City-County Council votes to ditch mask mandate for vaccinated residents

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Indianapolis’ mask mandate will end Tuesday for fully vaccinated residents as part of the City-County Council’s ratification of a new public health order Monday evening.

The Democratic-majority council passed the measure 19-5, along party lines, with Republicans opposed because the order didn’t fully lift all pandemic restrictions.

In addition to lifting the mask mandate, Monday’s order also loosens capacity restrictions in Marion County as follows:

  • Religious services and funerals, as well as community pools, can open to 100% capacity.
  • Cultural, entertainment and tourism sites, fitness centers, libraries, and indoor service at bars and restaurants can open to 75% capacity. Bars and restaurants must continue 6-foot distancing between parties.
  • Indoor sporting events can open to 50% capacity, to match outdoor events.
  • Large gatherings will be able to accommodate 500 people, up from 50 people. Organizers for larger events will have to submit a risk-mitigation plan a week in advance and receive approval before the event.
  • Personal service businesses will no longer need to require appointments, but will still have to maintain 6-foot social distancing between clients.
  • Dance floors can open at music venues, but with 6-foot social distancing marked on floors.
  • Children will be able to stay at youth and young adult camps overnight, and campers younger than 7 won’t need to mask.

“Last month, the CDC released new guidance for fully vaccinated individuals that makes it clear: the COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective,” said Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine. “… Those of our residents who have chosen to receive the COVID-19 vaccine can now safely remove their masks in most public settings. This is truly a milestone for the Indianapolis community.”

Vaccinated people will still be required to wear masks in hospitals and on public transportation.

While under the order, unvaccinated residents are still required to mask, but the city won’t be able to differentiate between those who’ve gotten the shot and those who haven’t. A new state law bars local governments from creating or requiring inoculation passports or cards.

“Why not just remove the mask mandate for everyone when it’s not possible to enforce who is vaccinated?” asked Councilor Michael-Paul Hart, a Republican.

Caine said she believed most people will follow the rules even without enforcement.

“I think that there are noble people and responsible people, citizens in Indianapolis, who will take these recommendations very seriously,” Caine said. “And it may not be so much concern for themselves, but they’re concerned about their loved ones, they’re concerned about their colleagues, they may be concerned about seniors in this community.”

Caine added that the the order is also meant to protect children younger than 12, for whom no vaccine has yet been approved.

The health department plans to recommend that Marion County fully reopen when the vaccination rate hits 50% and new daily cases fall below 100, Caine said. The department is using the 50% vaccination rate because it believes it will be high enough to achieve herd immunity when combined with other factors.

The health department estimates that herd immunity for the county would require about 80% of the population to have protection from the coronavirus. The Indiana University School of Public Health found that about 30% of residents have already contracted COVID-19, which confers immunity for at least three months, Caine said. Those 30% combined with a 50% vaccination rate would provide the required 80%, Caine said.

Caine and Mayor Joe Hogsett have said they hope to hit the 50% rate and reopen the city by July 4.

About 36% of Marion County residents were fully vaccinated as of Monday, and 41% had gotten at least one of their two shots, according to the health department’s COVID-19 dashboard. The department recorded a seven-day average of 114 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the five Republican council members accused Hogsett and council Democrats of ignoring science.

“It is beyond absurd that Democrat leaders have decided to keep burdensome capacity restrictions on Indianapolis business while most cities in the state and nation are dropping these restrictions,” they said. “As of this weekend, Chicago will be more open than Indianapolis. The mayor and council Democrats need to explain to residents and businesses why science has reached Chicago but not our capital city. It is time to allow Indianapolis to thrive and compete once again.”

The statement was signed by Brian Mowery, Paul Annee, Josh Bain, Mike Dilk and Hart.

Chicago, which is set to fully reopen Friday, has a higher vaccination rate and fewer COVID cases than Indianapolis. More than 41% of the city’s population was fully vaccinated and 51% partially vaccinated as of Monday, according to the city’s COVID-19 dashboard. The city recorded a seven-day average of 91 new cases daily, as of last Thursday.

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25 thoughts on “City-County Council votes to ditch mask mandate for vaccinated residents

    1. Dr. Caine is a nationally recognized and highly respected MD and public health officer. Much more accomplished than I’m guessing you, or most people for that matter, will ever be. Give respect where respect is due. She is doing her job exceedingly well to protect public health, whether or not you agree with her decisions. What are your credentials, BTW? Can yours match hers?

    2. Dr. Caine and our mayor love having control over the situation and the spotlight that comes with it. The ongoing limitations are absurd and unwarranted. The doctor is ignoring the scientific data that other cities have been embracing without negative consequences. Continuing to penalize restaurants bars and entertainment venues while allowing churches to operate at full capacity makes no sense.

    3. Daniel A, did you read that the City-County Council approved the changes? The mayor no longer has the final say thanks to being hamstrung by the state legislature.

    4. Dan M….The City County Council approved ongoing restrictions that were recommended by Caine and Hogsett.

    5. Whether Chuck is right or wrong you’re out of line Michael G.. Why would you even think that? Is there something in his comment that would lead you to that thought? NO, it’s your assumption… sad for you.

  1. So, Democrats are accused by Republicans of not following the science? How absurd that is, after the calamity of how Republicans responded to the pandemic for the first year. Literally hundreds of thousands of Americans would be alive right now had Republicans paid some attention to the science, but instead far too many of them put their faith in their god, Trump.

    Caine and Hogsett have outlined a data-driven approach for full reopening based on vaccinations plus previous COVID infections. That’s science in action. Yes, science is never fully settled and can change as knowledge grows, so yes, there may be science-based decisions at one point that turn out to be different from those made later with more knowledge. We may ultimately learn that some early precautions were unnecessary while other precautions would have been better but were not taken. That’s how evolving knowledge works, and why we really should leave scientific decisions up to scientists rather than politicians.

