Local health leaders discuss COVID mitigation measures, but mask mandate not imminent

With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths still rising, public health leaders in Indianapolis are considering measures to reduce the spread of the virus—including a new mask mandate—but they say nothing has been decided yet.

The Marion County Public Health Department hosted a meeting with community stakeholders Wednesday morning to talk about recent data and possible mitigation measures.

Marion County recorded a test-positivity rate of nearly 12% for the week ending Monday, according to Indiana’s COVID-19 dashboard. That’s more than double the 5% threshold that county public health officials had used as a dividing line when they decided to lift pandemic restrictions earlier this summer.

One strategy discussed at Wednesday’s meeting was reimplementation of a community-wide mask mandate. The department would have to get approval for bringing back the mandate from the City-County Council.

But talks are in the early stages, according to health department spokeswoman Aliya Wishner.

“At this time, there’s no current plan to bring a community-wide mask mandate to the council,” Wishner said.

That would make a masking proposal unlikely to be considered at Monday’s council meeting. After that, the legislative body meets again Sept. 27.

“We’re continuing to have conversations with the community and make smart public health choices based on best practices—either recommendations from the CDC or best practices from across the country—but [we’re] also making sure that we’re prioritizing the success of our local businesses, and our  kids that are in school,” she added. “You know, balancing all of that has been the approach from the beginning.”

Cases among students, ranging from elementary school to college, rose throughout August, according to the county health department’s COVID-19 dashboard.

City-County councilors ended Indy’s mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents in June.

The health department seconded a federal masking recommendation in July, but stopped short of asking the council for a mandate. Under a May state law, local health officials must get public health restrictions approved by municipal governments if they’re stricter than state measures.

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