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Marion County mask mandate stands as CDC changes guidance

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Until more people get vaccinated and the City-County Council acts, Marion County will keep its mask mandate despite new federal direction that masks are no longer needed by vaccinated people indoors or outdoors.

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday issued the new direction. During a COVID-19 task force meeting at the White House, Dr. Rochelle Walensky called the change in mask restriction an “exciting and powerful moment.” She said the science supports the updated CDC guidance that “anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities — large or small — without wearing a mask or physical distancing.”

That excitement is not extending into Marion County, though. Dr. Virginia Caine, the director of the Marion County Public Health Deaprtment, said the local mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions approved Monday will stand for now.

Some downtown Indianapolis businesses believe the CDC’s changes will be confusing to customers. Geena Schneider, manager at Gallery Pastry Bar, said its staff has had a difficult time enforcing mask-wearing since surrounding counties dropped restrictions.

“Because we already have such a big problem with it now that I think people are just going to take advantage of it whether they’re vaxxed or not. Who is gonna know, you know? It’s not really our business to say, ‘Show me your card,’” Schneider said.

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday night restored county virus restrictions after state legislators’ veto override earlier in the day stripped health officials of their power to make guidelines during health emergencies. The City-County Council in a virtual meeting passed Proposal 170 in a 19-5 vote on Monday night to restore the virus restrictions already in place in Marion County.

The council’s next meeting could be June 7 or 14, but the council could schedule an earlier meeting if its leadership calls for one.


“Today’s announcement from the CDC emphasizes the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in preventing serious illness and death, and underscores the importance of the vaccine as our community’s road map to more freedom and safety. In Marion County, the outlook is good – but efforts to get more people vaccinated and reduce the impact of COVID-19 continue. A mask mandate remains in effect at this time in Marion County as part of the current public health order ratified by the Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday. The Marion County Public Health Department will review this new CDC guidance along with an assessment of current local COVID-19 data and vaccination rates and make a recommendation to the City-County Council on the continued path toward opening our community safely.”

Dr. Virginia Caine, director, Marion County Public Health Department

“It’s simple: because of the hard work by President Joe Biden and Indiana Democrats to pass the American Rescue Plan, Hoosiers who are fully vaccinated can now begin to return to a normalcy not seen since the start of the pandemic. This is proof yet again that when elected leaders from state and federal offices come together to get stuff done, better opportunities are created for our families.”

Drew Anderson, spokesman for the Indiana Democratic Party