Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a version 4.5 of the Back on Track Indiana plan Wednesday, which includes Elkhart County remaining fully in Stage 4 until July 17.
Capacity limits will remain in place for restaurants, bars and entertainment venues because of concerns about a possible increase in COVID-19 cases across the state, Holcomb said.
Local governments may impose more restrictive guidelines, according to a news release from Holcomb’s office sent Wednesday.
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.
Holcomb said 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.
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.
“While most of our health indicators remain positive, our data indicates a need to be extra cautious, which is why we will pause much of our Back on Track roadmap,” Holcomb said. “I urge Hoosiers to maintain vigilance in social distancing and wearing masks so we can continue to reopen our state for business.”
Holcomb has used data to drive decisions since the state’s first case of the novel coronavirus in early March and he continues to do so as the state continues a sector-by-sector reset, according to the news release, which stated Holcomb will move to reopen the state while continuing to monitor and respond to these four guiding principles:
• The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients statewide has decreased for 14 days
• The state retains its surge capacity for critical care beds and ventilators
• The state retains its ability to test all Hoosiers who are COVID-19 symptomatic as well as health care workers, first responders, and frontline employees
• Health officials have systems in place to contact all individuals who test positive for COVID-19 and expand contact tracing
Elkhart County is leading the area in new coronavirus cases, however, its positive rate continues to decline, according to information provided by the Indiana State Department of Health Wednesday. No new deaths were reported locally.
Elkhart County had 44 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the total to 3,085. The rate of people who tested positive though has dropped to 13.9%, which has been consistently in the 14%+ in recent weeks. Other counties had much lower numbers.
Here are Wednesday’s numbers:
Statewide — 45,952 positive cases, up 371; 2,456 deaths, up eight; 489,716 tested, up 5,555; positive rate, 9.4%.
Elkhart County — 3,085, up 44; 43 deaths, zero new; 22,081 tested, up 365; positive rate, 13.9%.
LaGrange County — 459 positive cases, up three; six deaths, zero new; 2,071 tested, up nine; positive rate, 22.1%.
Noble County — 447 positive cases, up 13; 28 deaths, zero new; 4,035 tested, up 45; positive rate, 11.8%.
Kosciusko County — 495 positive cases, up 11; two deaths, zero new; 5,162 tested, up 86; positive rate, 9.59%.
St. Joseph County — 1,849 positive cases, up 19; 65 deaths, zero new; 25,817 tested, up 215; positive rate, 7.16%.
Marshall County — 412 positive cases, up three; three deaths, zero new; 4,209 tested, up 53; positive rate, 9.79%.
GOSHEN HEALTH UPDATES NUMBERS
Officials at Goshen Health announced updated COVID-19 activity as of Monday.
“We’re still seeing many COVID-19 patients who require hospitalization, and the percent of positive tests continues to be high,” Randy Christophel, President and CEO of Goshen Health, said. “We appreciate everyone who is helping to slow the spread of this virus by wearing a mask in public and taking the additional precautions of physical distancing, handwashing, disinfecting and staying home if you’re not feeling well. You are making a difference to your friends, family and the whole community by helping reduce the spread of this virus.”
• 8,391 tests completed
• 1,118 positive test results (overall positivity rate of 14.4%)
• 6,660 negative test results
• Test results outstanding: 574
• Admitted 146
• Discharged 132
• Confirmed 11 COVID-positive related mortalities
Also Wednesday, Holcomb and Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box announced a statewide initiative to encourage Hoosiers to wear masks to limit the spread of COVID-19.
The #MaskUpHoosiers initiative is launching with videos and photos of state government leaders, celebrities, and Hoosiers from all walks of life sharing their heartfelt reasons for wearing a mask in public, which is one of the strongest steps possible to limit the spread of COVID-19, saving lives and allowing the state to continue its phased re-opening, according to the news release from Holcomb’s office. Additional photos and videos will be featured as the educational campaign progresses.
Indiana Sen. Blake Doriot, R-Syracuse, issued a response Wednesday to the mandate issued Monday by the Elkhart County Health Department requiring individuals to wear a face covering in all indoor areas open to the public.
“Since it was issued, many of my constituents have raised concerns regarding the constitutionality of this order and have questioned whether it is enforceable by an act of a county health official,” he stated in a news release. “Therefore, on Tuesday, June 30, I sent a letter to Attorney General Curtis Hill asking for legal clarification on the ECHD face covering mandate.
“In response to my letter, the attorney general notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended wearing masks for people over the age of 2 to lower the rate of transmission. And, it was for this reason — to offer guidance on the importance of wearing masks or other face coverings — the ECHD issued the county face covering mandate.
“However, the Attorney General also points out that the ECHD does not intend for the order to be enforced and specifies that “actions that contradict [the] order do not create grounds for residents or law enforcement to stop, detain, issue a citation, arrest, intimidate, or harass individuals that do not comply with [the] order.”
The mask order also calls for a mask to be worn in all outdoor areas open to the public where a distance of 6 feet from individuals outside of their household cannot be maintained, and all private indoor or outdoor areas where a distance of 6 feet from individuals outside of their household cannot be maintained.
“I hope this clarification brings peace of mind to Elkhart County residents, and I will continue to work with state and local officials as the situation progresses,” Doriot added.