Governor Eric Holcomb says starting this weekend, the state will no longer be in Stage 5 of the Back On Track Indiana plan. At his weekly COVID-19 press conference, Holcomb said he is preparing to sign an Executive Order that will implement pandemic requirements to slow the spread of the virus. The state has been at Stage 5 since September and Holcomb says the new order will be in place for the next month.
The governor cited the increasing number of counties that have progressed higher on the state’s color coding system for COVID-19 infections. The four-color system scores counties based on new weekly cases and seven-day positivity rates, with counties receiving blue (lowest), yellow, orange, or red scores.
Among other requirements, Holcomb says attendance at social events will be limited in orange and red counties; orange counties will be limited to 50 people, and red counties will be limited to 25 people per event.
“Unfortunately, too many of us, and around the country, have let our guards down,” said Holcomb. “Stage 5 has been viewed by some as a reason to return to the days before we ever heard of the words COVID or pandemic. Rather than doing the things that we had been doing that allowed us to open our restaurants and shops and museums and attractions to full capacity, while maintaining social distancing and wearing masks, too many have said, we’ll just ride it out, and if I get it so be it.”
Despite continuing efforts to increase testing, provide adequate PPE, and conduct contact tracing, Holcomb says several other major factors have reached critical points. The state’s current seven-day positivity rate stands at 10.3%, up from 3.9% when Stage 5 began.
Holcomb said the number of hospitalized COVID patients is at an all-time high at 2,544 patients, and health experts think the number could double over the next several weeks. Additionally, Holcomb said the state is averaging more than 210 COVID patients per day, and hospitals are experiencing staff shortages and fatigue.
“Like many states, we are in the midst of a second surge,” Holcomb stated.
According to Holcomb, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Alcohol & Tobacco Commission will continue to check businesses for occupancy and face coverings, among other efforts, to ensure compliance.
Holcomb says the increased restrictions are not geared toward shutting businesses down.
“Sometimes the safest place to be is in the classroom or at work because there is enforcement there of compliance because there’s an incentive to learn or to produce, contribute, create, innovate. That’s the position we want to be in. We need more compliance and enforcement just like our schools and businesses are able to provide,” said Holcomb.
Holcomb said the state is preparing to make $20 million available to local governments to help with the new requirements. Municipalities can request funds for local event planning, public awareness, education and compliance. The program and details are expected to be finalized in the next couple of days.
“We applaud the steps announced by the Governor today, and it is urgent that all elected officials at the federal, state, and local levels collaborate on the steps needed to slow the spread,” The Indiana Hospital Association said in a release. “Our frontline health care heroes need all Hoosiers to understand how dangerous the current trends are—COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by 164% since October 1 with today seeing an all-time high in hospitalizations of 2,544.”
Governor Holcomb discusses the impact of the new COVID-19 requirements set to be implemented November 15.