Coronavirus Indiana: IN reports 954 new COVID-19 cases, 17 deaths; Michigan City extends park, beach closures

Indiana attorney general argues state mask mandate illegal
MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. (WLS) -- Indiana is reporting 954 new COVID-19 cases and 17 additional deaths Thursday.

The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed a total of 59,602 positive coronavirus cases in the state, including 2,683 deaths. There have been 666,283 tests conducted, with an 8.9% positivity rate.

Michigan City Mayor Duane Parry extended the closing of Washington Park through midnight July 30. The closure includes Washington Park, the Senior Center, Fedder's Alley, the Zoo and Sunset Grille. The order is subject to further extension.

"I understand we're all going to miss the beach but it will make us love it more later and it will make us fonder of it," said resident Mary Watts.

"I work at the beach and it does affect how many hours I work sometimes," said resident Natalia Ruiz. "I think its a really good idea in order to stop the spread of COVID."

Parry has requested that the Park Board immediately meet to discuss the remainder of park operations this year along with developing new rules and guidelines for Washington Park to adapt to the fluid changes in the pandemic.

The state has extended its current capacity limits for restaurants and bars and other restrictions for at least another two weeks because of an increasing number of coronavirus cases across the state. Holcomb first delayed lifting those limits two weeks ago, but he said Wednesday that a continuing volatile environment in Indiana and other states prompted him to keep them in place for at least two more weeks. Holcomb's decision means Indiana restaurants will continue to be allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms, while bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys, museums and movie theaters can be open at half capacity.

Gov. Eric Holcomb is imposing a statewide face mask mandate starting next week.

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is imposing a statewide face mask order, starting next week.



Holcomb said Wednesday the order will apply to anyone ages 8 and older in any indoor public or business areas and at outdoor public spaces when sufficient distancing can't be maintained. The order will take effect Monday.

Holcomb said his order will also require masks in schools for grades 3 and above by students, teachers and other employees. Holcomb said a renewed growth in the number of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations necessitated the mask order.

But the state's attorney general believes the governor has overstepped his authority in issuing a statewide face mask mandate and that only the Legislature can make violations a criminal offense. Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill issued an advisory opinion Wednesday night, just hours after Holcomb announced the mask order taking effect Monday to help slow the coronavirus spread. The opinion does not block the governor's action. Hill is on his way out of office after failing to win the Republican nomination for reelection following allegations that he drunkenly groped four women.

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The Indiana Dunes National Park has launched a coronavirus safety campaign urging visitors to the northwestern Indiana park to practice social distancing and other precautions when they hit the beach. The Northwest Indiana Times reports that the park's "Think Before You Beach" campaign began Saturday with signs posted around Lake Michigan's shoreline, and with social media posts and videos, reminding visitors to social distance, wear a mask and use public facilities with caution. Park spokesman Bruce Rowe said the campaign "reminds the public that they can catch the virus outdoors on a crowded beach if they are not wearing a mask or properly socially distancing."

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New information on coronavirus-related deaths among Indiana nursing home residents collected by state health officials shows 128 more deaths than previously reported by the facilities.

Those figures released Wednesday increase such COVID-19 deaths to at least 1,390 residents through July 14, making up nearly half of the state's coronavirus deaths since mid-March.

Meanwhile, Indianapolis officials announced Thursday that bars and nightclubs in the city will be closed starting Friday in a reversal they said was prompted by a jump in COVID-19 cases among those younger than 40 years old.

The state moved to Phase 4 of its reopening plan ahead of schedule. But Phase 5, which was supposed to begin July 4, was delayed. Instead, the state entered what it calls "Phase 4.5" on July 4.

Phase 4.5 will be largely the same as Phase 4, Holcomb said. Indiana will keep existing restrictions in place until at least July 18. The state will also continue its current 250-person limit on social gatherings. Since June 12, restaurants have been allowed 75% capacity in their dining rooms, while bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys, museums and amusement parks have been open at half capacity.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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