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Gov. Holcomb gives schools incentives to require masks

The measure will allow for schools and day cares to modify quarantine provisions if they meet state guidelines.

INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a new executive order Wednesday, a day after extending the state’s COVID-19 public health emergency.

The Indiana Department of Health will be issuing COVID-19 control measures to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The measure will allow for schools and day cares to modify quarantine provisions if they meet state guidelines.

Schools and day cares that have mask requirements that are consistently followed throughout the day do not have to quarantine students, teachers and staff who are close contacts and aren’t showing symptoms of COVID-19. Students who had close contact while unmasked at lunch could still have to quarantine.

Schools and day cares will also have to continue contact tracing with notifications to the local health department, parents, teachers and staff that were in close contact.

Avon Schools Wednesday said it will follow the new recommendations moving forward. However, parents of students who are currently in quarantine must wait for school guidance on when they can return. Brownsburg schools began contacting quarantined students Wednesday night to return to school on Thursday.

The hope is the new order will serve as an incentive for districts to mask up and keep quarantine numbers down. 

“In order to help bring down the positive numbers and in order to bring down the number of kids that need to be put in quarantine, this is a really effective way to get there,” said Dr. Brian Dixon, director of public health informatics at Regenstrief Institute. 

Dixon said masks work and the proof is in the data. 

“[Masks] dramatically reduces the number of exposures and the number of infections, so this really is the best strategy,” Dixon said.  

In August, almost one in three cases were among adolescents and kids, according to the institute. It is something health officials didn’t see last year. 

The new executive order also outlines directives to help manage the spread of COVID-19 and support health care systems as the delta variant spreads.

  • Health care systems will use evidence-based decisions to monitor patient capacity and staffing levels to assess whether non-emergent procedures should be delayed or reprioritized;
  • Hospitals must report diversion information to the Indiana Department of Health (IDOH) to assist with monitoring resources and capacity statewide.

To assist health care systems, the Indiana Department of Insurance will do the following:

  • Extending prior authorizations for non-emergent procedures that are postponed due to capacity or staffing issues because of COVID-19;
  • Directing insurers to enable hospitals to expedite the process of transporting patients out of hospital care to the next appropriate setting.

The executive order will expire Sept. 30.