Indy council ratifies COVID orders after Legislature nullifies them with veto override

The Indianapolis City-County Council on Monday reinstated pandemic public health orders from the Marion County Department of Public Health, just a few hours after Indiana lawmakers undid them in a veto override.

The Democratic-majority council’s vote—which passed 19-5 along party lines—keeps a citywide mask mandate and restaurant capacity limits in place in Indianapolis.

The Republican-controlled Legislature met earlier Monday to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s veto of a bill that strips local health officials of the authority to impose restrictions that are stricter than the state without first receiving approval from the local legislative body. In Indianapolis, that’s the City-County Council.

That law took effect immediately after the override vote. So on Monday night, Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the county health department, asked the council to “take swift action” to reinstate the department’s orders, warning in response to questions that the area would have essentially no pandemic regulations otherwise.

“Basically if you do not pass this proposal, we have no restrictions for Marion County,” Caine said.

Caine told the council that “throughout our COVID-19 pandemic, the Marion County Public Health Department has worked very closely with our local, state, and federal officials, as well as our partners in health, education, and the many sectors of our economy, embracing best practices and what we consider smart public health policies, while preserving and protecting our local economy to the greatest extent possible.”

“The ability to make quick decisions at a local level is very critical to protecting our Hoosiers during a public health crisis,” she said.

Some Republican lawmakers, however, have been critical of actions take by local health officials and Holcomb, a Republican, saying they restrictions have gone too far and hurt the state and local economy. The Legislature had previously overridden Holcomb’s veto of a bill that would give lawmakers the ability to call themselves into a special session during state emergencies.

In a separate bill, lawmakers took aim at local officials. In addition to Marion County, Elkhart and Monroe counties had stricter public health orders than the rest of Indiana.

Democrat and Republican councilors were at odds Monday night over who should have final say on public health orders: the county health department or the council.

“When I check our current roster, we have no medical doctors that serve on the Indianapolis City-County Council,” said Democrat Majority Leader Maggie Lewis. “Therefore, I think it’s up to us, as leaders of this community, to get behind Dr. Caine. … She’s the expert, not us.”

“I think the legislative branch of the city-county [government] should be the one creating ordinances, … creating guidelines. That’s not the duty of the executive branch,” said Councilor Joshua Bain, a Republican. “All we’re doing is shifting our responsibility over to the county health department.”

The council’s ratification isn’t the end of the discussion on local public health orders.

“The way these orders are set up, assuming the council approves, they’ll go back into force, and then if there’s changes, be they less restrict[ive] or they, [for] some unfortunate reason that they have to become stricter, then they come before the council again,” said Paul Babcock, president and CEO of the Marion County Health and Hospital Corporation.

The council can also rescind the measures, which Babcock said he and Caine could ask for directly when the pandemic eases.

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22 thoughts on “Indy council ratifies COVID orders after Legislature nullifies them with veto override

    1. I’ve done what I can to protect myself (vaccine) and you’re correct that everyone who wanted a shot has had one so lets stop with all the restrictions. If I remember correctly these vaccines were not necessarily to prevent you from getting COVID, but were supposed to keep you out of the hospital and from dying. I know recently of someone that had the Pfizer shots and is currently getting over a good bout with COVID but at home. Our big concern was overwhelming the hospitals causing massive deaths? Aren’t we beyond that now and can let people make their own decisions about safety at this point without having to get to zero cases and deaths.

    1. Right. Clown show. Incredibly sad they are going to damage the Indy 500 again too. Look simply to other red states for leadership. I was hoping Indiana could be a thought leader, but not with the sheep in Marion County. Watching Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta or Texas Rangers Stadium in Arlington last weekend at full capacity for MLB was disheartening. Hogsett and the City Council continue to bite the hand that feeds them.

    1. A sincere question Kelly. How long do you want the restrictions to stay in place or when do you think it is safe to drop them? I’m struck how half of us are ready to be done with them and the other half wants to keep them in place and am just trying to understand why?

    2. The best argument for continuing to slow play the opening is so that more teenagers can get vaccinated. But many don’t feel like wearing a mask to protect kids, much less themselves or the old, so here we are.

      I agree, lift the restrictions. Just close the ER’s and ICU’s to those who have chosen to pass on the vaccine at the same time. Their body, their choice, their consequences. And if they become longhaulers and can’t work, they can handle that on their own too.

    3. @Joe, no one is going to be denied medical care, and you sound silly saying it. Do you also support no medical care for drug OD’s. Their body, right? Medical resources are not “scarce”. Hospitals have capacity and we have an oversupply of vax. Democrats claiming they want local control is spit your drink out, funny. So towns can also decide to open up? Local control, right Maggie? And Kelly, don’t forget a year ago when the learned Dr Craine forgot a soccer team was playing in front of fans in the largest building in the City.

    4. Chuck, I’m being 99.4% sarcastic. But if we are going to open everything up, wouldn’t it be most fair to be clear up front that if care does run low and has to be rationed, there will be certain people who are prioritized higher than others, and those who chose to get vaccinated and got sick anyway should be at the head of the list? I do think such an announcement would definitely get some people off the fence to get vaccinated.

      People who OD can at least blame addiction. People who pass on the vaccine can blame … I dunno, the nonsense they listen to?

      In Kelly‘s defense, lots of people forget we have a soccer team. Their biggest fans are the people in the Indiana Legislature that are bending over backwards to make sure they can get more of our tax dollars to build their stadium so they can have games in front of 15,000 people, tops.

    1. I think the idea was to get enough people vaccinated (~70+%?) to prevent community spread. We’re still at <50% of eligible Hoosiers who’ve even received a first dose. Presumably, sometime in the next month or two, if more people keep getting vaccinated, we would see confirmed new cases drop significantly from the ~1,000/day average.