    And to complain that Chicago is opening sooner… thank you, IBJ, for pointing out that Chicago is further along in vaccination, and in much better shape with regard to new COVID cases. Chicago has three times the population, yet fewer cases. That kind of proves the point.

    1. Meanwhile some counties are adjusting their “deaths from covid” by as much as 25%. Seems even people who died of car crashes and other accidents were classified as covid. I expect there was a lot of that.

    2. Rhea, please cite a reliable, valid source for your assertion that car crash victims are being counted as COVID deaths. I’m guessing you will be unable to find actual evidence for even one such case.

    3. I agree with most of your points Steve K., I think the debatable part in my mind is the reaction to COVID as a whole. I think people are over blowing this. Closing down businesses and wrecking peoples lives??? I don’t honestly know that pain but I feel for those who do? I’m guessing you don’t either, maybe I’m wrong.

      To Rhea’s point that numbers were exacerbated I don’t have solid “I’ve seen it” proof yet I’m not an idiot and I bet you’re not either. Consider this, I’ve had MANY conversations with people in public service who tell me stories of exactly what Rhea is talking about. People dying of other causes but marked COVID because they had it when they died. I can also tell you my father in law died with COVID and was counted as a COVID death. He was older with many other conditions and was at the end of life regardless. It was a terrible situation but COVID alone was not to blame. Also, why is it no one died of the flu last year? I’m not ignorant (” notice the root of that word” ) enough to buy that and you shouldn’t be either. COVID is real, some precautions should’ve been taken, but WOW, still can’t believe how the last year has gone.

  2. I’ll take Dr. Caine’s expertise in science and its application to our county’s health risks over folks whose expertise is in running for office.

    Get vaccinated. Spare someone else, if not yourself, a visit to the ER or worse. That’s science.

  3. “Caine said she believed most people will follow the rules even without enforcement.”…………………………….Yeah, right.

    1. Definitely wishful thinking, but the General Assembly outlawed everything other than wishful thinking. It’s still better than the attitude of Michael-Paul Hart, who says that because enforcement is not allowed, why bother having restrictions? If only one-third of the unvaccinated population chooses to follow the mandate, that is better than nothing. (But in reality, those who are avoiding vaccination are pretty much the same people who have been whining about masks, so that one-third scenario is, indeed, wishful thinking).

  4. Looks like this article caught the Dems pants on fire. So funny! I can hardly believe so few people think that Dr. Craine is some kind of expert. Why is she working in a public capacity and not working in the medical field in her own practice? How good can she possibly be? My faith in God protects me and keeps me healthy and that’s all I need. I definitely don’t need some dubbed DR., mayor or governor to tell me how to live my life. Stay out of my life! Now, go back to taking care of potholes like Ed H. suggested.

    1. A note to Debbie L.
      That you have faith in God is good. That you have faith in God vs. science is your choice.
      That you believe a supreme being will keep you healthy.

      May I presume you did not have a vaccination for small pox, nor get a shot to prevent infection when you get a dog bite or cut yourself on a rusty nail? And may I presume you treat your children in the same fashion? Or have a shot to prevent polio, measles, mumps, etc? May I presume you and, if you have children, none of you seek medical care when you are sick? Hmmm.

      All of the above are your decisions, however, dubious they may be.

      Now to the “dubbed DR.” Virginia A. Caine, MD, whom according to her bio is:
      is a medical school graduate of SUNY, as well as the Infectious Disease fellowship program at University of Washington in Seattle.

      Then there is our “dubbed” mayor and “dubbed” governor.

      May I suggest if your knowledge and faith is superior to whom you noted above that you go to medical school, and perhaps consider running for mayor and/or governor, or be appointed state director of public health.

      Thanx for taking the time to consider what I have proffered indirectly.

    2. Wow, kind of harsh words towards your fellow man for someone who professes to have faith in God. Speaking of faith in his protection, I hope you got the vaccine He so graciously sent you.

    3. Your faith in God reminds of the story of the drowning man. Three different boats come along to rescue him, and each time he turns them away saying God will save him. After he drowns, he is standing at the pearly gates and St Peter asks him why he did not get on one of the three boats that God sent him.

      This vaccine is miracle of science and gift from God. Don’t turn it down.

  5. Does anyone recall when a child asked permission to do something, and when told “No”, the child’s response was: “Billy gets to do that/go there.” And the parent’s retort was
    1) “You aren’t Billy.”
    2) “Perhaps, you should go live with Billy.”
    3) “When you live in our house, you do as your parents say.”
    4) “When you have your own house, you can do as you choose.”

    This is quite similar to the response of 5 city-council members who compared Chicago with how it is tackling covid-19 protocol compared to how Indianapolis tackles it:

    “It is beyond absurd that Democrat leaders have decided to keep burdensome capacity restrictions on Indianapolis business while most cities in the state and nation are dropping these restrictions,” they said. “As of this weekend, Chicago will be more open than Indianapolis. The mayor and council Democrats need to explain to residents and businesses why science has reached Chicago but not our capital city. It is time to allow Indianapolis to thrive and compete once again.”

    The statement was signed by Brian Mowery, Paul Annee, Josh Bain, Mike Dilk and Hart.

    The above statement by the 5 leads me to retort: “Perhaps, Indianapolis is not for you.”
    “Perhaps, you should consider moving to Chicago.”

  6. With such a dismal vaccination rate, I guess the unvaccinated people are not getting the message that the rate of infection, sickness, and death are still exactly the same among unvaccinated people as they have been all along.

  7. with the current number of daily cases in Marion County, you are statistically more likely to be shot than to be afflicted with this virus, significantly higher chance if you are vaccinated. the masks mandate can be eliminated.