Marion County will advance in its reopening plans, including restaurant and bar capacity, but not to the extent of the rest of the state.
Effective Monday, Marion County restaurants, bars and nightclubs can expand customer seating capacity to 50% indoors and 100% outdoors.
Museums, entertainment venues, and gyms can expand to 50% capacity.
“For Marion County, containment and mitigation will take a different form than anywhere else in our state,” said Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett.
The Marion County Public Health Department says the county’s COVID-19 positivity rate has fallen to 4.8%, compared to 5.6% percent at the beginning of the month, on a seven-day moving average.
“That indicates that our public health efforts have lowered the transmission rate of transmission of this virus,” said Hogsett.
While not directly acknowledging a lawsuit filed against the city and the health department this week by 15 downtown bar and restaurant owners for the city’s pandemic response policies, Hogsett said he “empathizes” with the frustration of residents and businesses.
“Those frustrations run the gamut. On one hand, many are dismayed when they see behavior that risks further spread of a deadly violent virus that our country struggles to contain. On the other hand, folks want to stay in business or return to a pre-pandemic lifestyle,” said Hogsett.
On Wednesday, Governor Eric Holcomb announced the state will on Saturday advance to phase five of Indiana’s Back on Track reopening plan, allowing for 100% capacity at restaurants and large gatherings across the state.
Hogsett said because of Marion County’s size and population, it must follow different rules than the other 91 counties.
“Because of the population density, our approach will differ from rural and suburban counties. Frankly, it would be irresponsible if it did not. However, our approach will always be guided by the best available, available data and the consultation of health experts,” said Hogsett.
For Indianapolis and the county to fully reopen, Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine said she is monitoring two key pieces of data: the weekly positivity rate and the daily number of new COVID-19 cases in the county.
Caine said at the beginning of August, the county was recording 150 new cases per day, but it is now at 85. While an improvement, it is still well-above what Caine wants to see.
“We need to get down to 35 cases a day. if we can get down to 35 cases per day, on a seven-day average, for two weeks, and our positivity remains under 5% for two weeks, mayor you can shout ‘hallelujah,’ that we are there,” said Caine.
Hogsett said his administration has not yet determined how trick-or-treating will be handled for Halloween. He said they are analyzing guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to put together recommendations for Marion county families and he expects to provide an update next week.
Caine explained how the reopening decisions are based on data.