Indiana will remain in Stage 4.5 on the Indiana Back on Track plan through Aug. 27, according to Gov. Eric Holcomb during a press conference today.
The state originally was set to enter Stage 5 on July 4, and that was pushed back to July 31 after Stage 4.5 was created. As Stage 4.5 continues, local governments may choose to impose more stringent guidelines if they choose.
"I'm optimistic by nature, but I'm also optimistic about where we're heading. And with some recent requirements and recommendations, I think we can get there," said Holcomb. "I want to be safe not sorry, so this gives us kind of that runway that we're seeing throughout the country and other states that have introduced similar requirements to get those positivity rates down. So, we're hopeful, but we have to do everything we can."
The delay comes as Indiana has been reporting high daily rates of COVID-19. Over the last week, there have been more than 6,400 new positive cases, which is roughly 10 percent of all of the cases identified in Indiana since the beginning of March.
Currently, there are 216 testing sites around the state, and testing continues to increase. To date, 724,238 Hoosiers have been tested, up from 654,000 a week ago.
More than 900 people in Indiana presently are hospitalized with COVID or with symptoms of COVID, and this number continues to tick upward. However, the daily hospital admissions for COVID have dropped from a high of 121 people on May 4 to 53 on July 23.
As restriction remain in place, Holcomb encouraged Hoosiers to continue to maintain social distancing, wear masks, and practice good hygiene.
"What I'm reminded of on a daily basis is this virus will take what we give it, and so it's incumbent upon us to be on our best behavior," said Holcomb.
According to Dr. Kristina Box, commissioner of the ISDH, contact tracing in Indiana has been successful. During June, just over 77 percent of cases were able to be contacted, and from July 1 to July 20, nearly 80 percent of cases were successfully contacted.
Box said contract tracing has been valuable in helping prevent the spread of the virus. For example, when a staffer tested positive for COVID-19 at a church camp in the state, contact tracers worked to contact the individuals the staffer was in close contract with, and 40 of the 50 camp staff from at least eight different states wound up testing positive. Because of the contact tracing, those individuals had been quarantining, she said.
There have been at least 75 other cases traced to camps, family reunions, church events, graduation parties, bachelor parties, and weddings. At least 11 cases have been traced to two bachelor parties in southwestern Indiana.
"We suspect there may have been more because people refused to name close contacts from many of those parties," Box said.
Further, at least 60 people were exposed to a case at a prom in Indiana.
"These are all real world examples and allowed us to pinpoint the source of an infection and to notify individuals so that they can protect others from COVID," Box said. "Having people willing to tell us where they were and who there were with while they were ill significantly reduces the spread of COVID. So we encourage any Hoosier who gets a phone call or a text from our contact tracers to please respond."
During the press conference, Holcomb also announced the moratorium on evictions from rental properties and the prohibition on filing foreclosures will be extended through Aug. 14.