Movie theaters, bars, museums and amusement parks will be allowed to open Friday across Indiana after the governor announced that he was moving up by two days the next stage of easing the state’s coronavirus restrictions.
A new state order will allow social gatherings of up to 250 people and retail stores and malls to operate at full capacity, Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday. Gatherings have been limited to 100 people and stores to 75% capacity for the past three weeks as such limits have been gradually lifted since early May.
Restaurants will be allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms, while bars, nightclubs, movie theaters and bowling alleys can open at 50% capacity. Casinos can resume operations starting Monday under safety plans submitted to the Indiana Gaming Commission.
Public playgrounds are being permitted to reopen as of Friday but festivals and parades still being prohibited.
This Indiana reopening stage had been scheduled for Sunday. Officials said the earlier action was possible because of continuing declines in the number of COVID-19 infected people hospitalized and availability of intensive care unit beds to treat those most seriously ill.
Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, warned that precautions were still needed to stem the coronavirus spread even as most of the business and travel restrictions first imposed in March are lifted.
“It doesn’t really mean that we go back to the normal — no masks, no social distancing, no careful handwashing, alcoholing your hands,” Box said. “All of those are critical.”
Holcomb said he was still targeting July 4 as the date for when most gathering size and activity restrictions will be eliminated.
Holcomb first declared a public health emergency for the state on March 6 and followed that with a statewide stay-at-home order closing nonessential businesses beginning March 25. The stay-at-home order was lifted on May 4 as the initial easing of restrictions began.
“We can’t let up,” Holcomb said of safety precautions. “We can’t act like this virus isn’t continuing to spread across the state of Indiana, but we have the intensity at a managed level.”