PRINCETON — Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday he will issue an executive order Thursday advancing the Back on Track Indiana COVID-19 recovery plan to stage 5, effective Saturday.

Holcomb said the final phase lifting crowd capacity restrictions will be modified from the original phase envisioned when the plan for emerging from a shutdown was created this spring.

Stage 5 removes size limitations on social gatherings, but Holcomb said, “if an event is over 500 people, we’re still asking folks to go to your local health department to get a sign-off on your plan.”

The final stage means restaurants and bars can be open at full capacity, but with physical distancing measures in place. “Not every establishment will be able to operate at what was their previous full capacity to the social distancing that must occur.”

The governor said health officials will continue to monitor data in the event COVID-19 cases rise, and he and Indiana State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box credited residents adhering to the mask mandate and social distancing to the improved case statistics.

Box said wearing masks and handwashing have improved conditions “so we can get back to things we can enjoy, still with some guardrails in place.”

While statewide conditions merited advancing to the final stage, Gibson County’s COVID-19 metrics deteriorated from from mild-to-moderate (yellow) to moderate-severe (orange) over the past week.

Box said Gibson County’s increased positivity rate is due to an outbreak in a congregate living center. “All it takes is one outbreak...it’s absolutely imperative that this is absolutely not a return to life the way we knew it in January or February,” she said.

ISDH data on cases in longterm care facilities reports that 11 residents and 24 staff members at Good Samaritan Home in Oakland City contracted COVID-19. Gibson County’s other longterm care facilities report no resident cases, and fewer than five staff cases per facility, according to ISDH.

ISDH confirmed Wednesday there were four new cases in Gibson County, for a total 489 cases among 5,345 people tested since the pandemic began. The county’s seven-day positivity rate among all Gibson Countians tested is 14.8% and among all tests administered, 7.1%.

In this area, Knox County reports 503 cases and nine deaths among 5,391 people tested; Daviess County 654 cases and 28 deaths among 5,187 people tested; Dubois County 959 cases and 18 deaths among 8,243 people tested; Pike County 141 cases and one death among 1,778 people tested; Warrick County 1,223 cases and 36 deaths among 13,452 people tested; Vanderburgh County 3,494 cases and 30 deaths among 43,178 people tested; and Posey County 309 cases among 4,129 people tested.

In Southeastern Illinois, the Illinois Department of Public Health reports 64 cases in Edwards County, 67 cases in Hamilton, 69 cases and two deaths in Gallatin, 147 cases and one death in Wabash, 161 cases in White, 171 cases and four deaths in Richland, 251 cases and two deaths in Lawrence County, 256 cases and five deaths in Wayne, 299 cases and three deaths in Saline.

Email Andrea Howe at andrea@pdclarion.com

— Email Andrea Howe at andrea@pdclarion.com

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