Indiana Daily Student

Hoosiers 16 and older will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine March 31, Holcomb says

<p>Pharmacist Basil Ebekonye examines a vial containing the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine Dec. 23, 2020, in Baltimore, Maryland. Hoosiers aged 16 and older will become eligible for the vaccine March 31. </p>

Pharmacist Basil Ebekonye examines a vial containing the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine Dec. 23, 2020, in Baltimore, Maryland. Hoosiers aged 16 and older will become eligible for the vaccine March 31.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced all Hoosiers age 16 and up will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine starting March 31.

The state’s public health emergency and COVID-19 executive orders are due to expire on March 31. Holcomb will renew the state public health emergency for another 30 days, he said in a press conference Tuesday evening.

In order to make vaccinations more convenient, Holcomb said the state plans to implement a larger employer vaccination program. He also said the state plans to schedule additional mass vaccination clinics in April and continue to send mobile units to targeted areas. 

Graphic by Carson TerBush

“We'll continue sending our mobile units to targeted areas throughout the state to assure that our distribution is fair and equitable in all corners,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb said the public health emergency will allow the state to act quickly if conditions become worse and allows the state to access federal funds that are helping Hoosiers hit the hardest during the pandemic. 

Holcomb said current COVID-19 restrictions will extend through April 5. This will account for the current numbers of out-of-state visitors and allow people to receive or schedule vaccinations.

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is taking place entirely at venues in Indianapolis, West Lafayette and Bloomington. The first games began on March 18 and the national championship ends the tournament on April 5, according to the NCAA.

Starting April 6, all decisions regarding venue capacity will be up to local officials, Holcomb said. Local governments can consider State Department of Health COVID-19 weekly color-coded county metrics, indicating if infection rates are increasing or decreasing, to decide the size limits for social gatherings, he said. 

The statewide mask mandate will become a mask advisory April 6, Holcomb said, but masks will still be required in state buildings and facilities and vaccination and COVID-19 testing sites until further notice. He said local governments and businesses retain the authority to impose harsher guidelines like mandatory masking. 

“When I visit my favorite restaurants or conduct a public event, I will continue to appropriately wear a mask,” Holcomb said. “It's the right thing to do.”

Starting April 6, restaurants, bars and nightclubs will no longer require customers to remain seated, but distancing between tables and non-household parties is recommended. Hospitals may also return to normal for scheduling non-emergency procedures and surgeries.

Schools will continue current mask-wearing requirements for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year. Holcomb said he expects that K-12 schools will return to full-time, in-person instruction for the 2021-22 school year. 

“Please know our departments of education and health will work together to update health guidance in preparation for the next school year,” Holcomb said.

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