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Indiana to stay in Stage 4.5 for at least 2 more weeks



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Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday that Indiana will stay in Stage 4.5 for at least two more weeks.

State health commissioner Dr. Christina Box said the number of positive cases in Indiana has gone up for two weeks in a row. There have been 4,300 new cases in Indiana in the past week. This is over 1,000 more new cases per week than a month ago. Many of these new cases are among 20-30-year-olds, Box said.

Box said because many other states are experiencing spikes right now, people may have to wait longer for test results. Some people have had to wait over three days for results that usually take about two days at OptumServe testing sites throughout the state.

She said this is out of the health department’s control. The state opened 11 new testing sites this week that will all use Indiana labs, speeding up the wait time of getting results. She said people can expect to get results from these sites within three to five days.

Experts still expect a surge in cases in the fall when flu season begins, which will increase demand for supplies and testing. Box said what the state can do now to keep case numbers low is critical for how the fall will play out.

“Every Hoosier has a role to play in this effort,” Box said. “That means wearing your mask when you’re in public and when you can’t socially distance outside. It means staying home if you are sick. This is especially important if you’ve been tested for COVID and are waiting for results.”

There were 735 new cases reported Wednesday in the state and 15 new cases in Monroe County.

Ventilator availability is still high in hospitals at 84% and only 2.7% of ventilators are being used by COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 hospitalizations have gone up in recent weeks. On June 26, there were 595 hospitalizations and on July 15, there were 827.

The state opened up applications for its rental assistance program Monday and received over 11,000 applications in the first 48 hours. The applications are available in English and Spanish. Households can receive a maximum of $2,000 to help cover past-due rent, late payments and current rent. First payments will be sent to landlords by the first week of August.

Holcomb said mask wearing will not be mandated by the state for now. He said because the number of cases vary widely across the state, he is letting local governments decide whether masks should be mandated by county or city. In Monroe county, a mask-wearing mandate has been discussed but not yet put into place.

The governor said he’s been impressed by the plans colleges and universities have for the fall. IU's plan for the fall includes mandatory mask wearing in campus buildings and class forms being a mix of in-person, hybrid and online until Thanksgiving when all classes will switch to online for the rest of the semester. Box said the state has made sure schools are talking with their local health departments and elected officials about certain regulations such as limiting bar capacity to table-only service.

Holcomb and Box said if numbers of cases continue to trend upward, the state will make decisions accordingly on whether the state needs to take a step back to Stage 4 or put other measures in place.

“We all have a responsibility in keeping our loved ones, our neighbors and our friends safe, and we cannot relax our guard,” Box said.

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