Holcomb ends weekly COVID briefings, Indiana to move forward with mask advisory

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INDIANAPOLIS––As of Wednesday, all Hoosiers 16 years old and older are now eligible to be vaccinated. 

“Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box before relaying the latest COVID-19 response information to Hoosiers during Wednesday’s news conference.

As of Wednesday morning, 5.4 million Indiana residents are now eligible to sign up. Dr. Box also noted residency restrictions have been removed to make it easier for students and those without proper residency documentation. “We want to remove every barrier,” she said. 

Governor Holcomb announced an 8-week mass vaccination site planned in Gary as part of a federal partnership, as well as additional mobile units to be dispersed throughout northern Indiana.

The briefing also followed Governor Holcomb’s announcement ending the statewide mask mandate. Local health officials have been weighing the decision whether to continue requiring masks at the county level or follow the state. County officials have until April 6 to make their decisions.

Holcomb also confirmed Wednesday’s briefing is the last regularly scheduled public health press conference. Holcomb said he reserves the right to call future conferences as necessary.

Dr. Box provided an update on vaccination rates in Indiana. She said we must remain cautious as we continue to battle variants.

“We can not behave as if the pandemic is over,” said Dr. Box after reporting that the state’s positivity rates and hospitalizations have ticked up slightly, as well as the presence of said COVID variants. She said health officials “will continue to monitor closely.” 

When asked about the difficulty of reimposing restrictions should these negative trends continue, Holcomb said, “it’s not just one number I focus on. We do want to do all we can to reduce the spread. This is not ‘mission accomplished’, there is some personal responsibility to be demanded.” 

On Monday, President Biden reiterated his call for every governor, mayor and local leader to maintain and reinstate the mask mandate. In a statement, Governor Eric Holcomb’s office responded by saying: “The state continues to move ahead.”

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear also urged Holcomb to reconsider. In response, Holcomb said Wednesday, “Governor Bashir has my cell phone number, he has not contacted me. I’m paying attention to the numbers in Indiana, and what’s in the best interest for Hoosiers.”

ISDH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lindsay Weaver reported that 60,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are going to Indiana colleges to vaccinate students. She also announced that Indiana hopes to open vaccine eligibility up to 12-15 year olds by the summer.

In the meantime, Dr. Weaver encouraged all eligible Hoosiers to make an appointment. “The best way to protect your children … is to get vaccinated yourself,” she said.

Health experts at the Regenstrief Institute believe there will be a surge in appointments, however they see younger people following a similar trend to Hoosiers in their 40s and 50s. Those populations saw less interest in the vaccine than people older than 60.To schedule a vaccination appointment, visit Ourshot.In.Gov or call 211 if you do not have access to a computer or require assistance.

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