Marion County expects to lift mask mandate, ease capacity limits June 7

Marion County will wait until June 7 to ease its current pandemic-related restrictions, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Wednesday, and could fully reopen in July if enough people get vaccinated.

On June 7, he said, the Marion County Public Health Department is expected to recommend to the City-County Council that the county’s mask mandate be lifted in most cases for residents who are fully vaccinated.

Hogsett said the county also plans to recommend loosening capacity limits for large gatherings, including allowing 100% capacity for religious services, 50% for indoor sporting events, and 75% for bars, restaurants and entertainment venues. Appointments would no longer required for personal services, although social distancing will be recommended.

Capacity limits for outdoor sporting events will remain at 50%, according to Dr. Virginia Caine, director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department.

Caine said 6-foot social-distancing rules will still be in effect for restaurants, but the department was exploring whether that distance could be reduced to three or four feet. Many restaurant owners say they can’t reach capacity limits when they have to follow the 6-foot rule.

Residents will still be expected to wear masks when they are asked to by individual businesses and venues, the mayor said.

Unmasking will be on the honor system, said Caine. Even vaccinated people will still have to wear face coverings in hospitals, on public transit and in airports, she added.

The mayor said the county was waiting until June 7 to allow more time for people to be vaccinated and for big events such as the Indy 500, proms and graduations to take place under current restrictions.

The health department said about 38% of Marion County’s population — or 368,986 people — had been partially or fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Tuesday. About 31% of the county’s population (299,391 residents) was fully vaccinated.

The rolling seven-day average of new cases was 113 as of Monday, down from 171 on May 1.

Officials hope to fully reopen the county in July if the percentage of fully vaccinated people tops 50% and new cases drop below 100 per day. On its face, that’s not close to the 70%-80% vaccination rate experts say is required for herd immunity.

But Caine said the health department plans to count the 30% of the population diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 90 days as if they were vaccinated because research shows immunity lasts at least that long after contracting the virus.

The county has been vaccinating about 10% of its residents every 30 days, according to Caine.

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