April 11, 2021

Coronavirus: Statewide Mask Order Lifts, Holcomb Vetoes Emergency Powers Bill

Article origination IPBS-RJC
Indiana reported nearly 7,800 new cases in the last week, the most reported in a single week since mid-February.  - Lauren Chapman/IPB News

Indiana reported nearly 7,800 new cases in the last week, the most reported in a single week since mid-February.

Lauren Chapman/IPB News

The Indiana Department of Health reported 76 additional confirmed deaths over the last week. That brings the state’s total to 12,743 confirmed deaths. The state also reported nearly 7,800 new cases in the last week, the most reported in a single week since mid-February.

Indiana has administered 1,979,829 initial vaccine doses, with 1,402,528 Hoosiers fully vaccinated.

Here are your statewide COVID-19 headlines from last week.

Statewide Mask Order Lifts, Municipalities Make Own Rules

The statewide mask order lifted Tuesday, but as with all of the governor’s executive orders throughout the pandemic, counties and other municipalities can set more stringent rules. 

Some populous counties, including Allen, Vigo and Vanderburgh counties are following the state’s lead – opting for a mask advisory

Counties like Lake and Tippecanoe have no county-wide order, but individual cities – Gary and West Lafayette – have standing mask orders. In Delaware County, the county is not requiring masks outside of county-owned buildings, but Ball State University will require masks.

But there are a few counties where officials have stepped in to maintain mask orders during the pandemic. Marion, Monroe, Elkhart, St. Joseph and LaPorte counties all still require masks.

Holcomb Vetoes Emergency Powers Bill Over Constitutional Concerns

Gov. Eric Holcomb vetoed legislation Friday that would allow lawmakers to call a special session during a public emergency. Lawmakers sent the bill to his desk Monday.

The measure, HB 1123, stems in part from legislators’ anger during the pandemic over some of the governor’s executive orders.

Holcomb had threatened that veto more than a week ago, explaining that he believes the core of the bill is unconstitutional.

House-Approved Bill Would Restrict Local Health Officials During Emergency

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted Indiana Republican lawmakers to change the way local health officials are allowed to do their jobs during a public emergency.

Right now, local health officials can impose restrictions that go further than any state orders, like counties keeping mask-wearing mandates in place after the statewide mandate has ended.

A bill, SB 5, approved by the House Tuesday would ban that. Instead, stricter regulations could only be passed by local elected leaders – county commissioners or city councils.

Religious Organizations Shielded From Health Orders Under Bill Passed By House

Gov. Eric Holcomb barred in-person worship services early in the pandemic. And other religious activities – a church-run day care or food pantry, for instance – were restricted more than other “essential services.”

Rep. Bob Morris (R-Fort Wayne) supports legislation, SB 263, that would make sure that doesn’t happen again.

“It bothers me the path that we’ve gone over the past year that people could not worship and were threatened with arrest in gathering during this pandemic,” Morris said.

READ MORE: How Will Indiana Distribute COVID-19 Vaccines? Here's What You Need To Know

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The bill bars the government from restricting worship services at all during a public emergency. And other religious activities couldn’t be restricted any more than essential services.

Hotels Look To The Future As March Madness Comes To An End

For some hotels like the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, March Madness marks the first time in a year the hotel has been open an entire week.

The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association estimates more than 95 percent of the state’s hotel workers were furloughed or laid-off within 48 hours last March.

The city’s hospitality industry has seen a resurgence because of the Men’s Division I basketball championships. Hotels brought back employees to host the teams, NCAA personnel, and fans.

Indiana Faith Leaders Advocate For Gun Violence Intervention, Driving Cards

Members of the religious coalition Faith in Indiana gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday to do two things: call on Gov. Eric Holcomb to use part of Indiana’s share of the American Rescue Plan on gun violence intervention programs, and ask for a summer study committee to revisit proposed legislation for driving cards.

Of the nearly $6 billion Indiana will receive from the American Rescue Plan, Faith In Indiana is demanding the governor send $117 million – or 2 percent – to gun violence intervention programs.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

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