      More importantly than just cases, statewide hospitalizations from COViD have increased from a low of ~600 about 6 weeks ago back up to ~1,000. I’d be interested to see the age breakdown of those currently hospitalized and when they became sick vis-a-vis when they became eligible to be vaccinated, but nonetheless, it’s a public health concern.

      I believe the messaging from the government has been less than stellar in that some people don’t see much incentive to get vaccinated when it doesn’t seem to change much what they are recommended or required to do or not do. I think it makes sense to keep a mask mandate a little longer and tie it to messaging encouraging people to get vaccinated with an actual tangible goal that we should reach As an example, I read yesterday that Minnesota is planning to drop their statewide mask mandate and all other COViD restrictions once they reach 70% of adults receiving the vaccine, which they are a lot closer to than is Indiana.

    2. Paul, we will never get to 70% as a state. People want to take their chances with COVID, I’ve reached the point of saying fine, let them. Just make sure those kids who can’t yet get vaccinated and the breakthrough patients are the ones at the front of the line for the scarce medical care we have.

    3. I don’t see us getting to 70% either unless the current base of kids getting vaccinated brings that number up. I really feel that at this point it needs to be strong public service announcements, commercials and doctors pushing the shot to get us up a bit. That’s how I finally came to start getting flu shots is my doctor talked me into it. Of course what about next year? Does it come back for another round? I don’t even want to think about doing all this stuff again.

    4. To not get Covid-19 and end up getting either very sick or dying. It’s great if you want your healthcare decisions to be political statements, but the rest of us just take vaccines so we don’t catch nasty infections. And, what is power hungry about requiring people to wear masks indoors during a global pandemic, when it has been proven that almost all infections occurred with people being inside in close contact? There is no way for a store or any other place to easily know who has been vaccinated or not, and guess what there are already documented cases of people who were completely vaccinated who still got Covid because no vaccine is 100% effective. So, the idea is to ensure that we get most of the population to being fully vaccinated, and then so long as there are not hot spot flare ups people can move away from wearing masks. How does it really spoil your day to wear a think piece of fabric to protect other people when you go into a store? It is not neither a big deal, nor particularly inconvenient.

  1. How about we compare the track record of the scientists vs. the track record of GOP politicians? A year ago, our elected leaders in Washington and in many red states told us the virus was going to just go away and economies needed to reopen immediately. We had fewer than 100,000 deaths, but scientists warned if we did not take things seriously enough we could have 200,000 or more deaths by later in the year, which seemed shocking and unthinkable. Led by Trump and the GOP, we decided to err on the side of economic reopening. The virus did not go away, and the scientists turned out to be right in their warnings about deaths (now we’re approaching 600,000 deaths). Today, 1 of every 500 Hoosiers has died of COVID, and as the IBJ informs you daily, cases and hospitalizations and deaths persist. What lies ahead? The longer we allow this virus to fester, the more likely we will see variants emerge that are stronger, that infect people who have already survived COVID once, and perhaps those vaccinated, too. That is what worries the scientists now, because if/when that happens, the death rate will rise again, and we’ll be back to square one. Again, who has been more right, scientists or Republican politicians? The answer is clear… the scientists have a better track record, inconvenient as that truth might be. So, get vaccinated and wear a mask. Is it really that difficult? If you don’t care about your own life, do it to save the life of your neighbor or grandmother.

    1. Is this really just a Democrat vs. Republican issue? If so that’s why I will always remain an independent so I can make my own mind up on how to think and act. I saw yesterday we had one new death from COVID so that told me this is rapidly leaving our State at least from a fatality point and admittingly I didn’t look at the number of new cases. I really don’t want politicians of either party controlling my life like they have this past year. We have ceded far to much power to them and I fear it’s permanent. Too much of life has become Democrat vs. Republican and that needs to change. The two parties are both screwed up and I’m sick of them.

    2. @Steve, if we are looking back a year, let’s also remember what the “scientists” said then. “It lives on surfaces and cardboard for weeks! It doesn’t like hot weather, wait maybe cold weather. It comes in through your eyes!” Everyone knows way more now than they did a year ago. What do you mean by “allow the virus to fester”? My understanding is, no viruses are cured, they are mitigated, which we have made huge progress on. Stop with the kill grandma line. That is hyperbole. The curve is flattened, we have therapeutics and treatment options. If the vax % is combined with known and unknown cases, a pretty high % of people have a defense against this virus

    3. Jeff: yes, the report yesterday showed one death. The report today shows 15.

      Chuck: the scientists I read a year ago were concerned about hard surfaces, not so much cardboard, but you are correct that as they learned more, they have acknowledged surface transmission is not nearly as likely as airborne. It was Trump who said the virus doesn’t like hot weather, not scientists. And yes, it is possible for airborne virus to come in through your eyes. We have, indeed, made huge progress mitigating the virus, which is why even the scientists are not arguing for lockdowns right now. The question is, when is it OK to declare victory and completely let down all guard and stop listening to scientists? Please read the headlines from India, where they truly believed they had things under control, until new variants took over and their health system is now overwhelmed. Yes, scientists can err on the side of being too cautious. But ask the families of the 580,000 Americans who have died to see how many are happy that the politicians decided to err on the side of recklessness.

  2. Unfortunately I own a business in Marion County. My customers can just drive 3 or 4 miles away and not have to put up with this nonsense.

    1. If anyone would really go to inconvenience of driving 8 miles out of their way, roundtrip, just to avoid briefly wearing a thin mask for a short period of time while they make a purchase, then not only are they ridiculous and in need of having their head examined, they are not particularly loyal customers and most likely a nightmare to deal with for every other customer service issue. You are better off without them, and your business will do just fine.

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