Holcomb lifts ban on non-emergency hospital procedures

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that he is extending his executive order that outlines restrictions based on the rate of infection in each county for another three weeks, but not before making a significant change for health care providers.

The current order, which also included a directive for hospitals to postpone non-emergency, in-patient procedures to alleviate hospital capacity, had been set to expire Sunday.

Holcomb said during his press briefing Wednesday that the extended executive order will not include the restriction on elective procedures at hospitals, because statewide hospital capacity has improved.

But he said if COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations rise significantly again, that could change.

“We’re going to be reviewing this tomorrow and the next day,” Holcomb said.

Under the county-by-county system, each county is assigned a color each week that is based on its seven-day positivity rate and number of infected individuals per 100,000.

Last week, state officials announced that the positivity rates had been inaccurately reported since the beginning of the pandemic due to a problem with the way they were computed. The change caused the statewide positivity rate for all tests to increase by nearly 2 percentage points—from 11.8% on Tuesday under the old formula to 13.7% on Wednesday.

Dr. Kris Box, the state’s health commissioner, said the overall trend in the positivity rate has stayed relatively the same under the new calculations. And other statistics related to the pandemic that are reported by the state, including the number of cases per 100,000 individuals, the number of deaths and the overall test counts, were not affected.

As of Wednesday, 45 counties were in the red category and 46 counties were orange, which is considered the second highest level of infection. One county—Jay County—was yellow, which is the third highest level of infection. Marion County is currently orange. Only 21 counties were in the red category a week ago.

Under the extended order, which Holcomb said will be in effect through Jan. 24, social gatherings will remain limited to 25 people in red counties, 50 people in orange counties, 100 people in yellow counties and 250 people in blue counties.

Local health departments are not allowed to grant exceptions to the gathering limits.

K-12 extracurricular activities are allowed to continue, but attendance is limited to participants, support personnel, and parents and guardians and their minor children in red counties. In orange, yellow or blue counties, capacity is limited to 25%.

College and professional sports are allowed to continue as well, with participants, personnel and family members in attendance. Local health departments are allowed to approve plans for up to 25% capacity at these events.

The statewide mask mandate will also continue.

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