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Indiana's governor backing schools on face mask mandates

Indiana’s governor gave his support Monday to the growing number of school districts across the state issuing mask mandates for students and staff as they try to head off more COVID-19 outbreaks.

Posted: Aug 17, 2021 8:53 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s governor gave his support Monday to the growing number of school districts across the state issuing mask mandates for students and staff as they try to head off more COVID-19 outbreaks.

Several of the state’s largest school districts in the Indianapolis area began requiring masks for indoor areas on Monday after starting the school year without such requirements, reacting to a growing number of COVID-19 infections among students as the more transmissible delta variant continues surging in the state.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would continue his policy of allowing local officials to impose mask rules and other steps to stem the coronavirus spread even as several school boards have faced vocal — and sometimes misleading — opposition to such actions.

“I think the schools that are putting mask mandates into place are making a wise decision when the facts warrant it,” Holcomb said. “I’m not surprised by the pushback having lived through the last year and a half.”

Holcomb’s stance differs from that by Republican governors in Florida, Texas and other states that have issued statewide orders prohibiting mask-wearing mandates in schools.

In the past week week, 1,452 new COVID-19 cases were recorded among K-12 students in the state — four times more than the previous week, according to updated figures Monday from the Indiana Department of Health. An additional 80 teachers and 118 non-teaching staff also have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous seven days, which is more than twice the number who tested positive the week before.

Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 have also continued growing to levels last seen in February. The state health department reported that Indiana hospitals were treating 1,462 virus patients as of Sunday — up by one-quarter from a week earlier and 380% of early July’s hospitalization level. Of those, 368 were intensive care unit patients.

Holcomb, who received a COVID-19 vaccination shot during a public event in March, said all of the 137 new COVID-19 patients in Indiana’s intensive care units last week were unvaccinated.

“I will go as so far as to say the only thing to fear about the vaccine is fear itself,” Holcomb said. “The numbers prove that it works.”

About 45% of Indiana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the 16th lowest rate among the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Six large Indianapolis-area school districts — the Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern and Noblesville schools in Hamilton County and Lawrence Township, Washington Township and Pike Township districts in Marion County — began requiring masks on Monday. The Merrillville schools in northwestern Indiana’s Lake County will require masks when it resumes classes on Wednesday.

Indianapolis Public Schools, the state’s largest district, was among the first to announce last month that it would require masks for all staff and students, regardless of vaccination status.

The Shenandoah school district, a rural district in eastern Indiana’s Henry County, began on Monday two weeks of online-only instructions because a large number of COVID-19 infections. Another rural district in southern Indiana’s Scott County took the same action last week.

Hamilton Southeastern’s superintendent said the district had tracked 80 COVID-19 infections among students and more than 500 students had been notified as close contacts during the past two weeks.

“These changes are what we believe will keep our students learning in person in their classrooms,” Superintendent Yvonne Stokes said. “And that’s our goal.”

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1007681

Reported Deaths: 16470
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1355212121
Lake664101166
Allen57993801
Hamilton46350465
St. Joseph44397615
Elkhart35949510
Vanderburgh32251480
Tippecanoe27933260
Johnson25107445
Hendricks23897359
Porter22929365
Madison18748409
Clark18557252
Vigo17479303
Monroe15263200
LaPorte15173250
Delaware15073263
Howard14748290
Kosciusko12348148
Hancock11728176
Bartholomew11639180
Warrick11292189
Floyd11108215
Wayne10986253
Grant10082220
Morgan9472176
Boone8926115
Dubois8271131
Henry8229152
Dearborn822393
Noble8031106
Marshall7939135
Cass7546121
Lawrence7457171
Shelby7189119
Jackson698289
Gibson6597115
Harrison649192
Knox6421106
Huntington6395100
DeKalb632399
Montgomery6264111
Miami593398
Putnam581278
Clinton576171
Whitley565755
Steuben562576
Wabash5332104
Jasper532079
Jefferson511297
Ripley500586
Adams482576
Daviess4677114
Scott438974
Greene425196
Wells424888
Clay423360
White418764
Decatur4169102
Fayette406587
Jennings387361
Posey376644
Washington359151
LaGrange359078
Randolph3452100
Spencer340243
Fountain335760
Sullivan329452
Starke317171
Owen314771
Fulton312667
Orange293664
Jay284645
Franklin265643
Perry265452
Rush262432
Carroll261934
Vermillion258654
Parke231426
Pike229243
Tipton228159
Blackford193142
Pulaski183757
Crawford159823
Newton158348
Benton150617
Brown146747
Martin138719
Switzerland135011
Warren121116
Union107016
Ohio84613
Unassigned0540

COVID-19 Important links and resources

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