‘No More Stage 5': Indiana Governor to Sign New Executive Order This Weekend

Holcomb said in a coronavirus update that as the state's cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations rise, he plans to sign a new executive order Sunday

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Indiana’s governor announced Wednesday that some coronavirus restrictions are being reinstated after several weeks of sharp increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

Holcomb said in a coronavirus update that as the state's cases, positivity rate and hospitalizations rise, he plans to sign a new executive order Sunday that will bring back some requirements for residents and targeted restrictions for counties seeing large spikes.

"We are in the midst of a second surge," Holcomb said.

The new steps being imposed by Holcomb will limit crowd sizes in counties at the higher-risk levels of coronavirus spread and would cover 87 of the state’s 92 counties as of Wednesday’s update from the state health department.

The executive order starting this weekend will limit crowd sizes to 20 people in the highest-risk red counties and 50 people in the next-riskiest orange counties. The new order will also limit capacity at K-12 sports and extracurricular events.

Holcomb said he was also extending the statewide mask mandate for another month.

Holcomb had decided in late September to lift nearly all of Indiana’s business and crowd size restrictions. Since then, Indiana hospitals have seen a 200% increase in COVID-19 patients and the seven-day rolling average deaths has gone jumped from 10 a day to 38, just short of the state’s peak in late April.

Almost every Indiana county now faces higher-risk levels of coronavirus spread as the state’s sharp increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths has continued since nearly all statewide restrictions were lifted seven weeks ago.

The Indiana Department of Health listed 87 of the state’s 92 counties in the highest two of its four risk levels in its weekly tracking map update released Wednesday, compared to 53 counties that were at those levels last week. The agency assigned the most dangerous red rating to nine counties, all in rural areas of the state. None received the lowest-level blue rating.

Indiana reported more than 5,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, setting a one-day record for the second time in less than a week, as state health officials confirmed 5,156 new positive cases of the virus, along with 31 additional deaths.

The state has now reported a total of 224,374 cases since the pandemic began, with a surge in new cases in recent weeks. The state has also reported 4,512 fatalities related to the coronavirus during the pandemic, with another 250 cases classified as “probable” COVID-19 fatalities.

Indiana’s positivity rate has still continued to climb, with the seven-day positivity rate on all tests currently sitting at 10.3%. When calculated by the percentage of individual residents who have tested positive, that rate currently sits at 19.9% over the last seven days.

Hospitalizations in the state have also continued to spike in recent weeks, hitting another record high, as 2,554 patients are currently hospitalized with coronavirus or coronavirus-like illnesses, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Approximately 30% of the state’s intensive care unit beds are currently in use by coronavirus patients, while 7% of the state’s ventilators are in use by COVID-19 patients.

"There's only so many tools that we have to use to bend the trajectory down," Holcomb said.

Holcomb, who won a second term as governor last week, had previously said he would not make any changes to policy on handling COVID-19, a major point of contention on the campaign trail.

There's “no truth” to rumors that Indiana will shut down again after the election, he said during a briefing on the pandemic one week ago.

The governor has since emphasized the preference for health officials to address virus spread at the county level and adding that “we just don’t make decisions based on politics.”

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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