INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Gov. Eric Holcomb on Thursday issued a state public health emergency declaration that supersedes previous ones issued during the coronavirus pandemic.
The newest declaration extends through Memorial Day, May 31.
The governor issued the first such declaration to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on March 6, 2020. The 13th extension of that declaration, made March 31, was set to expire Friday.
The declaration issued Thursday notes that improvements have happened since the start of the pandemic, but “the spread and consequences of this disease in the Hoosier state remain as demonstrated by a 7-day average positivity rate of 4.5%; new confirmed cases daily; continued hospitalizations; and tragically, continued deaths from COVID-19.”
A total of 12,913 Hoosiers have died from the coronavirus, and nearly 719,000 Hoosiers have contracted the virus since March 6, 2020.
Thursday’s declaration said the state will continue to weekly update a color-coded map that shows the level of severity for community spread by county. On Wednesday in the latest update, the map showed the largest outbreaks are in northern Indiana counties — DeKalb, Elkhart, LaGrange, LaPorte, Steuben and Whitley — and in Jefferson County, which is across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky.
Indiana health officials also will continue with daily monitoring of coronavirus numbers, including deaths and hospitalizations. The state also will continue contact tracing, vaccination efforts and COVID-19 testing, the declaration said.
Indiana’s mask mandate will be limited to state government facilities, COVID testing and vaccination sites, and all K-12 schools. Holcomb lifted a more widespread, statewide mask mandate in March. Exemptions to the limited mask mandate include children younger than 8, people with medical conditions that prevent the wearing of a face covering, people at religious services, and other instances outlined in the declaration.
In the Thursday declaration, businesses are still required to develop and implement plans to protect employees, customers, clients and members. The plans must be publicly posted. Enforcement will be done by the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, local boards of health, and other state and local officials. Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration will act against workplaces failing to comply with safety conditions.
The latest declaration also notes that local health officials cannot issue laws or orders that may contradict or be less-restrictive than public health emergency limits set by the state.