UPDATED Sept. 23 at 3:33 p.m.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana’s statewide mask order will continue for another three weeks under a new order the governor announced Wednesday even as he has faced public discontent over coronavirus restrictions amid his reelection campaign.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said he would be dropping most other limits on businesses and crowd sizes as of Saturday. The mask order will be extended until Oct. 17.
Holcomb said those restrictions could be removed because the state has seen progress in recent weeks in slowing the coronavirus spread. His action lifts statewide capacity limits for restaurants and bars and crowd limits for social events.
The mask order was first issued two months ago and has drawn ire among conservatives who believe his executive orders in response to the pandemic have gone too far. That has complicating his reelection campaign against Democratic challenger Woody Myers, with some saying they will support Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater.
Myers, a physician and former state health commissioner, said before Holcomb’s announcement that dropping the mask mandate would be irresponsible and lead to chaos with differing rules among the state’s 92 counties.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.
Indiana’s governor was expected to discuss his decision on whether the statewide face mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions will remain in place.
The mask order from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb first took effect July 27 and is set to expire Saturday unless he issues an extension.
Holcomb, who was to hold his weekly coronavirus briefing Wednesday afternoon, has largely lifted the state’s travel and business restrictions since May while keeping in place limits on crowd sizes for restaurants, bars and public events. He has credited the mask order and other actions with holding down the state’s COVID-19 death and hospitalization rates.
State health officials on Wednesday added 10 more COVID-19 deaths to the state’s toll. The newly recorded deaths raise the state’s death toll to 3,530, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases, since the state’s first such death was reported on March 15, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. That is an increase of 58 deaths in the past week.
Holcomb’s decision on the mask mandate comes as it has stirred discontent among conservatives who believe his orders have gone too far. That has complicated his reelection campaign against Democratic challenger Woody Myers, with some saying they will support Libertarian candidate Donald Rainwater.