PRINCETON — A year to the day he ordered Indiana’s “hunker down” emergency order to help flatten the COVID-19 curve, Gov. Eric Holcomb announced vaccines will be available to anyone age 16 and older — and set timelines for easing other restrictions.

Holcomb said in a statewide address Tuesday evening that he will renew Indiana’s public health emergency executive order for another 30 days when it expires March 31. He said keeping the health emergency declaration in place allows continued access to relief funds and gives people with health issues more time to get their vaccines.

The governor said Indiana is on target to receive large increases in the amount of vaccine shipped to the state beginning in the last week of March, and beginning March 31, any Indiana resident age 16 and older can register to receive free vaccination at nearly 500 sites across the state.

Holcomb said the state is also working on more mass vaccination clinics and new vaccination clinics in the workplace of large employers.

Easing COVID-19 restrictions April 6

Beginning April 6, Holcomb said that while the state health department will continue to provide community spread metrics for the virus, the metrics will be guidelines for local consideration, not requirements. “Starting April 6, all decisions about venue capacity will be in the hands of local officials,” he said, emphasizing that social distancing is still recommended, and all businesses should maintain a response plan.

The statewide mask mandate in public gatherings is also downgraded to a mask advisory beginning April 6. Holcomb said a mask is still mandatory at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, at state buildings and in local schools this school year. “Local governments, businesses may impose more stringent guidelines,” he said, “whether that is a bank branch lobby or county courthouse or city hall or store or the manufacturing plant floor. They should be afforded the respect and compliance of all who visit them. I will continue to appropriately wear a mask.”

Holcomb said he hopes that local schools can provide full-time in-person instruction next school year with extra local, state and federal resources.

Looking back

Looking back on the past year, Holcomb said more than 12,500 Hoosiers have died from COVID-19, among the 550,000 U.S. COVID-19 fatalities. He said the virus was the cause of the single greatest year of loss of life in the nation. “COVID was the leading cause of daily deaths in the U.S. in February, surpassing heart attacks and cancer,” he said.

“Our current cases, positivity rate, hospitalizations and deaths have all dropped drastically since January,” he said, noting that three vaccines have been approved and put to use. “More than 675,000 Hoosiers have tested positive (over the past year)” he said, “but not all positive cases are identified by testing. The total number who have been positive is estimated to be 2.5 times the number the positive lab tests showed.

“What has been the real life and death game changer has been access to vaccines,” he said, noting that more than 970,000 Indiana residents have been fully vaccinated.

Holcomb said Indiana’s rebound from the economic shutdown to flatten the COVID curve is progressing. Unemployment prior to the pandemic was 3.1%, jumping to 16.9% during the shutdown, and now at an average 4.2% across the state. He said Indiana has seen 31,000 new jobs in that time, and through federal financial aid in the form of direct payments to residents, unemployment pay enhancement, paycheck protection programs and support to hospitals and schools, more than $37 billion in relief is expected to reach Hoosiers.

Local cases

Gibson County reported one new COVID-19 case among two new tests Tuesday, for a total 4,159 cases including 87 deaths among 14,218 people tested since the beginning of the pandemic.

ISDH reports the county’s rolling seven-day positivity rate at 5.5% for all tests and 12.6% for people tested for the first time.

Some 5,089 Gibson County residents have been fully vaccinated with either the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and 7,892 residents have received their first dose of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.

Vaccinations are available free of charge, by appointment only, to Indiana residents age 40 and older, as well as residents with specific health conditions verified by their health care providers, health care workers, first responders and teachers and support staff.

To register for an appointment, visit ourshot.in.gov. Those who need assistance in registering online can call 211 or visit the Gibson County Area Agency on Aging center or local libraries during regular business hours.

Vaccination clinics in Gibson County include the Gibson County Health Department clinic in the 4-H building at the Gibson County Fairgrounds, at Deaconess Gibson Hospital, and at Williams Brothers and Walmart pharmacies.

COVID-19 testing is available free of charge at the 4-H building at the fairgrounds.

In the area, Knox County reports one new cases including one new death for a total 3,591 cases including 87 deaths among 13,981 people tested; Daviess County reports no new cases, one additional death for a total 2,870 cases including 98 deaths among 11,659 people tested; Pike County reports no new cases for a total 1,287 cases including 34 deaths among 5,027 people tested; Dubois County no new cases for a total 5,998 cases including 113 deaths among 19,657 people tested; Warrick County three new cases for a total 7,541 cases including 155 deaths among 31,384 people tested; Vanderburgh County 10 new cases including one additional death for a total 21,594 cases including 387 deaths among 96,168 people tested; and Posey County no new cases for a total 2,647 cases including 32 deaths among 10,350 people tested.

 

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