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Governor puts Stage 5 on hold: ‘This virus is on the prowl’

Holcomb announces Stage 4.5; Stage 5 now set for July 18

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BACK ON TRACK - Gov. Eric Holcomb speaks during a press conference today. 

As states around the country experience surges in cases of COVID-19 – and some counties within Indiana – Gov. Eric Holcomb today announced Stage 5, which Indiana was set to enter on Saturday, has been put on hold.

Instead, Holcomb announced Stage 4.5, which runs from July 4 to 17. In this stage, most of the current restrictions will remain the same for the next two weeks, but the half-stage will give the green light to “mostly outdoor activities.”

“Nationwide, positive cases collectively are at a peak level, primarily in some certain areas but, again, across the whole country. So that just underscores the fact that what we’ve said every week is this virus is on the prowl, and in some places, it’s gaining momentum. It’s not slowing down. That spread is not slowing down. It’s doing the opposite, and that’s why you see a number of states that actually, even though they reopened recently, they’re now going back and closing some of those facilities, closing some of that economy.

“We don’t want to find ourselves in that situation, and so understanding that July 4th is right around the corner where we celebrate our independence, we wanted to make sure that we were all on the same page going into this weekend as we were looking to go from Stage 4 to Stage 5,” said Holcomb during a press conference this afternoon.

While Stage 5 was postponed in part due to increasing cases seen across the nation, though Indiana was “largely holding steady,” Holcomb said Indiana has seen an uptick in hospitalizations which also gave him “pause to push pause.”

Now, Stage 4.5 will run from July 4 to 17, and restrictions that continue are:

• Social gatherings following the CDC’s social distancing guidelines will be limited to up to 250 people. This limit applies to wedding receptions, parties, and other events where people are in close physical contact for extended periods of time, particularly indoors.

• State government building access available by appointment. State employees are required to wear masks in public areas, with exceptions.

• Dining room food service may operate at up to 75-percent capacity as long as social distancing is observed.

• Bar seating in restaurants may operate at 50-percent capacity as long as social distancing is observed.

• Bars and nightclubs may operate at 50-percent capacity adhering to social distancing guidelines.

• Cultural, entertainment, and tourism sites may operate at 50-percent capacity. This includes museums, zoos, aquariums, and like facilities.

• Movie theaters, bowling alleys, and similar facilities may operate at 50-percent capacity, adhering to social distancing guidelines.

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• Raceways may operate at 50-percent grandstand capacity.

• Venues may operate at a 50-percent capacity with adherence to social distancing guidelines.

What opens in Stage 4.5:

• K-12 school operations may begin the 2020-21 academic year on July 1; extra-curricular, co-curricular activities may resume July 6.

• Pari-mutuel horse racing and county and state fair racing may begin with 50-percent spectator capacity.

• Fairs, festivals, and other similar outdoor events may open with restrictions.

• Youth overnight camps may open.

• Conventions may resume following the Gatherings and Meetings Guidelines of Executive Order 20-32, which outlines how single and multiple-site venues may operate. Masks are highly recommended for all participants.

All counties will enter Stage 4.5 Saturday, except for Elkhart County. Elkhart County will remain in Stage 4 through July 17.

“We just have to accept the fact – more than recognize it but accept it – that, again, this virus is on the prowl, and it is moving. And it’s moving even within our borders and different counties in our state, different positivity rates,” Holcomb said. “We are living on virus time, so to speak, and so we’re taking into account all we try to control is what we can control, our own action, our own behavior, our own conduct. We know there are things we can do to slow the spread, especially as we await therapeutics and a vaccine.”

Planned events, such as fireworks shows and parades, are still cleared to go on. Also given the go-ahead still are fairs, conventions, and other festivals. Holcomb encouraged those attending such events to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Holcomb said preliminary research shows that the risk of transmission is up to 19 times less likely when outdoors as compared to indoor activity. He said that research has been supported within the state, as major outbreaks have been tied to indoor transmission.

To read more on Indiana’s Back on Track plan, visit backontrack.in.gov.