Due to an increase in COVID-19 positivity rates and hospitalizations, Governor Eric Holcomb and state health officials have tweaked how Hoosiers will move forward with pandemic response efforts. 

During his weekly press conference on Wednesday, Nov. 11, Holcomb stated that Indiana, much like many states around the nation, is in the midst of a second surge. In order to address that, the state will be moving away from the ‘Back on Track’ stage method in favor of restrictions that are associated with the color-coded county metrics. 

The Indiana State Department of Health updates the county metric map weekly, with any changes reflected every Wednesday. A color-coded system was developed to report on the prevalence of the novel coronavirus in each of Indiana’s 92 counties. The system measures weekly cases per 100,000 residents and the 7-day all tests positivity rate. Each county is assigned a color based on the average scores for the two metrics. 

The blue designation means that the county has minimal community spread, yellow indicates moderate community spread, orange means that there is moderate-to-high community spread, and red reflects that the county is experiencing high community spread. 

While addressing Hoosiers, Gov. Holcomb expressed concerns about the fact that there are no longer any Indiana counties that are labeled blue. There are a limited number of counties labeled yellow, with the majority of places falling into the orange category and nearly ten counties sitting in the red. 

He added that the switch to Stage 5 back in September seemed to be regarded by some people as an end to restrictions rather than another stage in the pandemic response plan. 

Holcomb explained, “The day we announced Stage 5, and please remember this, our positivity rate was 3.9 percent. We were testing an average of 15,000 Hoosiers a day and our healthcare resources, including ICU beds and ventilators, were in a good place, a manageable place.” 

He continued, “I also said at that time, very deliberately, that we could not let our guard down or change our good habits because we know how and how fast COVID-19 spreads. Unfortunately, too many of us, and around the country, have let our guards down…” 

Since the implementation of Stage 5, the state’s 7-day positivity rate has increased approximately six percent and now stands at around 10.3 percent. 

The governor shared how each and every individual is an important part of the pandemic response process, ““Our frontline medical personnel, our nurses, assistants, and doctors, they’re exhausted and overwhelmed and need us all to the things that we can, on the outside, that will slow the number of patients that need hospitalization and their treatment inside. That’s where we, individually, all come in.”

He added, “We must do all we can to protect our hospital capacity so they can protect patients and care for them, not only for those who have the COVID but for the cancer patient, and the heart patient, and the other Hoosier patients who need care in our urban, rural, suburban hospitals, all across the state of Indiana.”

Gov. Holcomb went on to share that starting this weekend, there will be no more Stage 5. He said while the Back on Track plan was helpful for the state to regain its footing and stabilize the economy, the focus now needs to turn to progressing forward and looking toward “the light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Holcomb went on to outline some of the restrictions that will go into effect on Sunday, Nov. 15 and remain in place for the next month. 

General Pandemic Response Requirements: 

  • Businesses will remain open, but operators and patrons must meet certain requirements when a county is in orange or red status
  • Hospitals should implement evidence-based criteria to reprioritize non-emergent procedures and surgeries to ensure sufficient capacity for all patients
  • Signage stating face coverings must be worn are required at public and employee entrances and only people wearing face coverings should be admitted. 
  • All customers in restaurants, bars, and nightclubs must be spaced 6 feet apart from individuals outside of their household. 
  • Indiana Department of Homeland Security and Alcohol & Tobacco Commission will partner with local officials to continue checking businesses for occupancy, social distancing, and face covering requirements. 

Targeted Pandemic Response Requirements for Orange Counties: 

  • Social gatherings of any kind, inside or outside, are limited to 50 people. 
  • Special, seasonal, or commercial events planned for more than 50 people will require a safety plan to be submitted to and approved by the local health department.
  • Attendance at winter indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular events is limited to 25 percent capacity. 
  • Capacity in common areas and break rooms should be reduced and users should be socially distanced. 
  • Community recreational sports leagues and tournaments may continue with attendance limited to participants, required personnel and parents/guardians only 

Targeted Pandemic Response Requirements for Red Counties: 

  • Social gatherings of any kind, inside or outside, are limited to 25 people. 
  • Special, seasonal, or commercial events planned for more than 25 people ill require a safety plan to be submitted to and approved by the local health department. Officials are advised to not hold such events, with college and professional sports included. 
  • Attendance at winter indoor K-12 extracurricular and co-curricular activities, including IHSAA sports, is limited to participants, support personnel, and parents/guardians. 
  • Local officials may consider limiting hours for the operation of bars, nightclubs, and restaurants. 
  • Community recreational sports leagues and tournaments may continue with participants, required personnel, and parents/guardians only. 
  • Senior care activities suspended 
  • Hospitals, long-term care facilities, and other congregate settings may impose visitation limits 
  • Common areas and break rooms should be closed. 

To assist with local compliance efforts, the state will make $20 million available to local governments to use for compliance efforts, such as reviewing local event plans, public awareness, and enforcement. In order to be eligible for funds, local governments will be asked to support compliance efforts. 

For additional details, visit in.gov.

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