190
Madison12358337
Vigo12226244
Monroe11484166
LaPorte11175204
Delaware10374184
Howard9677211
Kosciusko9152114
Hancock8000139
Bartholomew7896155
Warrick7698155
Floyd7567176
Wayne6910198
Grant6852171
Boone6562100
Morgan6404138
Dubois6086117
Marshall5792109
Dearborn570776
Cass5689102
Henry5582101
Noble542683
Jackson493970
Shelby479895
Lawrence4347118
Gibson429089
Harrison428970
Clinton420253
Montgomery418386
DeKalb412184
Whitley381439
Huntington380180
Miami373265
Knox367089
Steuben366657
Putnam353360
Jasper351346
Wabash347878
Adams338153
Ripley334968
Jefferson313280
White308554
Daviess289699
Wells286681
Decatur279192
Fayette277362
Greene270785
Posey269133
Scott261553
LaGrange254270
Clay253545
Randolph235880
Washington231131
Spencer228031
Jennings225147
Fountain208945
Sullivan207942
Starke205452
Owen192656
Fulton192140
Jay186429
Carroll186120
Perry181036
Orange178053
Rush170824
Vermillion166143
Franklin165635
Tipton161043
Parke144616
Blackford133931
Pike130334
Pulaski114045
Newton104234
Brown100740
Crawford97914
Benton97113
Martin82915
Warren80115
Switzerland7698
Union70110
Ohio56011
Unassigned0408

COVID-19 Important links and resources

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