INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana's coronavirus restrictions will ease in parts of the state on Friday, two days ahead of schedule, to allow for more activity over the Memorial Day weekend, the governor said Wednesday.
The state health department reported 38 more coronavirus deaths, raising the state’s death toll from confirmed or presumed cases of COVID-19 to 1,864.
A new state order will allow social gatherings of up to 100 people and retail stores and malls to operate at 75% capacity, Gov. Eric Holcomb said. Gatherings have been limited to 25 people and stores to 50% capacity under the state’s first easing of restrictions that took effect May 4.
Gyms, fitness centers, community pools and campgrounds will also be allowed to open under rules limiting the number of people and for distancing and cleaning.
Holcomb pointed to a decline in the number of COVID-19 infected people hospitalized and the continued availability of intensive care unit beds to treat those most seriously ill.
“We’ve earned the ability, I should say, the ability to continue to move forward,” Holcomb said.
At least 430 deaths, or about 23% of the state’s total COVID-19 deaths have occurred since the May 4 lifting of Indiana’s stay-at-home order that was imposed March 25.
Restaurants will continue to be limited to 50% capacity in dining rooms and summer youth camps can’t open until at least June 1. School buildings and grounds remain closed, as do bars, nightclubs and casinos.
The relaxed regulations had been scheduled to take effect Sunday. Tougher local restrictions are still being allowed, with the new steps not taking effect until at least June 1 in Indianapolis, northwestern Indiana’s Lake County and rural northern Indiana’s Cass County, where a large coronavirus outbreak infected hundreds of Tyson meatpacking plant workers.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said she has concerns about greater coronavirus spread with the lifting of restrictions and encouraged steps such as keeping large gatherings outdoors, along with wearing masks when out in public.
Holcomb said the state can’t see big new waves of infections in order for further easing of state restrictions to happen as planned June 14.
“This is a public health issue that comes down to individual, personal responsibility at the end of the day,” Holcomb said. “All the regulations and all the guidance and recommendations that we put out there, ultimately, it comes down to people’s personal actions.”
Thirty of Indiana’s new confirmed COVID-19 deaths occurred Monday and Tuesday, while the remainder date back as far as May 3 and boost Indiana’s confirmed death toll to 1,716, the Indiana State Department of Health said.
The state agency’s statistics show that an additional 148 people have died from probable infections of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. That increases Indiana’s confirmed or presumed deaths to 1,864 since the first one was recorded on March 15.
For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, or death.