State hits pause: Holcomb delays move to Stage 5 of reopening plan

Indiana will not move to the next stage of its reopening plan this holiday weekend as initially planned.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that the state will hit pause as COVID-19 cases continue to climb.

Indiana was set to lift nearly all coronavirus restrictions this weekend. Holcomb was expected to discuss the restrictions removal during a Wednesday afternoon briefing, but changed course, announcing that the state would not advance to Stage 5 of its Back on Track Indiana plan for two more weeks. Rather, it will enter Stage 4.5 on Saturday, which allows for most outdoor activities, he said.

Indiana will keep capacity limits in place for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues due to worries about a possible increase in coronavirus cases across the state, Holcomb said.

The state’s reopening plan had called for those restrictions to be lifted this weekend, but Holcomb said he would keep them in place until at least July 18. The state will also continue its current 250-person limit on social gatherings.

Indiana—with the exception of a few counties including Indianapolis—has been in its current stage since June 12; restaurants have been allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms, while bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys, museums and amusement parks have been open at half capacity.

Holcomb said it is a volatile situation and he was concerned about recent increases in hospitalizations across Indiana involving COVID-19 cases and other states that have seen fresh outbreaks after lifting restrictions on bars and other businesses.

“I think it was a question of, rather than pulling back, just not going forward,” said Dr. Kristina Box, state health commissioner. “We look around the United States and in the State of Indiana at our contact tracing, and we can see where individuals are getting infected and where they’re infecting other individuals. Oftentimes, that is in bars where individuals are not social distancing; it is in areas where we’re inside in close contact; it is in big groups that are getting together.

So really, the purpose of this was to say, we see our numbers ticking up just a little bit, but we’re not blind to what’s happening across the United States and we really don’t want to be there. We want to continue to be conservative and smart about this, and we thought that looking at our numbers for another couple of weeks, helping to make the decision about how far we advance in another couple of weeks, was more appropriate.”

The Indiana State Department of Health said Wednesday 371 additional Hoosiers have been diagnosed with COVID-19. That brings to 45,952 the number of Indiana residents known to have the novel coronavirus following corrections to the previous day’s total.

A total of 2,456 Hoosiers are confirmed to have died from COVID-19, an increase of eight over the previous day. Another 194 probable deaths have been reported based on clinical diagnoses in patients for whom no positive test is on record.

Johnson County is reporting 1,235 positive cases and 118 deaths.

To date, 489,716 tests have been reported to the state, up from 484,196 on Tuesday; 11,665 Johnson County residents have been tested, according to the state health department.

Intensive care unit and ventilator capacity remained steady, with more than 39% of ICU beds and nearly 83% of ventilators available.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Woody Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, had said he believed Holcomb should delay easing restrictions to avoid the danger of fresh outbreaks as have happened elsewhere.

“Despite the warnings from other states, Gov. Eric Holcomb has calculated that the best approach is to refuse to lead — putting politics ahead of science” Myers said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.