Mask up Hoosiers

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a new stage to his “Back on Track Indiana” plan that will see a pause in reopening Indiana’s economy. And it won’t be the final Stage 5 of his plan, which was set to begin July 4 and open up the state’s economy to 100 percent capacity in most cases.

Instead, Stage 4.5 will start July 4 and temporarily pauses increases in capacity to restaurants, bars and entertainment venues, among other places.” Holcomb said. “In some places it’s gaining momentum. It’s not slowing down.”

Florida, Arizona, Texas and California have seen recent surges in new cases — with some reporting record single-day numbers. While Indiana has not yet seen a surge, Holcomb said he wants it to stay that way.

“We don’t want to find ourselves in that situation,” Holcomb said.

The new Stage 4.5 will run from July 4-17. Much of Indiana is in Stage 4 of Holcomb’s “Back on Track Indiana” plan, which allows restaurants to be open at 75% capacity, bars open at 50% capacity and some entertainment venues open at 50% capacity. It began on June 12 — two days earlier than planned.

Locally, that means places like Indiana Beach, which opened last weekend for the first time this season, must stay at 50 percent capacity this Independence Day weekend.

July 17 is also the first day of the White County 4-H Fair, which is closed to the public this year because of the COVID-19 health emergency.

Holcomb said reopening decisions are based on health data, not opening dates. Slowing the state’s reopening buys state officials more time to look over the health data

Holcomb and Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Boxon Wednesday also announced a statewide initiative to encourage Hoosiers to wear masks to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

The #MaskUpHoosiers initiative is launching with videos and photos of state government leaders, celebrities, and Hoosiers from all walks of life sharing their heartfelt reasons for wearing a mask in public, which is one of the strongest steps possible to limit the spread of COVID-19, saving lives and allowing the state to continue its phased re-opening.

Additional photos and videos will be featured as the educational campaign progresses.

“The steps that Hoosiers take every time they are around others, be it friends, co-workers, family or strangers, have a direct impact on the spread of COVID-19 and our state’s continued phased re-opening,” Holcomb said. “I thank you for wearing a mask when you are in public and encourage you to reflect on the lives you may be saving.”

Hoosiers interested in participating in the public awareness campaign can download a poster from the website www.coronavirus.in.gov/maskuphoosiers, write in their motivation for wearing a mask and then post a photo or video to social media with the hashtag #MaskUpHoosiers. Neighborhoods, workplaces and organizations are encouraged to get involved.

“Wearing a mask sends a statement that we care about others, and it is one of the best things we can do to protect ourselves and the people around us from COVID-19,” Box said. “Each of us has someone in our lives we want to protect, and I encourage all Hoosiers to think of those individuals when deciding to put on a mask any time you’re in public.”

Individuals with COVID-19 release droplets of the virus when they cough, sneeze, sing or speak. Some of those droplets can travel up to 25 feet. A mask helps contain most of those droplets and can prevent them from infecting others.

A social media toolkit for #MaskUpHoosiers is available on the website and includes posters in English, Spanish, Chinese and Burmese, along with instructions for creating frames for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

More information about COVID-19 can be found at the ISDH website at www.coronavirus.in.gov and on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.