Coronavirus Indiana: IN reports 662 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths; Whiting closes Whihala Beach indefinitely

Indiana school districts grapple with reopening decisions
WHITING, Ind. (WLS) -- Indiana is reporting 662 new COVID-19 cases and 13 additional deaths Tuesday.

The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed a total of 52,685 positive coronavirus cases in the state, including 2,582 deaths. There have been 578,409 tests conducted, with a 9.1% positivity rate.

The city of Whiting announced it will close Whihala Beach effective July 15 until further notice due to public safety concerns. Indiana beaches have attracted unusually large crowds, city officials said, which makes social distancing requirements and other CDC guidelines difficult to comply with.

The amount of sand area is also reduced due to Lake Michigan's high water levels.

"We've witnessed an alarming disregard of all Covid-19 protocol and park supervision in recent weeks. We no longer feel confident that we can provide a reasonably safe 'health' environment for our patrons," said Whiting Mayor Joe Stahura.

One of Indiana's largest school districts announced Monday that it will not reopen schools this fall after previously approving plans to reopen with a brick-and-mortar option.

The announcement by Washington Township schools follows threats by President Donald Trump to hold back federal money if districts don't allow students back in class in the fall.

Other school leaders around the state have started to announce their reentry plans, though uncertainty remains whether those plans will include options for students to enter physical classrooms. The Washington Township school board has decried the lack of specific guidance from the state on how to proceed.

More Indiana cities are also imposing mask mandates as health officials reports the state's most hospitalizations of people with coronavirus-related illnesses in nearly a month.

West Lafayette's mayor announced Monday an immediate requirement that face coverings be worn in public places, citing the expected upcoming return of Purdue University students among the risks for spreading COVID-19.

A mask requirement is scheduled to take effect Wednesday in Evansville, following similar mandates in Indianapolis and three northern Indiana counties.

Hospitals around the state had 767 coronavirus patients as of Tuesday, which is the most since June 19.

Holcomb said the state could expect a temporary pause in increasing capacity at restaurants, bars and entertainment venues because the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized and admitted daily has increased during the past week. The daily positivity rate has also ticked up slightly, he said.

"This virus is on the prowl and in some places gaining momentum, not slowing down," Holcomb said. "Some states that reopened are now going back and closing some facilities. We don't want to find ourselves in that situation."

The state moved to Phase 4 of its reopening plan ahead of schedule. But Phase 5, which was supposed to begin July 4, has been be 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.

RELATED: Here's where to find coronavirus testing in Northwest Indiana

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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