Indiana’s governor backing schools on mask mandates

Eric Holcomb

Indiana’s governor gave his support Monday to the growing number of school districts across the state issuing mask mandates for students and staff as they try to head off more COVID-19 outbreaks.

Several of the state’s largest school districts in the Indianapolis area began requiring masks for indoor areas on Monday after starting the school year without such requirements, reacting to a growing number of COVID-19 infections among students as the more transmissible delta variant continues surging in the state.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would continue his policy of allowing local officials to impose mask rules and other steps to stem the coronavirus spread even as several school boards have faced vocal—and sometimes misleading—opposition to such actions.

“I think the schools that are putting mask mandates into place are making a wise decision when the facts warrant it,” Holcomb said. “I’m not surprised by the pushback having lived through the last year and a half.”

Holcomb’s stance differs from that by Republican governors in Florida, Texas and other states that have issued statewide orders prohibiting mask-wearing mandates in schools.

In the past week, 1,452 new COVID-19 cases were recorded among K-12 students in the state—four times more than the previous week, according to updated figures Monday from the Indiana Department of Health. An additional 80 teachers and 118 non-teaching staff also have tested positive for COVID-19 in the previous seven days, which is more than twice the number who tested positive the week before.

Statewide hospitalizations for COVID-19 have also continued growing to levels last seen in February. The state health department reported that Indiana hospitals were treating 1,462 virus patients as of Sunday—up by one-quarter from a week earlier. Of those, 368 were intensive care unit patients.

Holcomb, who received a COVID-19 vaccination shot during a public event in March, said all of the 137 new COVID-19 patients in Indiana’s intensive care units last week were unvaccinated.

“I will go so far as to say the only thing to fear about the vaccine is fear itself,” Holcomb said. “The numbers prove that it works.”

About 45% of Indiana residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the 16th lowest rate among the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Six large Indianapolis-area school districts—Carmel, Hamilton Southeastern and Noblesville schools in Hamilton County and Lawrence Township, Washington Township and Pike Township districts in Marion County—began requiring masks on Monday. Merrillville schools in northwestern Indiana’s Lake County will require masks when they resume classes Wednesday.

Indianapolis Public Schools, the state’s largest district, was among the first to announce last month that it would require masks for all staff and students, regardless of vaccination status.

The Shenandoah school district, a rural district in eastern Indiana’s Henry County, began on Monday two weeks of online-only instruction because of a large number of COVID-19 infections. Another rural district in southern Indiana’s Scott County took the same action last week.

Hamilton Southeastern’s superintendent said the district had tracked 80 COVID-19 infections among students, and more than 500 students had been notified as close contacts during the past two weeks.

“These changes are what we believe will keep our students learning in person in their classrooms,” Superintendent Yvonne Stokes said. “And that’s our goal.”

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23 thoughts on “Indiana’s governor backing schools on mask mandates

  1. Glad Indiana has a Governor that gets the seriousness of COVID. This is a public health issue and the vaccine is proven to work. Those that are eligible for the vaccine should get it and quit being selfish. Think of others especially our kids under 12.

    1. COVID is serious. A close second is the misinformation that has reached herd immunity in today’s GOP. It must be rooted out if the American experiment is to continue. Folks like Holcomb have an unenviable task, but they must lead the charge and purge the cranks from their own party. The idea that if you ignore it, it will go away … has long since been proven to be fake news.

  2. I want everyone who is mandating children under the age of 12 to wear masks for multiple hours a day to sit at their desks and do the same (for multiple days, not just one) and then come back and say whether a 6 year old should sit at a desk all day with a mask. This should be a parents’ choice. If these children are coming from household where the adults are vaccinated, they are low risk to others. There needs to be some common sense. Statistically, it does not add up. Will we start doing the same during flu season to children?

