State to open vaccines to all adults March 31, nix mask mandate on April 6

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Gov. Eric Holcomb

Indiana will open COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to all Hoosiers ages 16 and older on March 31, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Tuesday.

In a statewide address, Holcomb said he will also let the statewide COVID-19 restrictions, including the mask mandate and capacity restrictions, expire after April 5.

Holcomb sounded an optimistic tone in the 22-minute address, suggesting that the worst of the pandemic could be over, with the vaccine supply increasing and the rate of hospitalizations and deaths falling.

“The light at the end of the tunnel becomes brighter and brighter,” Holcomb said.

In recent weeks, Indiana has received a limited supply of vaccine doses from the federal government, which controls the supply. But Holcomb said his plans to widen the eligibility pool to everyone 16 and older is based on assurances that the supply will increase.

“Earlier today, our federal partner told states to expect large increases in the amount of vaccine that will be flown to us, beginning the last week in March,” Holcomb said.

The governor has been expanding vaccine eligibility to younger and younger age groups over the last several weeks. Just Monday, the age limit dropped to ages 40 and up and within 24 hours more than 40,000 individuals signed up to receive the vaccine. More than 970,000 Hoosiers are fully vaccinated.

Holcomb said he will renew the public health emergency order, which was also set to expire April 1, for another 30 days because that could impact federal funding.

The governor’s announcement comes as Indiana’s coronavirus hospitalizations and death rates have fallen by more than 80% since their December peaks. He’s also faced increasing pressure from the GOP-controlled Indiana General Assembly to end the mask mandate and other restrictions. A pending resolution that would end the public health emergency has 29 Republican co-authors.

Other states, such as Texas and Mississippi, have also already lifted mask restrictions.

Holcomb issued the first stay-at-home order last March, and the state began slowly reopening in May.

Since November, restrictions have been based on county-by-county spread and infection levels, but complaints from the public and some conservative state legislators have continued about the mask mandate that Holcomb first issued in July.

Holcomb’s order that continued the mask mandate, which has been largely unenforceable with no penalties for violations, and limited gatherings in counties based on coronavirus risk is set to expire April 1.

He said he will extend that through April 5, because of all the out-of-state visitors in Indianapolis for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. The final game will be played April 5.

Holcomb said masks will still be required in state buildings, COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites and schools. And he added that he will continue wearing a mask at restaurants and public events.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The governor added that he expects K-12 schools to have all in-person instruction by the next school year.

Based on the state’s color-coded infection rate map, most counties are now in blue, which signifies the lowest level of spread. Less than 30 counties are in yellow, which is the second lowest level of spread.

Under Holcomb’s current executive order, social gatherings are limited to 250 people in blue counties, but capacity is allowed to be 100% as long as social distancing can be maintained.

Starting April 6, all decisions about venue capacity will be made by local officials, Holcomb said.

Holcomb said he planned to schedule additional mass vaccination clinics in April, similar to the ones held earlier this month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Ivy Tech Community College in Sellersburg, and the upcoming one this weekend at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. He did not give any details on dates or locations.

Nevertheless, Indiana still averages about 10 coronavirus-related deaths per day, illustrating that the pandemic has not run its course.

Some public health experts say they wished Holcomb would keep restrictions in place for several additional weeks, until more of the Indiana population has been vaccinated. They said they fear that dropping all restrictions might result in another uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Only 18% of Indiana residents 16 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department.

“We’ve been in this pandemic for a long time,” said Graham McKeen, assistant director of public and environmental health at Indiana University. “And I think we should have learned our lessons about when to ease up. I think going through the month of April with the current state restrictions certainly would have helped.”

 The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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26 thoughts on “State to open vaccines to all adults March 31, nix mask mandate on April 6

  1. Really, you couldn’t wait another 6 weeks so everyone will have the opportunity to be fully vaccinated? Also puts the burden on business establishments with bigger brains to continue requiring masks. We came so far to lax due to pressure from the public. Oh wait, he wants his cake and eat it to. We’ll continue to pretend we are in a state of emergency so we can continue getting federal funds. I hope that funnel is cut off so he can explain why the State is out of money.

    1. I agree. I’ll only have one shot by April 6th and I’m at high risk. My second is scheduled for April 21st. He also should have waited a few weeks to see if the NCAA Tournament brings about a surge of new cases. I can’t believe he made such a stupid decision. He succumbed to pressure from his party.

  2. Terrible policy. WTF? Thought Holcomb was a reasonable Republican. This is a really bad decision. Not yet nearly time to make this move. Dr Box? Where are you??!

    1. Good question. Where is she? Holcomb obviously isn’t going to listen to her though anyway but political pressure from his party in the state legislature. Really, really bad decision when only about 12 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

    2. Meanwhile, on cue, 5.79% of cases come back positive (16,843 tests, 1455 new people tested, 976 positives).

      To use a basketball analogy since our governor so loves the sport – we pulled our starters with a lead and put in that kid Johnny on the very end of the bench. Not because it’s the right thing to do, or because the game is fully in hand, but just to shut Johnny’s parents up because they’ve been riding the coach all season to let Johnny play.

      Now we all wait and watch the clock slowly tick down and the score get closer and closer while Johnny makes mistake after mistake …

    3. What population do you want to be vaccinated–80%? 90%? You realize that even getting 50% vaccinated is a pipe dream, right?

      Half of the country thinks (KNOWS) the pandemic is an overcooked attempt try to usher in authoritarianism. They’re not going to get vaccinated, and they’ll sue before they let the Gestapo try to get them jabbed, and if it comes to it, they will shoot the people at their doorstep.

