Editorial: It’s time for city’s mask mandate to go

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We have generally been supportive of the steps that Mayor Joe Hogsett and the Marion County Public Health Department have taken to try to protect residents during the pandemic.

We have appreciated that the decisions have been based—as far as we can tell—on science and Centers for Disease Control and Prevent recommendations.

We suspect it hasn’t always been easy for Hogsett and the county’s health director, Dr. Virginia Caine, to stick to their guns in the wake of criticism by some restaurants, retailers and other businesses who believe capacity limits and other restrictions have gone too far. We applaud their determination.

But we were surprised to see on Wednesday that the city and county are waiting until June 7 to ease its current pandemic-related restrictions.

The CDC said last week that it’s safe for vaccinated people to be indoors without masks, prompting a number of communities that have imposed even stricter limits than Indianapolis to eliminate their mandates for face coverings and limits on the number of people who can gather indoors.

We expected Indianapolis to take similar steps this week.

Instead, Hogsett and Caine said that they want to keep the current restrictions in place until June 7 to give more people time to be vaccinated and for big events such as the Indy 500, proms and graduations to take place under current restrictions.

We don’t think that will be particularly productive. Vaccines have been available to all Indiana adults for weeks now. With a few exceptions, those who want to get a vaccine have had the chance to do so. Another few weeks is not likely to result in significantly more people getting a shot.

And those who have received vaccines are eager to get out and do more—without the restrictions that remain in place. We think the science supports that activity.

Of course, Hogsett and Caine can’t act alone. As you’ll probably recall, the Legislature stripped authority to impose restrictions like mask mandates away from local health departments. Now, any restrictions that go further than state rules require approval by a local legislative body—which in Indianapolis is the City-County Council, which meets next on (you guessed it) June 7.

But we’re disappointed that Hogsett and Caine didn’t call for the council to meet sooner. And we’re further frustrated by some of the restrictions that will remain even if the council agrees to the recommendations.

Caine plans to recommend loosening capacity limits for large gatherings, including allowing 100% capacity for religious services, 50% for indoor sporting events and 75% for bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. Appointments would no longer be required for personal services, although social distancing will be recommended.

Oddly, capacity limits for outdoor sporting events will remain at 50% under Caine’s recommendations.

There’s time between now and June 7 for city and county officials to review their recommendations—or to act sooner. We encourage Caine and Hogsett to reconsider.•


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