‘Wear a mask, get vaccinated, be aware’ Doctor warns ahead of event-filled weekend in Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS — There’s no shortage of events and fun things to do around the city this weekend. From the Brickyard Doubleheader to the Indiana State Fair, Colts preseason game and the Indianapolis Italian Street Festival – area doctors stress caution and awareness.

This week alone more than 15,000 Hoosiers tested positive for COVID-19 as the Delta Variant continues to surge across the state. 

Doctors recommend vaccination, first and foremost, paired with masking ahead of the busy weekend filled with events. 

“We need to have a good time. That’s the problem. I think people have been dying to get out and have a good time,” Italian Festival Kitchen Team Lead Lisa Meister said. “I think with everyone listening to, you know, the CDC guidelines, I think – I feel people are more comfortable now and the people that are comfortable will come.”

The Italian Street Festival in Indianapolis at Holy Rosary Church is making up for lost time this weekend. The event was canceled last year, the year before, the two-day event, was halved due to severe weather. That won’t happen this year, but to be safe they pushed the June festival back two months. 

“You couldn’t have asked the good Lord for better weather,” Meister said. “This year the fest was pushed back by two months in hopes to avoid another surge. We wanted to make sure that everybody was safe and felt comfortable to come and I say we got a large area and space here at Lacy Park so a lot of area to spread out.”

You don’t need to be Italian to enjoy the festival fares, there’s likely something here for everyone. 

“We’ve got deep-fried ravioli, cannolis, spaghetti and meatballs, meatball sandwiches, meatballs on a stick, adult beverages like beer and wine,” Meister said. “Oh, and who could forget our hot sausage, blessed by the Pope himself, hot peppers and onions! It’s a little taste of Italy around here.”

Doctors hope you’ll enjoy the events with caution. 

“Be aware if you’re in crowded situations, indoors or outdoors that you are trying to socially distance if possible, if you’re eating or drinking… that you keep that mask on at all times when you’re around people that you don’t know,” Community Health Network SVP, Chief Medical Officer Robin Ledyard said. “Our best mitigation strategies are still to wear a mask, to be vaccinated, and to just be aware.”

Which is exactly what Barbara Hey was doing at the fair by wearing a mask. 

“I’ve always enjoyed this Italian Festival and I was just really excited to come back and I was coming back no matter what,” Hey said. “My husband is immune-compromised so I wear this for him, but I still think with this Delta Variant that we need to protect ourselves and other people.”

The same rules, or lack thereof, apply in Speedway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Double Header event this weekend. 

“Masks are encouraged, especially indoors, so if you’re going to one of the restrooms or you’re waiting in line at a concession stand, throw that mask on, but when you’re in the grandstands, you’re welcome to not wear your mask,” President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said. “We’re not requiring it anywhere. We’re just trying to continue to remind people to take care of their neighbors and recognize some people have a different comfort level than others.”

To highlight the severity of the situation in Indiana, Ledyard says hospitalizations due to COVID have quadrupled in the last four weeks. Of all those hospitalized, only two percent were vaccinated.

Admission to the Italian Street Festival is free. Free parking can be found across the street at Eli Lily.

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