Indiana forges ahead into next reopening phase
INDIANAPOLIS (WLS) -- Indiana reported 921 new COVID-19 cases and three deaths Sunday.
The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed a total of 117,450 positive coronavirus cases in the state, including 3,354 deaths.
In the last 24 hours, officials have conducted 22,801 tests, with a seven-day positivity rate of 4%.
Indiana moved into the final phase of reopening Saturday.
Merrillville resident Nikki Laster said she could not be happier about the reopening as she enjoyed the relaxed restrictions over breakfast with a friend.
"It was great. It was one thing to have to wear these masks all day, but to get out and smell the fresh air and see the scenery, it was great," Laster said.
Nearly three months after suspending Indiana's reopening plan, Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday announced the state will move to the final phase -- Stage 5.
A statewide mask mandate will remain in place until at least October 17.
Hoosier Mike Lucko said its about time the state moved to the final stage of reopening.
"I'm not a fan of it . I don't think the masks do what they are supposed to do. When other people get freaked out because you're not wearing a mask, I think they are ignorant because they don't know what they are talking about completely," Lucko said.
The final phase means that fitness centers can fully open along with restaurants and bars, but with guidelines in place.
The move came right on time for Sophia's Famous Pancakes in Schererville.
Family-owner for 18 years, Bill Lalezas said his newest location on US-30 has really struggled.
Relaxed restrictions means Lalezas can operate his 240 sear eatery at capacity but still allow for social distancing.
"We've spaced them apart. We've got glass partitions everywhere. We were all very concerned at the beginning. I think we are ready to move on at this point," he said,
While most said they looked forward to taking another step toward to what feels like "normal," Yolanda Bracey and her family remained cautiously optimistic.
"It just depends on your comfort level I guess. I think we're going to Phase 5 too soon, but we shall see," Bracey said.
Moving into the final phase means restaurants, bars and fitness centers can fully open, but with guidelines in place.
Gatherings of more than 500 people will still need the state's approval and Indiana's statewide mask mandate will remain in effect.
It was a quiet Friday afternoon at one Indiana gym, with few people are getting their workouts in. A few more were seen shooting hoops nearby.
Most out and about in the state say they feel encouraged the state is moving to Phase 5 and opening up a bit more starting this weekend, however none say it suggests COVID-19 is no longer a threat.
"It's still out there but as long as we are maintain our social distancing and everything, we should be fine," said Giselle Iniguez.
"I think it's a good idea as long as we follow proper protocols," said Tommy Myers.
The new guidelines will allow more capacity in workout classes. The basketball gym will also be open to play games and scrimmage rather than just shooting around individually.
The Hammond YMCA has stringent COVID-19 protocols in place, including a thermal temperature reading as you enter the door, as well as social distancing. The rules are something the director says will not change once the new phase begins Saturday.
"A lot of our safety will still stay the same," said YMCA Executive Director Emily Packard.
While restaurants and bars will now be able to increase capacity, most say they will continue to encourage social distancing, and masks will still be mandatory for the time being.
Nevertheless most are looking forward to taking another step toward normalcy.
"It's kind of like a reward, you know. We did good, we listened Indiana, so this is it now," said Patrick O'Hara.
Indiana's public pension funds for state and local government employees, including teachers, has apparently weathered the financial markets' volatility during the coronavirus pandemic, new data from the state show.
The General Assembly's Pension Management Oversight Committee heard Wednesday that the Indiana Public Retirement System increased its pension assets by 2.56% to $30.6 billion during the 2020 budget year, which ran from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports that according to INPRS, the state's prepaid pension programs were 90.6% funded, an increase from their 88.1% funded status at the end of the 2019 budget year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.