More Indiana stores reopen as some virus restrictions ease

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Shoppers trickled into some large Indiana shopping malls on Monday as they opened for the first time in more than a month under a new order from the governor easing many restrictions imposed to slow the coronavirus spread.

Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb defended his decision announced Friday allowing more manufacturers and retailers to open their doors in most of the state with the of allowing nearly all activities to resume on July 4.

Crowds in the dozens waited for mall reopenings Monday in suburban Indianapolis and South Bend. Many stores in those malls did not immediately open and those that did had few shoppers.

Malls in Indianapolis couldn’t reopen as the city remains under a stay-at-home order because of its higher number of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

A table of free face masks was inside the door for shoppers entering Greenwood Park Mall just south of Indianapolis. Food court shop Blondie’s Cookies wasn’t open, but workers were cleaning in preparation for a planned Saturday reopening.

Assistant manager Jamie Smart said she hoped more shoppers would return later in the week.

“I think a lot of people are getting ready to go out and do their thing,” she told the Indianapolis Business Journal.

Tammy Lubelski said she had been looking forward to returning to University Park Mall in Mishawaka but did have health concerns because she’s had brain surgery.

“Because I am at high risk, I do worry,” she told the South Bend Tribune. “And I saw a couple of people in the line not wearing masks, so that makes me worried.”

Reopening questioned

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dr. Woody Myers, a former state health commissioner, called Holcomb’s reopening steps confusing and premature with the state not yet providing enough coronavirus testing.

“I know that many Hoosiers are weary of current restrictions and there is a strong desire to get back to ‘normal,’” Myers said. “Our economy is in major trouble, but the economy will only improve when Hoosiers are confident and feel safe.”

Holcomb, who is seeking a second term in November’s election, said he believed it was important to give residents a long-term look at the state’s reopening plan. He said reopening businesses and activities in stages will depend on Indiana’s number of coronavirus illnesses not suddenly jumping and putting pressure on the hospital system.

“We’re in a position where we can accommodate that right now,” Holcomb said. “What we don’t want to do is opening it up all at once and then be rushed and then find ourselves playing catch up and dialing it back.”

State cases ‘plateau’

Holcomb and state health officials have refused to identify nursing homes with outbreaks, despite complaints from relatives of home residents about a lack of communication about illnesses and deaths. State officials maintain those facilities face federal and state requirements to notify the families about their COVID-19 status.

State health officials had projected the coronavirus illness peak to arrive in late April for the Indianapolis area and the first weeks of May for rest of the state.

Dr. Lindsay Weaver, the state health department’s chief medical officer, said Monday that Indiana hasn’t seen a big spike in cases, which she attributed to the state’s travel and business restrictions slowing the virus spread.

“It went up, then it has leveled off and is even kind of going down,” Weaver said. “That is what we are going to continue to watch over the next weeks and months to make sure that everything continues to keep that nice, level plateau.”

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