Holcomb resists Indiana mask mandate as virus variant spikes

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Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has not imposed a mask mandate inside state buildings despite federal guidance that masks should be worn indoors and a surge in the number of Indiana counties approaching high risk for community spread of COVID-19.

The Republican governor has also maintained he won’t reinstate a statewide mask mandate or other restrictions, instead leaving such decisions to local officials.

Masks are still not required in state government buildings or for state employees, a spokesperson for the governor told The Journal Gazette. Inside the Statehouse, there is no signage about face coverings except outside a House Democratic office that asks for masks to be worn before entering.

Holcomb also isn’t following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation himself. He attended an indoor event in Hancock County without a mask on Tuesday.

However, some members of Holcomb’s administration continued to wear masks.

Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch was wearing a mask indoors at a Marion County event Tuesday. State health officials wore masks last week during an indoor news conference.

Holcomb ended the statewide mask requirement in May and has left decisions about mask requirements in schools up to local officials, despite a statewide mandate during the last academic year.

Holcomb said last month that he’s concerned about the variant’s spread at a time when just 50.9% of Indiana’s eligible population — those age 12 and up — is fully vaccinated and as the delta variant — which spreads more easily than other versions of the coronavirus — continues spreading throughout the state.

On Monday, 29 counties were in Indiana’s second-riskiest category for the spread of the virus, according to an update posted Wednesday on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, up from 15 counties a week earlier.

Indiana’s color-coded coronavirus risk map shows blue, yellow, orange and red levels that measure weekly COVID-19 cases per 100,000 county residents and the seven-day positivity rate. Southwestern Indiana’s Posey County is in the highest-risk red category, which indicates very high community spread.

Tests conducted this month on a sample of Indiana’s cases showed that as of Wednesday, 87% of them were the delta variant, the dashboard showed.

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