INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The mask mandate and capacity restrictions will continue in Marion County until the current public health order is rescinded or superseded, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday.
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“We will continue to exercise the local authority granted to us by the state to keep Indianapolis on the right track,” Hogsett said during a virtual press conference Thursday morning. “Because although the light is brighter, we are not out of the tunnel itself. Make no mistake, we have a ways to go.”
The news came just two days after Gov. Eric Holcomb announced the statewide mask mandate would change to an advisory beginning April 6.
“While our numbers are improved from what we saw last summer, we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security,” said Dr. Virginia Caine, the Marion County Public Health Department director. “We are near the end of the race, we can see the finish line, but we have not yet crossed it.”
People around downtown Indianapolis discussed how they feel about Marion County’s restrictions remaining in place. “I guess that’s pretty fair, I guess. It’s already been like that for the past year, a little bit longer probably won’t really hurt us,” said Amauri Davie Freeman, of Indianapolis.
Hunter Heiney, of Indianapolis, said, “I’ve never really been for the masks in the first place, so to extend it is ridiculous, especially after the shots that everybody’s getting. … I think it’s a smart decision, especially with the influx of people we have this week and next with March madness.”
How does Marion County compare to the rest of the state? The Marion County health director said, “In the slides that I showed you, at least looking at the surrounding counties, we’re doing fantastic compared to the rest of the state.” Dr. Virginia Caine explained.
Caine warned people to not let their guard down about the virus. “While our numbers are improved from what we saw last summer, we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security. We are near the end of the race. We can see the finish line but we have not yet crossed it. Now is the time to dig deep and sprint to the finish.”
The county health director said one of the main factors in getting back to normal is the county’s ability to get to herd immunity, by vaccinating 70-80% of the adult population. She said she’s expecting the county to reach herd immunity this summer.
The mayor said, “Until we have greater numbers of vaccinations in Marion County, I think it’s only responsible to continue to mask up, to continue to socially distance, to continue to have the restrictions in place.”
The Indiana State Department of Health on Thursday said 12.6% of Marion County residents age 16 and older have been vaccinated. That compares with 18.7% for the entire state. Here are those percentages for the counties surrounding Indianapolis: Boone, 20.1%; Hamilton, 18%; Hancock, 18.8%; Hendricks, 18.6%; Johnson, 15.1%; Madison, 16%; Morgan, 14.3%; and Shelby, 16%.
Here are those percentages for Indiana’s five counties with the highest populations: Marion, 12.6%; Lake, 11.5%; Allen, 13.3%; Hamilton, 18%; and St. Joseph, 15.4%.
Caine also announced new efforts by the Marion County Public Health Department to address racial inequities the coronavirus pandemic has had on underserved communities. Four mobile vaccination sites will be used to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The first four of the mobile vaccine sites will be at these locations:
- Eastern Star Church in partnership with IU Health on March 26 and 27.
- Light of the World Christian Church, New Era Church, Greater Shepherd Baptist Church, Providence AME Church and Witherspoon Presbyterian Church in partnership with IU Health; dates to be determined.
- The Consulate of Mexico in Indianapolis in partnership with Eli Lilly; dates to be determined.
- Riverside Park in partnership with Eli Lilly & Flanner House; dates to be determined.
Hogsett and Caine said that beginning April 1, community-based organizations can apply for grants that will promote the wellness and recovery of minority communities that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic. A total of $1 million will go to these efforts. The average grant awarded to organizations is expected to be $25,000. Applications are due April 15. The awards will be announced April 26. More information about the program and instructions on how to apply should be released next week.