INDIANAPOLIS — As the delta variant of COVID-19 surges, the pressure is on for state leaders and local businesses to make a decision on mask mandates and vaccination protocols.
Adding to the pressure is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new masking guidance that recommends people in counties with substantial or high amounts of community transmission of COVID-19 should wear masks indoors, even if they've been fully vaccinated.
As of Aug. 4, that would mean 87 of 92 Indiana counties would be included in the new guidance. However, Gov. Eric Holcomb has not yet imposed a mask mandate inside state buildings or anywhere else.
In Indianapolis, 61 fourth graders were sent home Wednesday, two days after the first day of school, because they came in contact with a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19.
Holcomb also said he won't reinstate a statewide mask mandate or other restrictions, instead leaving such decisions to local officials. So, businesses, school districts and local governments are taking it upon themselves to quickly revise their mask policies to follow the CDC's guidance.
Indianapolis Public Schools is one of many school districts to require students and staff to wear masks regardless of vaccination status. Similarly, all students, teachers and visitors to South Bend schools will be required to wear masks under a coronavirus policy officials revised a week after requiring only elementary school students to wear masks.
In the last week, a long list of major retailers has changed their mask policies. Home Depot, for example, is once again requiring face coverings in all of its stores. Target, Kroger, Walmart, and Sam's Club have all changed their mask policies, too.
On Wednesday, Monroe County announced it will be requiring everyone to wear masks indoors in public places again due to the rise in COVID-19 cases from the contagious delta variant.
Indiana University, which is located in Monroe County, is also instructing all students, employees and visitors to wear a mask indoors in coordination with guidance from the CDC and the Indiana State Department of Health.
Despite all of these changes, a spokesperson for the governor told The Journal Gazette that masks are not required in state government buildings or for state employees.
But Holcomb is not alone in resisting a mask mandate. Other states like Florida and Texas are doing the same.
On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis strongly reiterated his vow not to impose a mask mandate or any business restrictions. With the delta variant now spreading exponentially, Florida hit 11,515 hospitalized patients, breaking last year’s record for the third straight day and up from just 1,000 in mid-June. DeSantis said he expects hospitalizations to drop in the next couple weeks.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has taken it a step further. He recently signed an executive order banning mask mandates of any kind, putting Houston at risk after the city told city workers they must resume wearing masks while on the job.