    1. Stacy B. Masks prevent our kids who are unvaccinated from catching COVID from others. I wouldn’t want my kid to be exposed to COVID because parents and school employees aren’t vaccinated and give it to their kids or others. Kids are getting COVID at an increased rate and even dying. Look at the states where the vaccine rate is low.

      Yes, it’s not pleasant to wear a mask all day long, but it’s necessary until enough of the population gets vaccinated. The vaccine works and is safe. Those eligible to be vaccinated and choosing not to are being selfish and the rest of us have to suffer.

      The flu is not nearly as contagious or deadly as COVID, especially the Delta variant.

    2. Kids wore masks much of last year. They were fine. Their parents are the problem.

      Kids wearing masks at school is a superior learning experience to learning at home, which is the inevitable alternative.

      The freedom to do things while wearing masks and social activities being limited to the fully vaccinated beats the heck out of things being closed down again to accommodate the antivaxxers and anti-maskers. Let them sit at home and sulk while the rest of us enjoy our hard-earned freedom.

    3. The young kids I know have adapted quite fine to mask wearing. It is almost second-nature for them…they have to be reminded when they arrive home that it is OK to take off their mask. No, wearing a mask all day is not ideal, but it beats getting sick or staying at home for e-learning. I don’t like wearing a mask, either, but I will do so when it’s advisable or required.

    4. My kids wore masks all last year. Never one complaint (and that is not hyperbole). In fact, I think they’d complain if I asked them not to wear a mask right now, as they understand age appropriate basics of the world around them (including that they aren’t yet vaccinated) and don’t want to unknowingly put others at risk. They aren’t living in fear; rather they know a common sense fix when they see one.

    5. I do wear a mask all day, sitting at my desk. Why? Because that is doing my part to curve this pandemic. My kids NEVER complained about masks and most of their friends continue to wear them as well, outside of school.

  3. If teachers want to wear masks, fine. It’s idiot to force children to wear masks while in school. It’s harmful in many ways as doesn’t do anything about the spread of COVID. Holcomb has proven himself once again to be just another run of the mill RINO.

    1. Please provide a link to actual scientific evidence of the “many” kinds of harm inflicted by mask-wearing in school, to which you refer. I am definitely open to seeing and considering the science, but I am not persuaded by general political talking points that are repeated on cable news. Also, please provide a link to the actual scientific evidence that says masks do nothing to stop the spread of COVID, as you also have claimed. I have seen lots of science suggesting that masks are not 100% perfect in this regard, and some types are more effective than others, but that they do significantly reduce the spread of COVID when used properly. I am open to seeing actual scientific evidence to the contrary, but general statements repeated on cable news or in comment sections of the IBJ are not persuasive and do not count as science.

    2. Here’s a link. Hamilton Southeastern started out without masks. After two weeks, they’ve got 1000 people out due to COVID reasons. That’s a 1000 kids who will be behind and not get the same education.

      In retrospect, wouldn’t it have been smarter to do everything possible to keep kids in school five days a week, wearing masks, than just thinking … oh, it won’t happen to us?

    3. Joe B.

      Here is the breakdown of the 1000 students you mentioned for everyone else and this is over two weeks over 26 different schools from elementary to high school:

      Close contact: 740
      COVID-Symptoms: 183
      Positive case: 95

      I don’t see the worry. How many kids are “sick” during normal times? I was in high school during H1N1 pandemic and while some people wore masks a majority didn’t and we lived our lives especially since it was much more dangerous to young people than COVID-19. STOP THE FEAR!

      “An epidemiological study in the USA, it was observed that the swine flu hospitalization rate decreases according to age of patients increases. ”


    4. Stop the fear? That’s as nuts as saying “lean into death”.

      You don’t see the worry. As a parent trying to work through a pandemic who doesn’t really have time for yet another prolonged period of e-learning thanks to antivaxxers/antimaskers who want blabber on about their rights while staying silent about their responsibilities, I’m kind of over it. Grow up, wear the mask, and let’s muddle through this together.

