Marion County easing some, not all, pandemic restrictions

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said Friday that he would ease some pandemic restrictions on businesses in Indianapolis, but not by as much as the rest of the state.

Starting Monday, he said:

  • Indianapolis restaurants, bars, nightclubs and other food businesses can operate at 50% indoor capacity and up to 100% outdoor capacity. That’s up from 25% for bars. Restaurants were already allowed to operate at 50% indoors. They will still be required to close at midnight.
  • Live entertainment can resume at bars, clubs and performance venues, but only with a 10-foot buffer between stages and audiences. Audiences must practice social distancing.
  • Museums, cultural and entertainment venues will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity.
  • Gyms and fitness centers may expand from 25% to 50% capacity.
  • Church and funeral services may be held indoors at 75% capacity.
  • Assisted living facilities may open for indoor visitation.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday he was moving Indiana to Stage 5 of the Back on Track recovery plan starting on Saturday, a move that essentially lifts all restrictions, except for some social distancing requirements and regulatory conditions for larger crowds. The state has been in Stage 4.5 since July 1.

Holcomb’s executive order allows local governments to impose more restrictive guidelines. Marion County has issued more stringent orders than the rest of the state throughout the pandemic.

Hogsett said Marion County’s seven-day COVID-19 testing-positivity rate has fallen to 4.8%, down from 5.6% at the beginning of the month. He said improving conditions made it possible to ease some restriction, but he wanted to see further improvement before fully opening to avoid a backslide.

Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Department of Public Health, said Thursday morning during IBJ’s Health Care & Benefits Power Breakfast panel discussion that she wasn’t ready to lift all restrictions in Marion County.

Bar owners in Indianapolis have been especially critical of the county’s more restrictive measures. Earlier this week, the owners of 20 taverns and nightclubs filed suit against the city and health department, over what they called “arbitrary and unreasonable” pandemic rules.

Caine said the public health measures, and residents abiding by them, have led to incredible gains in slowing community spread of COVID-19.

At the beginning of August, the county was reporting about 150 new cases a day. Now, that number has fallen to about 85, she said.

Caine said in order for Marion County to fully reopen, she first wants to see the number of new cases a day drop to 35, based on guidance from the CDC. And the seven-day positivity rate in Marion County must stay below 5%.

“If we can get down to 35 new cases per day for two weeks and our positivity remains under 5% for two weeks, Mayor, you can shout ‘Hallelujah.’”

Caine predicted Friday that may not happen until November. But she said it’s likely indoor capacity at restaurants and bars will be allowed to increase as the weather gets colder.

Hogsett acknowledged that residents and business owners in Marion County are growing frustrated with the restrictions, especially as the rest of the state moves to the next stage. But he said because of Marion County’s size—it’s nearly twice as populous as Indiana’s second largest county, Lake, and has more residents than the eight counties surrounding it combined—the approach for reopening has to be different.

“Because of the population density, our approach will differ from rural and suburban counites,” he said. “Frankly, it would be irresponsible if it did not. However, our approach will always be guided by the best available data and the consultation of health experts.”

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18 thoughts on “Marion County easing some, not all, pandemic restrictions

    1. I drive all over the northside of Marion County and they look fine. I was downtown last weekend and it looked good as well.

    1. Indeed. All of our “leaders” at every level like to carve out their own little version of totalitarianism. Makes them feel so important, intellectual and woke.

    2. Umm, familiarize yourself with the concept of population DENSITY. That is the answer to your question.

  1. This has definitely been a rough time for the city but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, this flu season will be better than expected by maintaining proper measures and a vaccine on the horizon. Indy will need everyone’s support to get fully back on it’s feet. It will be to everyone’s benefit whether you live in the city or not. I think they should be planning a big city-wide re-opening celebration for sometime in early 2021 (when safe) to demonstrate Indy’s resilience. Maybe get some national new attention for it. It sounds like many people think Indianapolis is just about the people who live here but is just as much about all the people who come to visit Indy from all over the state and country for business, sporting events, museums, trade shows, and conventions. Almost all cities have had similar economic damage as Indianapolis but when the time is right we need to shout out to everyone both in and outside the state that we are still a premier destination for all of those things.

    1. Sorry, it’s too late. It was already getting worse…I was feeling less safe already leaving work for my car in a garage if I stayed later than standard working hours due to the influx of homelessness growing nearby. People had been attacked. Now it’s out of control along with no place to go…ghost town. The riots and virus restrictions were the proverbial nail in the coffin. The city owed it to its businesses to let them operate and keep them safe…the city created the economic damage. It is not now MY duty to fix it against my better judgement, safety and well being.

    2. This is a good summary of everything going on, and what a city needs to return to normalcy and prosperity. Appreciate your 30,000-foot view – it’s a refreshing change from the typical lunacy and fearmongering happening in these comments.

  2. This is going to be too little too late for many in Marion county. So sad for many local merchants and national merchants as well operating within Marion County and Downtown areas. Property owners downtown should be worried about their values. Such irresponsible management of the city by our Mayor and City council is appalling.

    I am not a Colts attendee but gee, it would have seemed like a good idea to allow “tail-gating” to get some people coming back downtown to the city. Outside – 6 ft apart – behaving just like a state park. Gee Joe – seems like you are bound and determined to let the city go bleak on your watch. No one will forget this 3 years from now, not that this is my biggest concern. I live in Marion County but unfortunately the donut counties are getting more of my dollars. Trying to spend in Marion county is hard to do even when we want to.

    1. No one will forget that this is all the fault of an irresponsible President that lied to all of us about the dangers of this virus. I’m so sick of hearing people complain in these comments about the mayor when every single major city in the country is dealing with similar, or more severe restrictions. Yes, the restrictions are inconvenient and costly for businesses, but it’s better than having hundreds or thousands of unnecessary deaths.

  3. While, I agree that the President should bear some of the blame, individuals that chose to ignore experts need to shoulder some of the burden.
    Too easy to blame this all on politicians and irresponsible to claim that it is not the fault of a portion of the public.

    1. It is easy to ignore the experts when the President of the United States is ignoring the experts and telling you to ignore the experts and every other sentence is claiming “Fake News”. Those poor individuals that bought into the message coming down from the top really are only guilty of being gullible, and not irresponsible or selfish.

  4. I don’t get why it is so difficult for people to just wear a mask which is for the protection of others. Not wearing a mask does not send a supposed message of “you can’t make me”, it sends a real message that “I don’t care about you”. If everyone would wear a mask as asked, I would much more freely shop and spend my dollars at the local businesses that are lamented by the critics. If people won’t wear masks, I will stay home and spend my dollars online.

    1. Agreed. And I’d really rather NOT spend my dollars online because I’ve had a lot of missing mail and packages from the post office lately, but if I go somewhere and see people disregarding the mask rule, then I won’t be taking my business there!

    1. A lot of the numbers really do seem somewhat arbitrary at this point. I would like to know the rationale as well.

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