Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett is giving bars, restaurants and other venues more leeway when it comes to capacity during the pandemic. The mayor said he is encouraged by COVID-19 trends heading in the right direction, leading to the decision to increase capacity limits.
During a virtual news conference this morning, Hogsett said the city will continue its efforts to keep the COVID-19 positivity rate on a downward trend.
“We remain together as vigilant as ever and this change does not diminish our desire to avoid an increase in positivity rates before, during and after the upcoming NCAA Men’s Division I basketball tournament,” said Hogsett. “We also are committed to being responsive to trends in this data and our health officials have determined that we can safely make these adjustments.”
Hogsett detailed a variety of changes that will go into effect on Monday. They include:
- Bar capacity will increase from 25% to 50% with bar seating, as long as social distancing is followed.
- Indoor restaurant capacity will increase from 50% to 75% with continued social distancing protocols.
- The curfew for bars, restaurants and music venues will move from midnight to 2 a.m.
- Gym and music venue capacity will increase from 25% to 50%.
The mayor said the decision to implement the changes was not driven by the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA basketball tournaments taking place next month.
“Those events are wonderful byproducts of a city that has worked very hard to get to a place where public health data and public health experts are confident that we can make these changes safely,” said Hogsett. “With great opportunity comes great responsibility and so we’re making these changes today because the data and because public health experts…have told me the progress that we together have made is making a substantial difference.”
Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine says in December, Marion County’s COVID positivity rate was 16.4% in December. Through February 16, the positivity rate has fallen to 3.8%.
“We have just made some extraordinary gains with our COVID-19 efforts and I just have to thank all of us in our community who’ve just made extraordinary efforts to practice safe infection control such as washing your hands, social distancing and wearing masks,” said Caine.
Additionally, the mayor announced a new community-oriented call-to-action campaign to achieve the goal of vaccinating 80% of Marion County residents. The city’s Office of Public Health and Safety is partnering with the Marion County Department of Public Health to create the COVID Community Ambassadors program.
Hogsett says those who become COVID Community Ambassadors will help residents get signed up to receive a vaccination, shuttling homebound neighbors to their appointments, or posting fact-based information on social media for friends and family.
“This will be a neighborhood level campaign to spread awareness of and trust in the COVID vaccine,” said Hogsett. “We are especially focused on the most vulnerable residents in our city. For some, a loved one with first-hand experience can be what finally spurs a friend or neighbor to set up an appointment.”
Patrick Tamm, chief executive officer of the Indiana Restaurant Association issued the following statement after Hogett’s announcement:
“The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association is encouraged by the latest Marion County public health order which increases restaurant and bar top capacity and extends opening hours for restaurants, bars and music venues. This is a significant, positive step forward for an industry that has been the hardest hit from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. This news is especially invigorating as locals continue their efforts to support our restaurants and as we continue to host safe, unique and enjoyable gatherings for visitors and groups from across the country in Central Indiana. We understand that with these lifted restrictions, there is increased importance in our continued practice of all of the safety measures as outlined in the Hoosier Hospitality Promise as well as state and local health guidelines to protect both our team members and guests.”
You can learn more about the program by clicking here.
Hogsett says the city will continue its efforts to keep the COVID-19 positivity rate on a downward trend.