July 23, 2020

Hogsett Orders Bars Closed, New Restrictions For Schools, Religious Events As COVID-19 Cases Increase

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett speaks during a virtual press conference on THursday, July 23, 2020. - Screenshot of the Channel 16 livestream.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett speaks during a virtual press conference on THursday, July 23, 2020.

Screenshot of the Channel 16 livestream.

Indianapolis and county officials reinstated restrictions Thursday on businesses, gatherings and when schools can open for in-person instruction in response to an increase of COVID-19 infections. 

The new order comes as the infection rate of the virus increases in the county. 

The seven-day average positivity rate for Marion County is 10 percent, said Dr. Virginia Caine, director of Marion County Public Health Dept. The average rate of infection dropped to 4.2 percent on June 24 and began to rise after the July 4 holiday.

"This means, despite the sacrifices many of us have made, there are just too many of us willing to risk the lives of our neighbors for the sake of convience," Caine said. "Looking at the data I have no choice but to take aggressive action."

Young adults are making up the largest number of new positive cases in Marion County. 

The new public health order requires the closure of bars and nightclubs, and it recommends 14-day travel quarantine. 

"Our latest data clearly shows that transmission is occurring most often indoors, particularly when groups of people gather to socialize, " Mayor Joe Hogsett said.

Marion County schools must delay opening for in-person classes until Aug. 5. This will impact five districts who planned to open earlier. Districts can chose to begin remote instruction. Hogsett and Caine will meet with Marion County superintendents in the coming days.

Hogsett said he will give a public briefing next week on “more definitive guidance,” as to whether and how in-person K-12 education may resume, based on the infection rate. 

In the past week, school leaders and teacher association groups asked state and local officials to give explict guidelines for reopening school buildings. 

The order also closes bars and nightclubs that don't serve food until August 12. Social gatherings will be dropped to 50 people or less.

Religious indoor services will have to drop capacity to 50 percent.  Likewise, restaruants will be limited to 50 percent capacity. Cultural venues and museums will cap capacity at 25 percent. 

Caine said the rise in cases correlates with the phases of reopening that have been implemented over the past few weeks.

"And we need to get ahead of this to prevent any needless hospitalizations and deaths," Caine said.

Officials emphasized that masks are still mandatory in indoor public places and in outdoor public places where social distancing is not possible. The mask must be covering the nose and mouth, Hogsett said. The countywide mask order that began July 9 remains in effect.

The new public health order goes into effect Friday, July 24. The changes include:

  • Restaurants are limited to 50 percent indoor capacity.
  • Places of worship and funeral homes may provide indoor services at 50 percent capacity; outdoor services with no capacity limit.
  • Gyms, fitness centers, yoga and dance studios, martial arts studios, and like facilities may remain open but must restrict capacity to 25 percent.
  • Shopping malls and retail stores, including liquor stores and convenience stores, may remain open but must restrict capacity to 75 percent.
  • Assisted living communities and nursing homes remain closed to visitors, except that outdoor visitation opportunities may be resumed in accordance with ISDH guidelines.
  • Recommended 14-day quarantine following travel to states or countries with high positivity rates. A list of applicable places will be available on the Marion County Public Health Department website.

The public health order is be available on the county health department website

WFYI reporter Eric Weddle contributed to this report. 

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