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Indiana governor drops statewide mask mandate, loosens other pandemic restrictions

Mask mandate becomes mask advisory
Eric Holcomb
Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-23 23:37:04-04

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb Tuesday afternoon downgraded his state's face covering mandate to an advisory and said all residents 16 years and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine by April, along with loosening other pandemic restrictions.

Holcomb's primary message Tuesday was that all decisions regarding COVID-19 precautions and safety measures would be left up to local authorities.

It means business owners like Michael Keith get the final say in how they can handle the pandemic.

"We're just trying to keep people safe, make sure everybody's good to go," he told WCPO. "We tend to follow, obviously, the CDC and the board of health. Those are our big two number ones that we follow all their guidelines and rules."

Holcomb's address focused on local authorities.

"The state department of health will continue to provide county metrics each week, color-coded, which are key to knowing whether virus levels are increasing or decreasing locally, but the metrics will be guidelines for local consideration," Holcomb said.

He gave the news in a primetime address:

Starting April 6, Indiana's statewide mask mandate will downgrade to a mask advisory, and all decisions regarding venue capacity -- including indoor dining and bar and nightclub capacity -- will be left to local authorities, businesses and organizations.

State government buildings and vaccination sites throughout Indiana will continue to require masks "until further notice," and public schools will maintain face-covering requirements through the end of the current school year.

"As always, local governments, businesses and other entities may impose more stringent guidelines, such as choosing to keep mask-wearing mandatory in their facilities," Holcomb said. "Whether that's a bank branch lobby, on the factory floor, or a county courthouse or city hall, they retain the authority to make decisions about COVID decisions for their operations.

"Customers at bars and restaurants and nightclubs will no longer be required to be seated," he said, going on to say that 6 feet of space between non-household tables is still "recommended."

"All businesses should maintain a COVID-response plan that provides COVID safeguards," he said.

Indiana hospitals can also return to pre-pandemic procedures for scheduling non-emergency medical procedures and surgeries.

Keith said he'll continue to follow scientists' advice over politicians': "We'll still try to keep six feet apart. We're doing masks, making sure everybody wears masks when they come in."

Holcomb also said all state residents 16 years or older will be eligible to sign up for vaccination by March 31.