Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced on Friday a five-stage roadmap aimed at "having Indiana back on track by July 4."
Holcomb said the state has been in "stage one" of its coronavirus-fighting plan and over the next few weeks, will begin to move into stage two on a region-by-region basis.
"Nearly all of Indiana will move to stage two this Monday, May 4," he said.
Marion and Lake Counties will not move to stage two until May 11. Cass County can begin on May 18.
Here's what will and won't be allowed under stage two:
- Hoosiers 65 and over and those with high risk health conditions who are the most susceptible to the coronavirus should remain at home as much as possible
- Local governments may impose more strict guidelines
- Essential travel restrictions are eliminated and gatherings of up to 25 people are permitted
- The remaining manufacturers that had not been considered essential will also be able to open
- Retail and commercial businesses will open at 50 percent capacity
- Shopping malls may open at 50 percent capacity with indoor common areas restricted to 25 percent capacity
- Personal services like hair salons barber shops, spas and tattoo parlors also may open may 11 by appointment only
- Restaurants and bars that serve food may open May 11 at 50% capacity, but bar seating will remain closed
- Those who work in offices are encourages to work remotely whenever possible. "If anyone can work from home we encourage you to do so," Holcomb said.
- Starting May 8 for all 92 counties, Indiana worship services may also convene following specific social distancing guidelines. Those 65 and over and those at elevated risk will be asked to stay home. "Church leaders: we need you to keep your congregations safe," Holcomb said.
On May 24, the state will begin transitioning to stage three.
At that time, the state restrictions will allow:
- Individuals at risk, including those over 65 may venture out cautiously
- Those who can work remotely should continue to do so
- Social gatherings up to 100 people may occur
- Retail stores and malls can move to 75% capacity
- Playgrounds, tennis courts, basketball courts, pools, campgrounds, gyms, fitness centers and more may reopen with restrictions and social distancing
"While we're hopeful that we have the momentum to move into this stage later in May, we will be cautious and make the best decisions for Hoosiers based on the situation at that very moment," Holcomb said.
If still on track on June 14, the state will advance to stage 4, which will make face coverings optional, allow social gatherings of up to 250 people, reopen large venues and state buildings, and increase retail stores and malls to full capacity. Recreational sports, leagues and tournaments may also resume in stage four and restaurants can open at 75% capacity.
By July 4, Holcomb said he hopes the state will enter stage five.
"Even in stage five, we will continue to do social distancing," he said.
At that time, the state will determine how to proceed with the upcoming school year.
"As life starts to slowly return to that new normal, making progress towards being fully back on track will require constant vigilance from all of us as we lift restrictions and more people return to work, visit a store or restaurant and participate in more activities," Holcomb said.
Any easing of Indiana’s statewide stay-at-home order won’t limit the authority of city or county officials from imposing tighter restrictions in their attempts to slow the coronavirus that is blamed in the deaths of at least 1,000 people across the state, the governor said.
About 57,000 more people applied for unemployment benefits in Indiana last week as the state continues to see record numbers of newly jobless people stemming from the COVID-19 economic slowdown.
Indiana joins a growing number of states are loosening their shutdown orders.
Indianapolis officials extended the city’s stay-at-home order on Thursday by two weeks through May 15, saying the state’s largest city was still experiencing too many COVID-19 cases to safely relax restrictions. Some other cities and counties around the state also have adopted rules responding to outbreaks in their communities.
Holcomb said he supported Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett’s decision and that the new state order wouldn’t strip away local authority.
“Local jurisdictions can always be stricter than what we have said,” Holcomb said. “This has been the case, not just once, in the state of Indiana. We’ll seek to 100% of the time work with those local officials."
The Indianapolis stay-at-home order will continue a ban on dine-in service at restaurants and the closure of nonessential businesses such as movie theaters, fitness centers and hair salons.
The city has nearly one-third of both Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths and confirmed infections and not enough slowdown in new cases to make resuming normal activity in large venues and densely populated neighborhoods, Hogsett said.
That step might not come soon as the mayor said he hoped Indianapolis “can reopen over the next few months so long as the data dictates that we can.”
Meanwhile, a plan by Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group to reopen its three shopping malls in the city as soon as Saturday was opposed by city officials.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department, said she had “huge concerns” about the malls reopening.
“It would just increase our numbers dramatically, put other citizens at risk considerably, and it may undo all the good work we have put in place related to our shelter-in-place and stay-at-home philosophies,” Caine said.
Simon has also planned to reopen seven other malls around the state. A company spokeswoman didn’t answer questions Thursday about the status of its plans.
Holcomb said he believed Simon would comply with all state and local requirements.
Federal statistics released Thursday show Indiana has had nearly 570,000 people seek jobless aid over the past six weeks. That growth in the unemployed since March 15 is more than five times greater than Indiana’s total of about 105,000 people seeking jobs in February.
More than 30 million people across the country have now filed for unemployment since coronavirus closures started and economists have forecast that the national unemployment rate for April could go as high as 20%.