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Marion County mask mandate, business restrictions to stay in place despite statewide changes

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the mask mandate and current business restrictions will stay in place until the county's public health order is lifted.

INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Thursday Marion County will not repeal the city's mask mandate or current business restrictions despite the state's upcoming changes

Hogsett said the policies will stay in place until the county's public health order is lifted. His announcement strays from what Gov. Eric Holcomb revealed in an address to the state On Tuesday.

Holcomb said the statewide mask mandate will become an advisory on April 6, but face coverings will remain mandatory in all state buildings and facilities and in all vaccination and COVID-19 testing sites until further notice. He also said decisions about venue capacity and social gatherings will be made by local officials starting April 6.

Hogsett and Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine said while they're starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, it's too soon to rescind restrictions.

They said Marion County faces different challenges than the rest of the state. Most notably, it's by far the most populous county in the state.

"While we're moving in the right direction in terms of the positivity rate and other important indicators, the threat of an uptick is not yet behind us," said Hogsett

Caine agreed.

"We can't be lulled into a false sense of security," she said.

Caine said to relax restrictions, three things must happen: The average positivity rate must stay below 5% for at least two weeks, with fewer than 35 new cases per day and herd immunity must be achieved. That means having 70 to 80 percent of Marion County residents 16 and older vaccinated. 

"More shots in more arms will be the primary factor in determining our exit from the pandemic," the mayor said.

How long before that happens?

"We're hoping to reach herd immunity this summer, and that's based on the vaccine availability," Caine said. She said that's getting better each day, especially with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announcing 16 more days of mass vaccinations in April.

Mobile vaccine clinics

The Indiana State Department of Health is partnering with IU Health to host a mobile vaccine clinic at a church on the east side of Indianapolis on Friday, March 26 and Saturday, March 27.

Vaccinations will take place at Eastern Star Church's Care Center from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.

The vaccine clinic will be offering the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Due to high demand, all vaccine slots are already filled for both days.

ISDH will host more mobile vaccine clinics in traditionally underserved communities on yet-to-be-determined dates: 

  • Light of the World Christian Church, New Era Church, Greater Shepherd Baptist Church, Providence AME Church and Witherspoon Presbyterian Church, in partnership with IU Health
  • The Consulate of Mexico in Indianapolis, in partnership with Eli Lilly
  • Riverside Park, in partnership with Eli Lilly & Flanner House

Grants for minority communities

Beginning April 1, community-based organizations will submit funding applications for projects that promote the wellness and recovery of the minority communities that have been hit the hardest by the pandemic.

The average grant award is expected to be $25,000, but mini-grants as low as $2,500 will also be available for smaller projects. 

Applications are due April 15 and will be awarded April 26.

RELATED: Gov. Holcomb announces changes for restaurants; vaccinations to soon be available to Hoosiers 16+

RELATED: IMS, IU Health partner with ISDH for more mass vaccination sites