Indiana Reopening: Holcomb releases plan to open state, ease coronavirus restrictions

INDIANAPOLIS (WLS) -- Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb laid out his plan Friday to reopen the state entirely by July, starting with easing restrictions and opening some businesses around the state while leaving lockdowns in place in others.

Holcomb introduced a 5-stage plan that begins with the relaxing of business restrictions for much of the state, allowing more manufacturers, retailers and shopping malls to open their doors starting Monday under health and social distancing guidelines.

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"But let us never, ever forget for one second that the more than 1,000 Hoosiers we have lost to this disease are not numbers," Holcomb said. "We are doing this together, and together we will overcome this disease."

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The plane has five stages, and the move to stage two for most counties starts Monday.

Not all counties can start relaxing restrictions, however. Holcomb said Cass, Marion and Lake counties must remain under their previous restrictions for the moment. He said Lake and Marion counties may begin to start easing restrictions on Monday, May 11, while Cass County may begin on Monday, May 18, though those dates are not guaranteed.

Holcomb said starting Monday, and then later for those three counties, the state will move to "Stage 2" of reopening. In that phase:

- Essential travel restrictions will be lifted
- Social gatherings of up to 25 people will be permitted, though they must follow CDC social distancing guidelines
- Manufacturers, industrial and other infrastructure operations previously considered non-essential may open

- Retail and commercial businesses may open at 50% capacity
- Shopping malls may open at 50% capacity, with indoor common areas restricted to 25% capacity
- Indoor worship services in all counties may resume starting on May 8
- Restaurants and bars that serve food may reopen at 50% capacity starting on May 11; bar seating must remain closed
- Personal services including hair salons, barber shops, mail salons, spas and tattoo parlors can also reopen on May 11 by appointment only, and must adhere to social distancing guidelines

Holcomb said the goal is to have the state fully open again by July 4.

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Wearing a face mask or covering is strongly encouraged under the plan. Municipalities also have the ability to do less than the order states if they feel it is in the best interest of their residents.

The new executive order also continues to instruct Hoosier age 65 and older and anyone who is immunocompromised or has high-risk health conditions to remain at home.

"We probably have 10,000 people in Hammond not working right now and I think governor Holcomb's approach is very well thought out," said Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott.

And leaders understand phasing out restrictions will take time.

"I believe the governor said 50 percent capacity for restaurants," said Dave Ryan, executive director of the Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce. "So you are figuring the spacing of tables, how that could impact. That's going to be cash flow issues once again for the restuarants."

Holcomb said the state will continue to monitor and respond to the four guiding principles laid out by the federal government: the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients has decreased for 14 days; the state retains its surge capacity for ICU beds and ventilators; the state retains its ability to test all residents showing symptoms, as well as health care workers, first responders and other front line employees; and health officials have a system in place to contact all patients who test positive for COVID-19 and expand contact tracing.

"We have witnessed a spirit of cooperation and caring for others that has touched my heart. May this spirit and appreciation for one another continue long after the torment of COVID19 is behind us," Holcomb said.

For more information about the plan, visit the Indiana government's website.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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