      By now we’ve had enough experience with friends/family getting the disease (including elderly ones) and seeing may 1-2 deaths, 3-4 serious sicknesses, and 15-20 who had next to nothing. And then there are those who are asymptommatic, never knew they had it, never got tested.

      The reality that the authoritarian tankies here refuse to admit: we routinely see our political and medical leaders not abiding by social distancing or masking, long before the vaccine was available. What are we supposed to think?
      A) They’re hypocrites
      B) They think they’re better than the peasantry they’re supposed to serve, rather than preside over
      C) They’re compromised by deep-pocketed interests who bribe them on what to say
      D) They have insider epidemiological data (or even medical advancements) that render them immune
      E) They’re deliberately sensationalizing a very mild pandemic with a 99.7% survival rate to manipulate the populace for ease of political control.

      Which one is it? My vote is F) all of the above.

    1. Hi Jim, I donated mine to businesses that were destroyed last summer in the left-wing riots.

  3. This mask charade needs to end ; you all have been hoodwinked. Read the disclaimer on the masks from the manufacturers. “This will not inhibit COVID spread” you are all suckers to the woke elites who want to control your liberty.

  4. Not clear why gov says that wearing a mask is “the right thing to do”

    He’s been vaccinated.
    Either he’s immune or the vaccine is a fraud.
    Not good that he thinks the vaccine might be a fraud.

    If we are all going to be vaccinated and still act like the vaccine doesn’t work, what’s the point? Their answer is, “well we can’t be 100% certain. It’s only 95% effective.”

    People who say this, apparently including Dr Box, don’t understand the math of cutting off 95% of all the virus pathways. And the infinitesimally small probability of someone who has been vaccinated becoming infected does NOT justify continuing to contort our daily lives.

    If there are some number of people who want to continue to live in fear or constantly advertise their virtue signaling, let them. Let the rest of us return to normal.

    1. Oh my! Do go on about how your daily life has been “contorted” by a health official requiring you to mask up.

      How cowardly you must be, to fear this piece of cloth. Do some hats have this effect on you? Perhaps scarves? GASP – does the sight of a surgeon put you in a full panic attack? Perhaps the government should not be allowed to require underwear in public, too!?

      Sadly, your understanding of the “math” of epidemiology leaves much to be desired. Masks, vaccines, hand-washing, distancing – none of it is 100% effective, and it was never intended to be – and being immunized to a disease through vaccination can not guarantee that you are not currently infected, will not become infected in the coming days, nor does it fully eliminate your ability to transmit a disease even if you do not become severely infected.

    2. Everyone wants to return to normal. The issue is timing.

      If the governor had said he was lifting all restrictions after everyone had a chance to get vaccinated, and the vaccine had time to take effect, then it’s fine. So, six weeks after vaccines are available to everyone? Sure, makes perfect sense.

      But the governor has to deal with the Rainwater caucus at the Statehouse, and they can’t wait six weeks because they refuse to acknowledge the issue isn’t the restrictions, it’s the virus. (They also can’t be bothered to get vaccinated, but that’s another story. Quick aside to those under 40: drive to rural Indiana and you can quickly get vaccinated.) So Holcomb has to do something before the Legislature makes a worse decision to end the emergency, period, and take away the ability for counties/cities/towns to do what they need, if needed.

      It would not surprise me if Holcomb was told to either lift the mandate before the end of the session … or we will do it for you.

    3. Joe B – spot on. I thought I was the only logical one. We have been at this for a year, what is another 6 weeks for everyone to have the opportunity to receive their vaccination and be fully vaccinated. So frustrating, especially as a business owner and community member.

      Makes it difficult to continue to mandate masks internally.

    4. Joe B, considering how much you and the coronatarians love to come here and lecture everyone else, I don’t think for a minute you want things “to return to normal”. Either you love the complete subversion of basic liberties because you have become seduced by collectivism, or you’re too proud to ever admit that you’ve been gaslit by the “experts” who are completely politically compromised. Which one is it?

      Charles, you’re unintentionally making the argument that we should resume our normal lives because, in the end, we can’t control everything in the world, no matter how high-tech we get. Perhaps you enjoy cowering in your basement for the next 10 years? Hey, you be you and I be me. Many of us just aren’t scared by this flu bug. But at least as you wet yourself you can rest assured that urine is sterile.

      If you really think you’re going to get 50% of the population vaccinated on this one, your understanding of human nature is on par with a 10-year old. In other words, a leftist.

  5. Finally, we will no longer have to step over the fallen bodies of the whining, Trump loving resistors who just couldnt get enough oxygen or function while wearing masks – especially to stop a fake virus. Talk about snowflakes. If only they had done the morally correct and intelligent thing sooner, thousands of lives, businesses, and jobs would have been saved.

    1. agree 100%. sheer stupidity to spike the ball on the 5 yard line. how ridiculous is it that your political party determines your views of this virus.

    2. That’s right, because one political party knows everything and one knows nothing.

      I’m an independent who was quite afraid of COVID last March, but by April I smelled the stench of political manipulation. Now it’s a complete joke, just like Fauci and Birx. Absolute clowns.

      Let’s get the body count up to a clean 3Mill!

  6. marion county is retaining the mandate, i sure hope that joe hogsett wears his mask every day as he fills all the potholes that are destroying people’s transportation and enriching tire companies with federal stimulus money. at least if he fills potholes, he will have done one positive thing for this city

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