INDIANAPOLIS — As the current stay-at-home order for Marion County is set to expire Friday, Indianapolis Mayor Hogsett said that Indianapolis is now on the path to an incremental reopening.
On Wednesday, Hogsett announced the first steps, including portions of the “Back on Track Indiana” Stage 2 to begin for the city on Friday, May 15 including the following:
• On May 15 limits on public gatherings, including religious services, will be increased to 25 people or fewer.
• Non-essential retail stores, including those at malls, may reopen at 50 percent capacity with social distancing.
• Indianapolis Public Library branches may begin providing curbside pickup only.
• Beginning May 22, restaurants may open for outdoor seating with strict social distancing guidelines. Indoor seating at 50 percent is possible as soon as June 1.
• Salons and other personal services are targeted for June 1 reopening with social distancing, if data allows.
• Non-essential manufacturing and industrial activities is also targeted for June 1.
Note: Scroll to the bottom of this story to read an easy guide and the detailed press release from the City of Indianapolis.
On Friday, Indianapolis will begin moving restrictions on in-person gatherings, including religious worship, from 10 to 25 people. The qualified reopening of non-essential retail at 50% capacity will also begin, and shopping malls will reopen subject to restrictions on capacity and food service.
Most other counties in Indiana are already in Stage 2 of Governor Holcomb’s “Back On Track Indiana” plan, where restaurants are able to have customers dine-in at half-capacity and salons are open.
Hogsett added that on Friday, May 22, in-person dining will be permitted in restaurants that provide outdoor seating and enforce strict social distancing guidelines for patrons and PPE for employees.
The mayor went over certain aspects that will not take effect. Namely, non-essential industrial and manufacturing will remain closed, as well as hair and nail salons. In-person restaurant dining will remain restricted.
Hogsett said those restrictions could possibly be lifted on June 1.
“Until there’s a vaccine, we cannot completely stop the spread of COVID-19, but based on the hard work of the Marion County Public Health Department – and each and every resident of our city – we are more confident than ever that we can manage this outbreak and adopt policies that protect our most vulnerable populations, while slowly reopening sectors of our local economy,” said Mayor Hogsett.
Hogsett thanked Indiana Governor Holcomb for allowing more restrictive guidelines for local government and their unique challenges and said, “The data may look scientific, but the numbers and charts aren’t just facts and figures, they are people.”
Marion County, along with Monroe and Cass Counties, have all been under extended orders, so businesses have not been able to get back to a sense of normalcy. Marion County also makes up 30 percent of the state’s coronavirus cases and another 29 percent of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.
The mayor said that Indianapolis is making these decisions to reduce likelihood that it returns in the future.
Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County Health Department gave a more detailed explanation of the loosening restrictions and said, “Social Distancing is working as our metrics continue to trend downward.”
Dr. Caine also announced that Indianapolis Public Libraries will begin curbside pickup of materials.
Dr. Caine was asked what will the city do if COVID-19 cases begin to rise again. She said, “If we don’t meet our benchmarks, we will have to go back to Stage 1.”
Hogsett added, “These are not decisions made based on public opinion, these are decisions made based on public health. But we are phasing in Phase 2. If the data starts to show that there will be an uptick, then we will have to make adjustments accordingly.”
When asked about the Fourth of July and the Brickyard 400 weekend, the mayor said it’s too early to tell. He said the city has been in constant communication with racing officials, and IMS is “examining many, many different scenarios” as to what the July 4th weekend will look like.
The mayor was asked about protests around the city and how it affects its health goals. Hogsett called it “a concern”. He said Indianapolis is asking people that are passionate about these issues to be mindful about public health and COVID-19’s continued impact.
Dr. Caine was asked about the reopening of public schools. She said they do not have the data yet to say. The goal is to be open by Fall, but it will depend on Indiana and surrounding states’ increased travel and other factors, she said.
“It’s too early to make that determination. We are going to be monitoring what’s going to be happening with the governor and the entire state and the Department of Education.”