Indianapolis ends mask mandate for fully vaccinated; bar capacity rises to 75%

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Monday night, City-County Council members approved 19-5 a proposal to change Marion County’s COVID-19 limitations.

Mayor Joe Hogsett has to sign the measure before it takes effect, according to information provided at the meeting. If the mayor approves, the city’s mask mandate will be lifted Tuesday for people who are fully vaccinated. Masks will still be required in Marion County inside hospitals and airports or on public transportation.

Indiana’s mask mandate ended April 6 for most places except schools, but localities can have stricter limits due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The changes were not published on the council’s website before it met because the proposal continued to be revised Monday, said an email to News 8 from Angela Plank, public affairs manager for the council.

The council meeting was the first in person since March 2020.

Although capacities changed for some facilities in the new health orders, social distancing of 6 feet was either required or recommended.

Some items in the health orders that begin Tuesday:

  • Large social gatherings would increase from a maximum of 50 to 500.
  • 50% capacity (up from 25%) at indoor events including preplanned gatherings, wedding receptions and sporting venues.
  • 75% capacity inside bars, restaurants, gentlemen’s and ladies’ clubs, and hookah bars, and at summer camps. That’s up from 50% for bars. 100% capacity remains outside bars and restaurants. All group parties at bars and restaurants must be limited to 10 or fewer people at tables. Youth and young adult camps may now have overnight camping, with no mask required for campus younger than 7.
  • 75% capacity remains for retail stores, including liquor stores, shopping malls and convenience stores.
  • 75% capacity remains for movie theaters, bowling alleys, rock wall climbing facilities, trampoline parks, and boating and marina facilities.
  • 75% capacity (up from 50%) for entertainment and cultural institutions including zoos and museums, and for Marion County public libraries.
  • 75% capacity remains for private clubs and fraternal organizations.
  • 75% capacity (up from 50%) at gyms, fitness centers, yoga and dance studios, martial arts studios and similar facilities.
  • 100% capacity remains in office buildings including city, county and local government buildings.
  • 100% capacity (up from 50%) for community pools.
  • 100% capacity (up from 75%) for religious services and funerals.
  • 100% capacity remains on outdoor golf courses, but 75% capacity (up from 50%) at indoor golf facilities including pro shops, locker rooms, shower rooms, and restaurants and bars.
  • Music venues that sell tickets to specific musical performances may reopen their dance floors with 6-foot social distancing clearly marked on floors; however, music venues exclude bars or nightclubs with a DJ, and places that typically operate as bars or nightclubs.
  • No appointments will be required at salons and other personal services, but 6-feet social distancing between clients will be recommended.

Last week, the mayor and the county’s health director said they hope to end coronavirus restrictions by the Fourth of July if 50% of people in Marion County are vaccinated. A state vaccination database on Monday said 43.9% of Marion County residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated. That’s up from 42.4% a week ago.

Business react in advance of proposal’s approval

News 8 asked about half a dozen businesses in downtown Indianapolis if they plan to make masks optional if the health order changes were approved. Most said they will wait and see what the City-County Council decides. One Indianapolis building owner said he won’t tell his business tenants what to do, but thinks the mask requirement should be removed.

“I am not going to tell my commercial tenants on what to do or what kind of rules to enforce, but I think that they should follow CDC (U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention) guidelines,” said Saman Sardari, who owns several commercial buildings in Indianapolis. “If the CDC says if you’re vaccinated, then no mask needed, then they should follow that rule. And so, that way customers can have a better experience if they are dining or going to do their hair or anything like that. It will make things easier, and we can finally come back to some type of normalcy.”

Another business, Silver in the City, said it plans to keep masks. Claire Shipley, the general manager of the gift store, said, “At Silver in the City, we are going to continue requiring masks in store until we have confirmation that all of our employees who are choosing to get vaccinated have had the chance to get vaccinated.”

Silver in the City, she said, its shop in Hamilton County, where the mask mandate was lifted weeks ago, took a similar approach and customers were understanding.

“It wasn’t really a hard decision just because throughout the entire process we have been choosing to trust science, and the staff has the option to get vaccinated and so we are just going from there and continuing until we know everyone can feel comfortable. And from then on, we are just going to a mask-optional stance so anyone who wants to wear a mask is absolutely welcome to, both staff and customers,” Shipley said.

Inside Coaches Tavern in Downtown Indy, owner Tom Sutton says he has noticed something positive in his customers. “We’ve seen a lot of familiar faces start to trickle back in as people get vaccinated and people are more comfortable coming out. Hopefully, we’re putting COVID-19 in the review mirror,” Tom Sutton said Monday.

He’s excited for the proposed changes to take effect. “I mean, it’s a huge boost. It’s hard to run a profitable business on 50% capacity so that extra 25% will certainly make a difference.”

Sutton added, “We’re happy and we hope the city council does the right thing and we really hope that it gives consumers confidence to come out even moreso than they have the past couple months.”

Residents react in advance of proposal’s approval

Locals reacted to the potential changes on Monday.

Scarlett Shoemaker, who is fully vaccinated, said “I think that’s a great move. I think that if you’re fully vaccinated, you should feel comfortable now.

Joey Amato, who is fully vaccinated, said, “I’d feel fine. I’ve been going out. I was very hesitant during the first part of COVID to do anything. In the past few months, I have been traveling, I have been going out more.”

Bryant Wells, of Indianapolis, said, “It was to help us out, wearing the masks, but it’s just so much trouble; everybody’s tired of it.”

Shantelle King, of Indianapolis, said, “I’m in agreement with that as well. Like I said, if we all still comply and keep our social distancing, I mean, a lot of us are still un vaccinated, so with that being said, we still have to take some precautions. With that being said, social distance, keep yourself clean and have a good time.”