INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana advanced its reopening plan as of July 4, but only a half-step toward a full reopening.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb deemed the step “Stage 4.5,” a measure meant to take the state just shy of its fifth and final stage of its Back on Track reopening plan.
Some recent upticks in cases and hospitalizations in Indiana, as well as rising case counts in neighboring states and other parts of the nation gave state officials enough pause to delay a full-scale reopening for another two weeks. The next change could take place July 18.
Indiana was originally scheduled to hit Stage 5 on July 4, which would represent full capacity reopening of all businesses as well as clear the way for large festivals and events and remove limitations on gathering sizes.
Indiana’s numbers, however, as well as national numbers on new COVID-19 cases, especially huge surges in some other states that fully reopened before Indiana, are of concern right now.
Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box noted that states that have been seeing huge surges in cases, including Florida, California, Texas and South Carolina, have either had to pause or even roll back on restrictions.
“We just have to accept the fact, more than recognize it, but accept it, that this virus is on the prowl and it’s moving even within our borders,” Holcomb said. “We are living on virus time, so to speak, so we’re taking that into account. All we try to control is what we can control.”
The shift to Stage 4.5 didn’t impact holiday gatherings or other events, but mainly will push pause on increases in capacity for restaurants, bars, nightclubs and fitness centers to 100%.
Contact tracing on large outbreaks in other states have often traced back to those types of establishments, which is why the state will wait a little longer on those.
Festivals and larger gatherings also seemed to be OK, as Holcomb talked about outdoor events being able to proceed, although it’s not particularly clear whether large indoor events — like high school graduations scheduled for early July in northeast Indiana — are still fine.
Holcomb said that the 250-person gathering limit that was set in Stage 4 would be staying in place.
“While the social gathering limitations remain at 250 people, it is possible for a school district to hold graduation with more than 250 attendees if they can comply with the requirements of a multi-site venue and guidance issued by DOE,” the governor’s office said, in an email reply.
Stage 4.5 for the most part means our capacities will stay at the same level.
“We will give the green light or green flag to mostly outdoor activities, events that Hoosiers are especially going to enjoy this weekend,” Holcomb said.
The extra two weeks will give Indiana more time to monitor its COVID-19 numbers and see whether the short-term uptick is a blip in the chart or the sign of a new surge to come.
“For the most part, this gives all of us a little more additional time to manage our way through this,” Holcomb said. “I said at the very outset in the very first week I wanted Indiana to be through this the safest and swiftest and surest way possible.”
If everything goes well, Indiana could advance to Stage 5 on July 18.