Holcomb: End of state mask mandate, gathering limits doesn’t mean an end to the pandemic

(Photo supplied/State Of Indiana)

Governor Holcomb says the end of a state mask order and gathering limits doesn’t mean the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

Holcomb rejects suggestions the end of a state mask mandate reflects pressure from fellow Republicans in the legislature, who have been debating bills to limit governors’ emergency powers. He maintains the administration’s track record speaks for itself, and says he’ll take action again if the pandemic gains momentum again.

“This is by no means a ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment. This is a ‘Proceed With Caution,'” Holcomb says.

But while Holcomb agrees with state health commissioner Kristina Box that the pandemic is “far from over,” he says what’s different now is that most of those at the greatest risk have been vaccinated. About three-quarters of Hoosiers over 70 are fully vaccinated, and nearly two-thirds of those in their 60s. The state opened vaccinations to Hoosiers in their 50s five weeks ago, and Box says about half have made their appointments, though only a quarter of that group are fully vaccinated.

And Holcomb says hospitals have the resources now to handle another surge if there is one.

Indiana’s positivity rate has been inching up again, but has remained under four-percent for nearly a month. That’s less than a quarter of where it was at its peak in December. Hospitalizations are near record lows, and deaths have declined as well.

Holcomb and Box are both urging Hoosiers to continue wearing masks, even though it’ll no longer be a statewide requirement April 6. And Box says she wants as many people as possible vaccinated as quickly as possible, in hopes of staying ahead of more dangerous variants. Fewer than 100 cases of a British mutation have been identified in Indiana so far, but Box says its higher infectiousness makes it a concern.

The state health department will hold a second round of mass vaccination clinics at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month, from April 1-3, 13-18 and 24-30.

Holcomb and health commissioner Kris Box are still urging Hoosiers to mask up, even though it won’t be required. Box says while a British COVID variant is still rare in Indiana, it’s still cause for concern.

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