Indiana News

Indiana to open COVID vaccinations to 16 and older; mask mandate changing to advisory

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indiana will begin allowing the vaccination of Hoosiers 16 and older starting March 31, the governor said in a live address Tuesday.

In addition, the state’s mask mandate will become a mask advisory starting April 6, Gov. Eric Holcomb said. K-12 schools will keep their existing mask requirements through the end of their school years. Face coverings will remain mandatory in state buildings and facilities, and at coronavirus vaccination and testing sites.

The announcement received mixed reviews from people in Indianapolis; some were excited and others said it will be too soon.

Zach Zeurcher said it’s time for things to go back to normal with no more masks or limitations for businesses. “Obviously, the virus is nowhere near that bad and with people getting vaccinated, I think it’s time to open back up.”

Kori Garland is a nurse who thinks the state is moving too fast. “It’s really really frustrating to see them lift it right now knowing that we could just as easily go back to a point where we don’t have masks and face shields and we’re getting really really rundown at the hospital.”

Also on April 6, local officials will take control of any limits on the size of gatherings at various venues. Customers in restaurants, bars and nightclubs will no longer be required by the state to be seated, and social distancing and other spacing of seating will still be recommended between parties not from the same household.

Local governments, private businesses and other entities may institute more stringent guidelines.

The governor said he was making the changes after seeing a drastic drop in coronavirus cases since mid-January. Indiana has recorded nearly 680,000 coronavirus cases, but experts estimate the actual number of Hoosiers who contracted COVID-19 actually is 2.5 times higher.

Holcomb also noted that 970,000 Hoosiers have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

He will renew the latest Indiana health emergency order to continue through April to allow the state to address any change in the severity of the coronavirus and to keep federal funds open for the hardest-hit Hoosiers.

News release

“INDIANAPOLIS — Governor Eric J. Holcomb today delivered a statewide address to lay out the road ahead for Hoosiers in the fight against COVID-19.

Click here to read the Governor’s full remarks.

“‘As we continue to isolate if you test positive, quarantine if you’re a close contact, and get vaccinated when you’re eligible, the light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter and brighter,’ Gov. Holcomb said. ‘It’s up to each and every one of us to do our part to stay on our course.’

“Indiana’s current cases, positivity rate, hospitalizations, and deaths have all dropped drastically since mid-January and nearly a million Hoosiers are fully vaccinated. The state plans to open vaccine eligibility to all Hoosiers 16 years and older on Wednesday, March 31, provided Indiana receives a large increase in the amount of vaccine as outlined by the federal government. Additional mass vaccination clinics will be scheduled for April and the state will implement a large employer vaccination program.

“Starting April 6, decisions about venue capacity and social gatherings will be made by local officials. Customers in restaurants, bars and nightclubs will no longer be required by the state to be seated. Six feet of spacing between tables and other seating will still be recommended as is spacing between non-household parties.

“The statewide face covering mandate will become a mask advisory on April 6. Face coverings will remain mandatory in all state buildings and facilities and in all vaccination and COVID testing sites until further notice. K-12 schools will continue under current requirements through the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. 

“‘When I visit my favorite restaurant or conduct a public event, I will continue to wear a mask,’ Gov. Holcomb said. ‘It is the right thing to do. Hoosiers who take these recommended precautions will help us get to what I hope is the tail end of this pandemic.’

“Local governments, private businesses and other entities may institute more stringent guidelines. The Indiana Department of Health will continue to provide county level, color coded metrics to provide easy to understand information about whether virus levels are increasing or decreasing locally.

“The state public health emergency will be renewed for another 30 days, beginning April 1. This declaration allows the state to act quickly if conditions take a turn for the worse and allows the state to continue to access hundreds of millions of federal dollars to support Hoosiers recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.

Click here to download photos of the address.”

News release from Gov. Eric Holcomb titled “Gov. Holcomb Announces Plan for All Hoosiers to be Eligible for the Vaccine March 31”

MORE STORIES