      Kids need to be in school to get the best education. We need to do whatever is needed to make that happen. If that’s asking then to wear a mask, a mask which bothers their parents far more than the kids, that a much better outcome than schools shutting for two weeks because they have too many people out. (Which they already do if too many people are out due to the flu or stomach bugs.)

      Based on your numbers, that’s 740 kids who have to not only do e-learning for two weeks, but probably around that many sets of parents whose lives are now thrown in the air for two weeks. Is wearing a mask a better alternative to that? I’d say so.

    5. I agree 100% that kids need to be in school, but I believe the burden of proof is on why we need to wear masks and their effectiveness. I bet you go into any school and I bet less than half are actually wearing their masks correctly and with the delta variant it has been shown that you most likely need a N95 mask not a cloth one like most people wear. Please it’s time that the pro mask wearers starting providing the proof that we need to wear masks. Please provide a study that shows their effectiveness.

      The other side has eyes and ears and we’re not stupid. I see the numbers and I don’t understand the mandates. To each their own, wear a mask if you’re scared just like during H1N1 but lets stop the overreach.

    6. Also I’ve been in “close” contact with positive “cases” I’ve been living my life no problem. To me that is 740 kids that don’t need to be at home. The roughly 300 symptoms/positive cases is about 1-2 kids out sick in classroom. Yes that’s probably 1 more kid that is out sick compared to normal times. Again I don’t see it but you haven’t really proven anything except playing to emotions.

      “Lean into death” public policy. Come on now let’s get rid of soft drinks and alcohol. How many overweight people are dying from that epidemic. What else should we get rid of so no one dies? Weak argument.

    7. Ok, how many schools that have started with mask mandates have had to shut down due to COVID outbreaks … compared to how many that started without masks that ended up having to go virtual?

      That you’re saying “people exposed don’t need to stay home” tells me you have a poor understanding of how infectious disease works. No one said you’re stupid … but I have serious doubts about where you get your information. The “they’re hiding something from us, you can’t trust them, I can come to my own conclusions” business is a fool’s errand.

      And, given the commission Gov Holcomb you mentioned, funny you mention the poor health of most Hoosiers…

      You are correct, people’s personal health is their own business (pandemics being a notable exception). But when a state it”s filled with poorly educated residents in poor health, what company in their right mind would relocate here unless we bribe them with tax incentives? And what kind of jobs would they bring? Not the high paying type, the distribution type jobs that will be replaced by robots in 10-20 years anyway.

    8. Headline: More schools move to remote learning as COVID-19 appears to be spreading within classrooms

      “Masks were required in schools through a state mandate last year and many schools had stricter social distancing policies in place.”

      “This year, most schools have brought all of their students back for in-person learning and many have tried to start the year with mask-optional policies – although many have found that policy is untenable and switch to mask requirements over the last week.”

      “Last week, more than 1,000 students in Hamilton Southeastern Schools were out for a positive case, COVID-like symptoms or because they were identified as a close contact. The district serves around 21,500 students.”

      “Brownsburg Community Schools, which serves roughly 10,000 students, had close to 700 students in quarantine after the second week of school. Both districts were among many in central Indiana that moved from a mask-optional policy to a mask mandate.“

      “Of the first 28 cases at the high school, 17 had been identified as close contacts, quarantined and then tested positive a few days later said Superintendent Mark Hall.”

  4. I do wear a mask all day, sitting at my desk. Why? Because that is doing my part to curve this pandemic. My kids NEVER complained about masks and most of their friends continue to wear them as well, outside of school.

  5. What next? Health Department inspections of restaurant kitchens are “government overreach”? Equating actual Public Health needs with political views during a REAL pandemic is more than just dumb, it’s dangerous.
    And the proof of that is all around us.

  6. How do we fight this? Are there ant groups or committees forming? Please let me know. Our children should not have to suffer. Enough is enough. If anyone knows please respond with how I can get involved.

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